Ashley Graham

James Devaney/WireImage

Ashley Graham has been caught in a very public catch-22. 

The model, who rose to international fame this year as the first plus size figure to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, has been the subject of relentless backlash rooted in a photo she shared on social media.

The self-proclaimed size 14 star posed in a crop top and matching skirt layered under a Balmain leather jacket and subsequently uploaded the shot to Instagram as she had done countless times before. "I didn't give it a second thought when I posted it, but soon the image went viral," she wrote in Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter. "Not because of how good I looked wearing a high-end designer that doesn't usually market to women my size, but because of people's misguided views on women's bodies and who owns the rights to them.

The criticism flowed in, accusing the body image activist of slimming down and, as a result, complying with traditional standards set by the fashion industry—standards that Graham has spent her entire career fighting. However, the claims were far from the truth. "The reality is I haven't lost a pound this year. In fact, I'm actually heavier than I was three years ago, but I accept my body as it is today," she explained. 

Glam squad magic ??

A photo posted by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@theashleygraham) on

While the Lane Bryant model is fiercely dedicated to the notion that however her body looks is perfectly okay, Graham's fan are not so understanding on both sides of the aisle. Instead, they have cornered the Cosmopolitan covergirl into a catch-22 she's ceaselessly fighting her way out of. 

"To some I'm too curvy. To others I'm too tall, too busty, too loud, and, now, too small — too much, but at the same time not enough," she wrote. "When I post a photo from a 'good angle,' I receive criticism for looking smaller and selling out. When I post photos showing my cellulite, stretch marks, and rolls, I'm accused of promoting obesity. The cycle of body-shaming needs to end. I'm over it."

However, Graham is careful to note that body shaming also comes in all different sizes. "Body shaming isn't just telling the big girl to cover up. It's trying to shame me for working out. It's giving 'skinny' a negative connotation. It's wanting me to be plus size, or assuming I'm pregnant because of some belly bulge," she continued. "What type of example are we setting for young girls and their self-esteem if grown adults are on Instagram calling other women 'cowards' for losing weight, or 'ugly' for being overweight?"

Ashley Graham, Snapchat

Snapchat

Despite the harmful criticism Graham maintains she will always be an ally to women, no matter the number on the scale. 

"I am here for all women who don't feel comfortable in their skin, who need a reminder that their unique bodies are beautiful. I'm very proud of my work as a model, and I'm even more proud of the work we've all done to raise awareness for body positivity and size diversity within the fashion industry," she said. "However, I refuse to let others dictate how I live my life and what my body should look like for their own comfort. And neither should you."

Ultimately, the brunette beauty hopes everyone will be able to see beyond size, including her own.  

"I'm not Ashley Graham just because I'm curvy. For the past sixteen years, my body has been picked apart, manipulated, and controlled by others who don't understand it. But now my career has given me a platform to use my voice to make a difference," she concluded. "My body is MY body. I'll call the shots."

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