Ashley Graham Speaks Out About Agents Telling Her To Lose Weight

Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images.
Thanks to that history-making Sports Illustrated cover, everyone knows who Ashley Graham is, and you'd probably be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn't want to work with her. However, things didn't happen overnight for the plus-size model. Graham says that when she was first starting out in the modeling industry, she was told to lose weight. "I had agencies telling me that I had to lose weight," Graham tells People. "I had one that waved money in my face and said, 'If you lose more lbs – pounds – you can make a lot more of this,' and he was waving $20 bills in my face." Thankfully, Graham remained undeterred in her body confidence, despite the hugely problematic and inappropriate way in which she was told to lose weight. "That wasn't even a motivator for me to lose weight. I was peaking at a size 18, and in the plus size fashion industry, models go from a size 8 to a size 16/18. So if you're on the smaller size or the bigger size, you're not going to work as much as if you're in the middle. So he was trying to encourage me to lose weight, but it didn't work, because I was that person where if you told me to go on a diet and lose weight, I'm just going to gain weight." As we know, the kind of pressure Graham faced, aside from being insulting, can be incredibly harmful to women's self-esteem. And unfortunately, body negativity isn't uncommon in the modeling industry. Victoria's Secret model Erin Heatherton has also spoken out about the amount of pressure she was under to lose weight in the industry — pressure that caused her to fall into depression. In fact, a study published last year in Psychological Science found just how detrimental body image pressure can be. "These findings suggest the possibility that the stigma associated with being overweight is more harmful than actually being overweight," the authors of the study wrote. While Graham has managed to rise above the negativity, she also tells People that her body image wasn't always so positive, admitting that she struggled with her weight when she first moved from Nebraska to New York City at age 17. Her attitude changed, she says, when she learned to be a little kinder to herself. "A lot of taking care of my body and my mind and my soul had to do with talking to myself and actually giving myself affirmations. It got me out of my funk. I still had cellulite, I still had back fat, I still had jiggly arms, and I decided to love every part of it." Given how much scrutiny is placed on women's bodies, it's refreshing to see someone like Graham calling the industry out on its harmful standards. And it's probably safe to say that Graham has had the last laugh, what with the Sports Illustrated cover and all.

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