Only recently have brands and designers begun casting plus-size models. But this community was thriving long before "inclusivity" entered the collective vocabulary. Many of us remember wanting America's Next Top Model hopeful Toccara Jones to win as the first Black plus-sized supermodel – but what we perhaps don't know are the plus-size pioneers like Allegra Doherty, Amy Lemons and Emme, who paved the road before her.
Ashley Graham, of course, is the most well-known woman of this group. For the past several years, Graham has been everywhere, becoming the de-facto face of the body-positive movement. Just this year, Graham made her debut in Vogue Italia in a series of unretouched photos and broke barriers as the first plus model to appear in Sports Illustrated. She’s now walking in high fashion shows alongside Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber, and is the (well-paid) face of brands like Lane Bryant, Revlon, Marina Rinaldi, and Swimsuits For All. The 30-year-old is vocal both about her own journey to self-acceptance as well as why the fashion industry must serve plus women. In 2017, American Vogue gave Graham a cover, declaring “no norm is the new norm.” While Graham is indeed a heroine and the face of a movement, many great, brave women preceded her.