Imagine being a model for a moment. You are posing for the camera, and before you know it, you are playing Twister trying to perfect each pose the photographer wants to see. You have to keep your smile big enough and your hair just right. You put in all of this work, but you know it still will not be good enough. You finish the shoot, and you are already being critiqued. Your waist is not small enough; your skin is not light enough; your muscles are not as defined as they should be. The question is, why are these things seen as flaws? Modeling may sound like an simple job, but you are putting yourself out there for everyone to judge you. Your body will be airbrushed and photoshopped to meet whatever standard of beauty others want to see. Who is to tell you what the standard of beauty is or tell you that you do not fit into that standard? Beauty is different to everyone, so nobody can tell you what the standard is. Ashley Graham is a plus size model who is defying the odds and embracing her body for everything it is including all the “flaws” she may have.
Graham is a twenty-eight year old from Nebraska. Graham was discovered in a mall at the age of twelve by two scouts who jump-started her modeling career. Graham has worked in multiple areas of the industry including editorials, commercials, runways, film, and television productions. When she is not posing for shoots, Graham is a spokesperson for unconventional beauty. She travels to high schools talking to young women about the importance of self-acceptance, female empowerment, body image, and having a sense of self-worth. Graham is also a co-founder of Alda, a group of models who are trying to change the modeling industry to include a more diverse group of women. Throughout her career, Graham has made great strides in getting more diversity in the mainstream modeling industry. One of her biggest accomplishments was being the first “plus size” model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition in 2016. It was no surprise that Graham broke the internet after posting a photo on Instagram showing her cellulite.
In less than twenty-four hours, the photo got 120,000 likes and two thousand users left comments on the picture. The picture was taken off of Snapchat and was later uploaded to Instagram. Graham was seen in a short, flowy dress riding a bike through the city. Cellulite could be seen on her legs, but the funny thing was that she was not bothered at all! This is good because there is nothing to be ashamed of! Instead, she was smiling and having the time of her life. Graham captioned the photo saying, “A little cellulite never hurt nobody.. Stop judging yourself, embrace the things that society has called 'ugly'. #lovetheskinyourein #beautybeyondsize.” Comments soon began to flood Graham’s feed saying, “Thank you for posting this..I am so embarrassed by my cellulite, I won't wear shorts,” “Thank you, seriously #fatbottomedgirls make the world go round,” and “It's so refreshing to see a photo like this.” All around, Graham was praised for being so bold.
Role models, like Graham, and the other members of ALDA are working towards inspiring young girls and boys to look at themselves and say, “I am good enough. I am pretty. I am worth it.” However, when will we see more people like us in the media? How comfortable are you in your body? Could you imagine sharing your insecurities with the world? With the amount of filters and photoshop you see on social media these days, it is amazing to see something so unrefined in your feed.