“OH, MY GOD, are you a mom?” asks Ashley Graham, whose friendliness and relatability are palpable even in a 15-minute phone call. She’s describing an Instagram account called @badassmotherbirther, which is not for the squeamish: It features photos and zoomed-in videos of women literally pushing life out into the world. “I watch these so that I know what I’m getting into,” says Graham, whose first baby is due this month. “I think once I get him out of me, the rest shouldn’t be so bad.”
The 32-year-old American is one of the most well-known curve models in the business right now and can be credited with plenty of firsts for her body type: first on the cover of Sports Illustrated, first to walk in Michael Kors’ runway show and first to be on the cover of Vogue. And that’s just in the fashion world. In 2018, Graham signed with Revlon, making her the first to land a mainstream beauty contract. Being tapped by the company was especially personal for her; when she was growing up, she’d hang posters of former Revlon girl Cindy Crawford on her wall and her mother wore the brand’s lipsticks. “So, to have Ron Perelman [Revlon’s chairman] call me and ask me if I wanted a contract? I was dumbfounded and excited,” she says.
While the endless questions about her body from the media can get tiresome, Graham accepts them as part of her role as a trailblazer and also recognizes the necessity of the topic: The “number one” question she is asked by young women is how to gain confidence. “This is a very big issue in the world today,” she says. “So it’s a conversation that I don’t mind having and I’m going to continue having.” In fact, Graham is as much an activist as she is a model; discussing subjects that matter to her is a natural extension of who she is. She hosts a podcast called Pretty Big Deal (Gayle King, Serena Williams and Amy Schumer have been guests), and she uses her profile to keep the body-positivity dialogue going, whether that’s by collaborating on size-inclusive lingerie and swimwear or posting photos of her cellulite. Being outspoken is not just something she’s comfortable with – she sees it as a part of her duty as a model in 2020. “There’s a responsibility that comes with having followers and a platform,” she says. “And I think being silent is more of a problem than being vocal.”
Shop Ashley’s Picks
Revlon So Fierce Mascara ($12, at drugstores and mass-market retailers) “This stuff goes on and enhances your eyelashes like crazy. My favourite mascara ever.”
Revlon ColorStay Browlights ($14, at drugstores and mass-market retailers) “I dye my eyebrows, but if they’re still light, I use this to fill in where the gaps are. I also use it to colour in my beauty mark on the left side of my face. I love to enhance that. And I use it as a lipliner to make my lips juicier – if you use it lightly along the upper rim of your lip and then kind of blur it out with a thick brush, it contours your lip.”
Revlon Super Lustrous Luscious Mattes in Pick Me Up ($11, at drugstores and mass-market retailers) “I do a little bit of a contour with the brow pencil and then use this. It goes with my skin tone. If I’m tanned, if I’m pale, and everything in between. And it’s amazing.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of ELLE Canada. Subscribe here.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.