“His name was Craig. Craig, let me tell you something, Craig was a bad boy. He was a skater boy. He was an artist… But three months into the relationship, he told me something. He said we had to break up because I wasn’t going to have sex with him. But wait for it, wait for it. The second reason, because he said that I was going to be as fat as his mom.”
On Wednesday 11 October, which marked 2017’s International Day of the Girl, model and activist Ashley Graham stood strong and proud in front of a crowd of impressionable teenage girls and told them her story. Watch the video below:
Before she became Ashley Graham, the model
She explained that she wasn’t always the confident woman we now see on the front cover of magazines. In fact, she had dyslexia and ADD, all the while constantly being made to feel like she just wasn’t skinny, beautiful or simply good enough. And I’ll be honest, I cringed a little, because while I’m older and slightly more confident, I spent my teenage years feeling exactly the same way.
Growing up, I had “four eyes” and a body that seemed to develop at a completely different rate to every other girl at school. My body looked bigger and fuller and the attention it got, particularly from other girls, actually didn’t make me feel very good about myself. How could I, when all I thought about at hockey practice was having to keep from jiggling because my sports bra kept malfunctioning? Oh, the horror!
Ashley explained to her vocal audience, which I’m sure included young girls who may have felt similarly discouraged by their changing bodies, that if she could go back in time she would say to her younger self:
Learning to love yourself
“Ashley, first of all, Craig is a loser. Second of all, you is fine [sic]. And that bulge on your hip that he’s talking about, not only is it okay, but it’s going to change the world someday.”
Ashley Graham has spoken at schools and given TED talks before about body positivity. She’s also participated in humanitarian missions in South Africa with the Themba Foundation and won multiple awards for being a body activist. She has been an inspiration to so many women, and is maybe even, as she says, changing the world.
She explains, “The fashion industry told me I wasn’t going to be a real model because of all these curves. But now we can cut to me on the cover of Glamour and Vogue and Sports Illustrated.
"And guys, I don’t know if you know, but Barbie, they also made an AG Barbie and she doesn’t have a thigh gap.”
Considering that all the Barbie dolls I had growing up had thigh gaps so big you could fit another plastic leg in there, non-existent hips and butts that were just a flat continuation of their backs, I kind of wish I had an AG Barbie growing up.
- Also read: Have you seen Barbie's new body?
Finding happiness within yourself
She goes on to tell the girls in the audience that they cannot expect to find happiness from a man, especially the wrong kind of man, but instead to look within themselves and find happiness in doing what they love. And although they may not know what that is just yet, they’re at a time in their lives where they can explore and figure that out until they are comfortable with where and who they are.
“I’m not here today to make you feel beautiful,” she explains, “I’m here to help you understand that true beauty is okay with being who you are. And being okay with who you are is a revolutionary act, you guys. And making someone else feel good about who they are, that’s down right heroic.”
The audience cheered as she concluded, encouraging them to look within themselves to find their true beauty. She also asked them to tell all the amazing women in their lives to do the same and be someone else’s hero.
“That’s beauty beyond size,” she concluded.
Well, you certainly are the most beautiful girl in the world, Ashley.
And you certainly are our hero.
- Dear teen me, let’s talk about that boy who broke your heart, sweetie
- Dear tween me, let’s talk about your period, sweetie
- "Baby girl, we don’t change." - P!nk's inspiring speech for her daughter
Did you also struggle to feel comfortable with your body when you were growing up? Tell us your stories by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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