Ashley Graham: Sizing Up Beauty Standards

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Anna Finley

Ashley Graham is showing women that they don’t need unrealistic expectations for their bodies

Maggie Keane, Sentry Staff Reporter

Throughout history, in the fashion industry, there has always been one body type celebrated: tall, slender, little-to-no body fat. On runways, in magazines, on billboards, on television, etc., we are bombarded with images of skinny girls with thigh gaps and tight stomachs wearing clothes in only sizes 0-4. Finally, the standard of “pretty” is beginning to shift. At last, the unachievable, often times unhealthy, body type that models of this day strut is not the only one being praised. “Plus-size” models have recently gained more attention in the media. One in particular, size 14 model Ashley Graham has just begun to make her mark in the fashion and entertainment industry. The world is beginning to welcome and celebrate all kinds of beauty and Graham is the face for that change.

Graham, 29, has been in the modeling business since 2001 when she signed a deal with Wilhelmina Models. However, in 2010, she began to gain attention. She appeared in ads for Bloomingdales, Hanes, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Target, Bust Magazine and featured in an issue of Vogue Magazine. Over the course of the past year, Graham’s career has taken off. In 2015, Graham was one of the first plus-size models to appear in the pages of the Sports Illustrated “swimsuit edition.” By 2016, she was the first plus size model to be featured on the cover of the same magazine. The edition is highly anticipated each year for all the beautiful women it features wearing tiny bathing suits. The fact that Sports Illustrated decided to place a size 14 model on their cover was a big change from the usual models they showcase. Sports Illustrated truly demonstrated how beautiful “big” is, which was a huge step in the right direction.

Joe Jonas’ band, DNCE, recently released a music video for their song “Toothbrush.” Graham plays Joe’s love interest in the video. The pair are shown dancing around an apartment, cuddling and looking absolutely adorable. While many stars feature top models in their videos, few to none have had a plus-size model as their star. By pairing Joe Jonas (major heartthrob and celebrity crush of, well, everyone)  with a girl who is not stick thin shows women of larger body types that yes, they can be loved if they don’t reach the unrealistic body standards society creates.

In a country filled with people of different races, cultures, shapes and sizes, it is important and pivotal to our success to celebrate everyone’s differences. For too long, females have been subjected to one type of body as ideal. For too long, women have starved themselves striving for that “perfect” model body type. For too long women have felt insufficient because their bodies aren’t similar to the girls in Victoria’s Secrets ads. While there are plus sized clothes and girls who model them, it is rare to see a larger girl on the cover of a mainstream magazine or playing the love interest in a popular pop singers music video. Until now. Graham is changing people’s perception of beauty.

“I don’t think every store or designer has to make plus-size pieces, but I think if we get the majority on board to start thinking of a normal woman’s body, that’s where the change is going to be,” said  Graham.

In the fashion and entertainment industry, a size six woman is considered large. However, the average size of a woman in the US is twelve to fourteen.

“Jennifer Lawrence is the media’s poster girl for curves — she’s tiny, There needs to be more education in schools, because that’s where eating disorders start. It’s not just about being healthy; it’s also about loving who you are,” said Graham.

In a world that is dominated by television and social media, it is important that the right message is spread: That all body types are beautiful. However, when the most common body type for woman is barely ever advertised, let alone praised, it can lead to serious repercussions. Many people believe that advertising bigger people is condoning obesity. However, what the media displays currently is “condoning”  eating disorders. Neither of which are healthy. Constantly showing off tiny girls that are severely underweight is just as harmful, if not more, as showing off people who are severely overweight. It is time that the world celebrates healthy, confident women who respect themselves and their bodies, not just girls sizes zero to four.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22, you can be healthy as long as you’re taking care of your body, working out, and telling yourself ‘I love you’ instead of taking in the negativity of beauty standards,” said Graham.

Graham has a naturally bigger, beautiful body. She is healthy. She is happy. She should be celebrated. Graham is an inspiration to girls who are naturally larger. Larger girls should not be shamed for not having a thigh gap and flat stomachs. The standards that society currently sets for beauty allows the majority of girls to feel insufficient, ugly. This is not fair and not okay.  All that matters is that a person is healthy and happy and confident, regardless of what that looks like. It is time for a change, these demeaning, unachievable beauty standards must end. Ashley Graham is beginning that change by proving that all bodies are beautiful.