Ashley Graham is proud of her faith.
The 31-year-old spoke to Harper’s Bazaar UK on Sunday where she candidly discussed how her Christian beliefs have helped her make sense of her fame as one of the most sought-after models in the fashion industry.
“My faith has given me the strength to say no,” the plus-size pinup explained. “If I’m not comfortable, or if something doesn’t align with my mission, then I’m not participating. My faith is my balance. My husband and I like to pray together because in the Bible it talks about when two or more are gathered, God is in the midst. Whatever your higher power or beliefs, I think it’s important to have that quiet moment of reflection.”
“And if anyone can get me into Kanye West’s Sunday Service, I’ll be on the plane to LA,” added the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover girl about the rapper’s high-profile worship gatherings. “I need to go have some worship.”
The Nebraska native also told the outlet that it’s no surprise that her faith continues to impact her career choices.
“Growing up in a Christian household, I was constantly questioning what my purpose in life was,” she said. “I believe it’s changing the fashion industry.”
Still, Graham admitted that she still faces insecurities with her body, but is open to sharing her private struggles publicly in hopes that it will inspire others to embrace their own so-called flaws.
“I’ve always been very honest in sharing the insecurities I have,” said Graham. “Cellulite, back fat… It opened a door for other women to share their insecurities. If we all feel the same way, why are we stressing about it? I’ve never gone to therapy but having these conversations really does help.”
“[But] when I look in the mirror now, I see a fearless woman,” Graham continued. “I see a leader. I see a bold, hard-working woman who has turned ‘no’ into ‘yes.’ I also see an intelligent woman who has turned ‘no’ into ‘yes.’ I also see an intelligent woman who doesn’t let insecurities or challenges hold her back. I recognize my round arms, my cellulite, my belly, my beautiful curves and I also recognize that I’m celebrating them and embracing them.”
Graham told the outlet that when she originally moved to New York to pursue her modeling career at age 17, she endured “a terrible time” in her life when everyone was “telling me I was too fat.” Looking back, Graham was grateful her mother gave her much-needed words of encouragement to move forward.
“She said: ‘You have to fight through this,’” Graham recalled. “Thank God I listened to her. I thought: ‘OK, screw it, I’m not going to lose weight for anybody. I’m going to be healthy, I’m going to go to the gym and I’m going to live my life right.'"
Over the years, Graham has become a successful supermodel, speaker, TV presenter, writer, designer, podcast host and activist, among her numerous roles. But even with all of her success, Graham says she still faces criticism over her body.
“… As an example, I just posted some photos from Gigi Hadid’s birthday party on Instagram — I had worn this oversize denim dress with thigh-high boots and my chunkiness was hanging over the top of the boot,” said Graham. “Someone commented: ‘Your thighs are bursting out of them.’ I decided to write back and say: ‘Yes, my thighs were bursting out and I felt sexy AF.’ Those are what I like to call teachable moments; a way to let women know that they should be standing up for themselves too.”
Graham insisted she’s eager to see what the future holds for her — even if it means putting certain plans on hold, at least for now.
“Kids are just not on my radar,” said Graham. “Not now. Eventually, yes. I’ve been married for nine years in August but I feel like I’m still too young to have them. I’ve got too many businesses still to build.”
“… I’ve met so many women who’ve cried in my arms and told me that by sharing my story and my struggle, I’ve allowed them to share theirs. You know, I’ve been the girl alone on the bathroom floor, crying my eyes out because I didn’t think I was good enough. When you meet someone who has given you the authority to say ‘I’m better than I thought,’ that’s a big deal. It just takes a couple of people stomping their feet and saying: ‘This isn’t the way that we’re going to be treated anymore.’”
Back in 2017, Graham told Fox News that she doesn’t get frustrated over being labeled a plus-size model.
“You know what? I know that my job right now is to educate people on why the word plus-size is divisive to women,” said Graham at the time. “So it doesn’t get tiring to be called one. It just makes me want to talk more about it and to educate people on why we don’t need to use descriptive words to announce women or to let people know who this woman is because of the size of her hips.”
But if there’s one label Graham would proudly accept, it’s that of a sex symbol.
“I think it’s fantastic!” she said. “I think that women should definitely follow other women that they find sexy, that they find intelligent. You have different role models for different purposes. I think that’s important. And I love all of my female followers. And my men followers, too. Hi! *laughs*”