High school is hard for everyone. There are the long hours, early classes, homework, pressure from teachers, and, of course, bullying. Ashley Graham is no exception. In a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, the 29-year-old revealed that fat-shaming bullies throughout her childhood made her “hate” school and taught her to “internalize” her emotions.
“Girls would call me ‘cottage-cheese thighs’ and ‘thunder thighs.’ They’d be like ‘Wide load coming through. Beep, beep!’ I hated school,’ she said.
The comments stuck with her through her career, when the model’s peers would discredit her talent by calling her “a fat model.”
“As a model, people are telling you you’re beautiful, and at school, people are telling you you’re ugly,” she said. “They would say, ‘You’re not really a model, you’re a fat model.’ It was humiliating. I think I just put my head down and internalized it.”
While Graham is killing it in the modeling world, she apparently still hasn’t been able to shake off the fat-shaming comments from when she was a kid. In an interview with People, the model revealed that she still gets shy when she strips down to a bikini. (One look at Graham’s iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover and we would’ve never guessed it.) Her solution? A little liquid courage and some confidence to help calm the nerves.
“I mean, of course like any girl when you get to the beach or the pool and you go, ‘Oh, I have to take my cover-up off, crap.’ And you feel like everybody’s watching, and then you just go, ‘Oh fine, I’ll just take it off,'” she said. “And then all of a sudden you get comfortable and go, ‘Okay. Another piña colada.'”
As for her relationship with her body these days, Graham admitted it’s a work in progress, though she’s come a long way from when she was a teenager.
“I still wake up some mornings and feel fat, of course I do, but I’ve come to a place where I’m like, the cellulite’s not leaving, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it, I’ll embrace it,” she told Harper’s Bazaar UK. “Some women say, ‘I can’t get out of bed, I’m never going to find a man, or get that job that I want, because of the way I look.”
But she isn’t letting her insecurities get in the way of her eating habits. The model said she’s sworn off extreme dieting and workout routines for the sake of keeping her figure.
“I’m simply not able to adhere to strict rules around deprivation. I get upset, ‘hangry’, when I’m not eating. I would never go on a major diet and work-out spree just to be thin,” she said.
She also hopes her voice for curvy girls will translate to retail stores, where she expressed there are far too little options for women of her size and larger.
“It’s ugly that there aren’t enough clothes in stores for women that go up to a size 22 or 24,” she said. “As a curvy girl you get the feeling you’re a second-class citizen. I want women to accept themselves. I have so many friends, skinny, really heavy and in between, who all have the same insecurities.”
While she’s been labeled as a “trailblazer” and “pioneer” for curvy girls everywhere, Graham thinks of herself as “just a model who happens to know how to talk to women about loving the skin they’re in.”
As if we couldn’t love her more. Keep on slaying, Ashley.