It’s been a whirlwind year for model Ashley Graham. In February, she made history when she became the first curve model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
And now, she’s gracing the cover of the August issue of Cosmopolitan, on newsstands July 12.
The 28-year-old beauty’s modeling career took off when she signed a deal with an international agency at age 13. Since then, she has appeared in fashion magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour. She has also worked on campaigns for Lane Bryant, Nordstrom, H&M and other major brands.
Graham calls herself a model, not a "plus-size" model, and said that she hopes the term will soon disappear altogether.
But no matter what people call her, Graham is very conscious of the fact that she’s an important role model for women of all sizes, as well as a trailblazer in the fashion industry.
“Just because I’m not calling myself plus size doesn’t mean I’m not representing a woman who is,” she told Cosmopolitan. “I’m giving curvy women a seat at the table that we’ve never been invited to before — a table with high-end fashion people who have never considered us beautiful.”
Graham also weighed in on the controversy surrounding actress Amy Schumer and her interpretation of the label earlier this year. In April, Schumer took Glamour to task for including her in its "plus-size only" issue.
Schumer said that while plus-size women are “beautiful healthy women,” she was surprised that the magazine placed her in that category. “Plus size is considered size 16 in America,” Schumer wrote on Instagram. “I go between a size 6 and an 8.”
In her Cosmo interview, Graham questioned Schumer’s attitude.
“I can see both sides, but Amy talks about being a big girl in the industry,” Graham said. “You thrive on being a big girl, but when you’re grouped in with us, you’re not happy about it? That, to me, felt like a double standard.”
Today, Graham is full of inspiring self-confidence, but she wasn’t always so sure of herself. She opened up to Cosmo about her previous, unhealthy relationship with an alcoholic.
“He was abusive in more than one way,” she said. “He threw a couch on me. He came home drunk. I was sitting on it, and he flipped it upside down. I remember my elbow being jammed but thinking, 'He didn’t hit me; he was just really angry,' you know? ... Looking back, I should’ve left, but I was an insecure woman in a terrible relationship who did not know herself.”
Luckily, Graham freed herself from that situation and has been happily married to Justin Ervin, a cinematographer, since 2010.
The couple has had to deal with some hateful comments online about their interracial marriage.
“One comment on Instagram was ‘I knew a girl her size could only be with a black guy.’ I think that’s so ugly,” she told Cosmo.
But Graham is pretty good at shaking off the haters. Earlier this week, she posted a set of stunning swimsuit photos on Instagram.
“Someone once told me my thighs were ‘cellulite city,” she wrote in the caption. “But I now realize these thighs tell a story of victory and courage. I will not let others dictate what they think my body should look like for their own comfort, and neither should you.”