Ashley Graham is a supermodel in her own right. With a career spanning nearly two decades, she has graced the covers of top fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Vogue, and Elle, and sat on the panel of the popular television competition, America’s Next Top Model.
After gaining many accolades throughout her career, including being the first curvy cover model for the notorious Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, it should come as a surprise that Ms. Graham suffered from discrimination in the very industry that she has dedicated her life to. This past May, Ashley attended the biggest fashion event of the year, the Met Gala; dressed in an astonishing couture gown by H&M. However, in past years, it wasn’t always easy to snag an elite designer to dress the supermodel. According to British Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman, certain fashion houses outright refused to allow their pieces in Graham’s January 2017 cover shoot.
Hearing the tales of these world renowned models should cause everyone to scratch their heads in mere confusion. Who wouldn’t be eager to create custom couture or lend their pieces for the bodies of some of the most celebrated women in the industry? Those who represent the average woman and show other versions of beauty rather than what’s generally portrayed in the media.
Actress Gabourey Sidibe spoke about the standards of beauty, and the pressure to conform in a powerful speech about self-confidence at the 2014 Ms. Foundation for Women Gala. She said,
“If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable. So when you ask me how I’m so confident, I know what you’re really asking me: how could someone like me be confident? Go ask Rihanna, asshole!”
As time continues to progress, the interest in curvy has increased. Designers are more keen to dress curvy girls and show their ability to appeal to all shapes and sizes, even if you aren’t a size 4. Christian Siriano commented on the sudden growth of curvy models in the industry. Citing a casting call from two seasons ago; he had roughly 6 curvy models, versus most recently there was a turnout of at least 150.
Women like Emme, Gabourey, and Ashley fight for equality each day. Every time they step onto set or a red carpet. Each magazine cover they grace is a gentle reminder to women everywhere, don’t believe the hype. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.