Ashley Graham is an American model who has appeared on the covers of several magazines including Vogue and Sports Illustrated. Below is a transcript of her speech that she delivered at the 2016 Women Mean Business Luncheon.
Only 2% of women find themselves beautiful–2%.
I actually had an agent tell me, wave money in my face, and tell me, “If you lose some more weight you can make a lot more of this. Oh and PS you’re never going to be in a magazine. You’re never gonna be on the covers of any magazines.”
I always hated answering that question: “What do you do for a living?” I would reply with, “Well I’m a model,” and I would be so insecure that I would quickly qualify with, “Well I’m a plus-size model,” hoping that they would stop tensing up and that my insecurity wouldn’t show through. As a young model my confidence was tugged at and pulled in all different directions. I struggled to achieve true confidence, and when I would go home I would be disgusted with the woman that I saw in the mirror. My insecurities had to be faced head-on because, I, like so many young women struggled to love the woman I saw inside of the mirror because of society’s narrow vision of beauty. I needed to reclaim my body and its image as my own. I became my own role model. No one else was to have that job.
My body, like my confidence, has been picked apart, manipulated and controlled by others who didn’t necessarily understand it, and once I reclaimed ownership over my body, I understood that there was a greater purpose as a woman–as a woman who was redefining preconceived standards of feminine beauty. My confidence, it comes from a place from within–from much greater than my photos or validation from others. I felt freed once I realized I was never going to fit a narrow mold that society wanted me to fit into. I believe beauty truly is beyond size, and with so much emphasis on the external it’s no wonder we all suffer so much internally. It’s true I wasn’t able to love and embrace my hips and my weird shaped butt and the cellulite on my thighs. Not until I loved the woman within and once that happened, my career my success, my drive, it all began to follow.
It is critical that both men and women create a safe space–create a safe space for the important women in your lives for women to be who they are–not hide themselves because of what they’re not. If anything remember this: be you, be real, be authentic, be your favorite kind of woman. Don’t let anybody else take that job. Never, never let anybody tell you, “No.” Never let anybody tell you, “You can’t.” I have achieved and I am still achieving what was seemingly impossible.