“My body has always been treated as a thing and not mine,” the 31-year-old told Allure in her July 2019 cover story for the magazine. “You’re the sexy girl. You’re the naked girl. Men are going to idolize your hourglass figure. It was always about what others thought about my body, until I gained a voice. Now I get to tell people what I think of my body.”
Ashley Graham on the cover of AllureVanina Sorrenti for Allure
To that end, Graham hired an all-woman team to help run her various business ventures, and counts a slew of powerful female figures (including Gayle King and fellow model and body-positive pioneer Crystal Renn) as mentors.
And while the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl made history last year as the first plus-size model to land a major beauty contract (for Revlon), she stressed that there’s much more work to do when it comes to changing the face of the fashion and beauty industries.
“The biggest thing that we have to conquer is diversity and inclusion. You can’t just check the box and be like, ‘Oh, we did it,’” Graham told Allure. “I have never looked at tokenism as a bad thing, as long as the brand, the client — whoever has the mission — continues to branch out and say, ‘This was our first time; next time we’re going to add more of the race, the gender, the sexuality, the religion, the disability,’ whatever it is.”