There’s a reason why people say you never forget your first relationship. For Ashley Graham, that reason unfortunately happens to be an upsetting fat-shaming comment. In a recent interview with New York magazine, the 29-year-old opened up about her first relationship and how her ex-boyfriend’s remarks spurred her journey as a body activist.
In the interview, the supermodel recalled the time her first-ever boyfriend broke up with her in high school—because he was afraid she would someday match his mom’s weight. Graham noted the moment as the first time she was ever “hyperaware” of her size.
“That really made me hyperaware that I am a big girl, and that’s how people see me,” she said.
After the breakup, Graham revealed that she entered in an abusive relationship with a man for many years. She admitted she excused his behavior because he was the first man who seemed to appreciate her curves.
Along with her relationship history, Graham also opened up about being discriminated against for her weight. Though Graham (who prefers the term “curvy” over “plus-size”) earned praise for her 2017 Met Gala look (especially from Rihanna, who “said I looked ‘hot as fuck,'” Graham said), the model chose not to attend the gala the year before because no designer would dress her.
The model faced a similar experience on her January cover of British Vogue. Though Coach eventually agreed to dress her, the model and Vogue U.K. editor in chief Alexandra Shulman admitted that many fashion houses “flatly refused” to lend their clothes.
However, since her profile has skyrocketed, Graham has had a better time earning respect from the fashion industry. These days, she said she borrows most things for A-list events, with the designers fully aware that her team adds slits, tears off sleeves, or performs other major adjustments to ensure that the outfit is flattering to her body. It’s a small milestone that Graham hopes will make it easier for models with her body type to break into the fashion industry.
“This is the thing: I know I’m paving the way for the next generation of girls, and they’re not going to have to do this,” she said. “That’s what I hope. I’ll take the brunt work and just handle it, and then you guys can just sail right on through.”