Ashley Graham Opens Up About Toxic Relationships and Learning to Accept Her Body: "I Was So Insecure"

Model tells Self magazine how she came to love her curvy figure

By Francesca Bacardi Sep 15, 2016 12:00 PMTags

Ashley Graham wasn't born confident.

The gorgeous model had to learn to love her body like many others who came before her and many others who will come after her, which is exactly why she's on a mission to promote healthy body image. "I'm trying to change how women think about themselves," she tells Self magazine's October issue. "Some people just don't get it—I've been denied jobs because I was too big. I've also been denied jobs because I was too small. At the end of the day, I'm never going to conform to what anybody wants. This is my body; I'm happy in it."

Learning to love her curvy figure is exactly what made Graham's success take off—and she knows it. 

Ashley Graham Wears Addition Elle Lingerie on Subway

"I had to realize that if I didn't really love who I was and if I couldn't appreciate this—my body—as my moneymaker, then I wasn't going to make any money," she says, but she didn't have that epiphany until after years of insecurity and self-doubt.

"I always felt second best. I was never the prettiest, never the skinniest, never the fastest in my sports. Never the smartest, because I have dyslexia," she admits. "Then, all of a sudden, people were like, 'You're gorgeous.' And I was like, 'What?!'"

Graham confesses to using various methods to try to find the self-confidence she was looking for, which often resulted in turning to men for validation. Unfortunately, it didn't always end well. "I dated all the wrong men. I thought I could feel appreciated in my body through guys," she confesses. 

"[My ex] never hit me, but he did throw me up against a wall. I didn't know to get out then because I was so insecure."

Now happily married to Justin Ervin since 2010, Graham tells the magazine that she was honest with him from the start about sex. "I was like, 'Look, I'm not having sex 'til I'm married.' And he was like, 'Great! Let's not.' We stuck to it," she tells Self. "[On our Jamaican honeymoon], we had sex all the time for, like, 10 days."

Sounds like quite the vacation!