Ashley Graham’s conversation starter exactly embodies her life mantra: loud, confident and unapologetic. “The microphone is echoing. Can somebody fix it? This is insanity!”
In truth, what’s insanity is Ashley’s rise to global domination. The 31-year-old began her modelling career as a quiet, 12-year-old girl from Nebraska, but found her voice after refusing to lose weight for job contracts. “I didn’t let the industry or society manipulate who I was, and now the world is changing,” Ashley declares.
Grazia is gathered to observe a conversation with the star and Huda Beauty Global President Mona Kattan. Together, they are discussing Ashley’s third denim capsule-collection launch with Italian luxury store Marina Rinaldi in The Dubai Mall. As well as this, Ashley, who in January became the first curvy girl of her generation to land a beauty contract with make-up brand Revlon, has questions of her own. “Can you imagine being introduced as Ashley ‘the plus-size girl’? We don’t introduce our skinny friends. Isn’t it just ridiculous that we put all these labels on women?”
It wouldn’t be a modern conversation without mentioning Instagram. Ashley, who currently has over eight million followers, covers the use of the social media platform quickly. “Of course I get a lot of criticism on it. I once had somebody tell me ‘Stop making fat look cool, you’re going to kill someone.’" She pauses. "It’s okay to comment back sometimes, if it’s teachable. We should stand up for ourselves.”
That’s easier said than done sometimes, so what advice would Ashley give to a woman struggling with body confidence? “Affirmations are hugely helpful. They feel weird when you’re looking in the mirror saying, 'I am beautiful,' but it works because your words have power. Everything you say has an impact, so use your words wisely,” Ashley replies.
And the advice keeps coming. “I urge every mother to speak well of yourself – and not say comments like ‘I’m fat’ infront of your kids. It allows them to grow up with positive role models.”
Finally, Mona asks the star, who despite the serious conversation topics maintains an infectious, lively and really quite hilarious personality throughout, what needs to change in the fashion industry. “What I want to happen is for more designers to put curves on the runway,” Ashley responds simply.
Her future looks like more clothing lines, TV appearances and a bridal range (this was hinted at, not confirmed). And her legacy? “I want it to be that you can use your boldness and your brilliance to change the world around you. Oh, and casual world domination,” she grins. *Drops mic*.