Ashley Graham Recalls Overcoming Fashion Industry Stereotype in Empowering Speech

Ashley Graham looked back on how the fashion industry "didn't think I fit the mold of what success and beauty truly looked like" in the early days on her modeling career.

By Gabrielle Chung Apr 03, 2023 8:50 PMTags
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Now this is model behavior.

Ashley Graham delivered a powerful speech about challenging stereotypical beauty standards when she was honored at the National Women's History Museum's 2023 Women Making History Awards on March 31. Taking the stage at The Schuyler in Washington, D.C., the model and body image activist reflected on how she "had no idea what the fashion industry was really like" when she was first scouted as a tween at a Nebraska mall.

"When I got more experienced, I realized that I had stepped into a world that didn't think I fit the mold of what success and beauty truly looked like," Ashley continued, recalling the countless times people dismissed her due to her size. "Throughout my career, I've heard so many noes."

Though Ashley said there had been "many days when I had questioned myself, my value and what I had to offer," she persisted thanks to a strong support system of women. Those women, the 35-year-old explained, helped shaped "every pivotal moment in my life."

Ashley Graham's Best Looks

"There have been women that I could call and trust to get me through it," Ashley shared. "It's because of them that I was able to challenge the industry that made me feel like I wasn't enough, and I could pay it forward by inspiring thousands of women around the world."


Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Ashley was one of five women honored at the gala, including Uma ThurmanSharon Stone, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and civil rights activist Willie Pearl Mackey King. The event was organized by Cheri Kaufman, co-founder of Kaufman Astoria Studios and New York chair of the National Women's History Museum.

In addition to acknowledging her "incredibly prophetic" mom in her speech, Ashley also paid tribute to "one special man" who has always stood by her side: Her husband Justin Ervin, with whom she shares son Isaac, 3, and twin boys Malachi and Roman, 14 months.

Paul Morigi/Getty Images for National Women's History Museum

"He's been my number one ally and I am so grateful to have him in my corner," she raved. "I love you so much."