Why is Ashley Graham the only famous plus-size model?
When the words “plus-size model” are said, Ashley Graham’s name is automatically on everyone’s lips. Isn’t it awkward that any random girl or guy in the street can’t name another plus-size model? Why is Graham on her own? Analysis.
Beginning her career as a model in high school, Ashley Graham already had the body brands were looking for. With her flat stomach, white skin, beautiful face, perfect hair and charisma, she soon became THE model to book for catalogue and e-shop shootings. She could have stopped there and enjoy her commercial career earning a lot of money. But she had ambition and decided to go on a conquest for editorial work and achieved her goals.
She now collects magazine covers (from Sports Illustrated to Vogue), fashion shows (Michael Kors, Prabal Gurung, H&M Studio, Christian Siriano and Dolce & Gabbana in April 2018). She also multiplies advertising contracts from luxury plus-size brands (Marina Rinaldi, Lane Bryant) and cosmetics (Revlon, Pantene). Television has also a thing for the girl and hired her in several shows including America’s Next Top Model, Miss USA and Miss Universe. All of these collaborations made her one of the most bankable models of 2017 according to Forbes ranking. As usual, she is “the first plus-size model to” do it.
In a world where models have become community managers of their own Instagram account above any other job, Ashley Graham is unique. With more than 6 million followers, the girl from Lincoln, Nebraska, is now way more powerful than any random plus-size model. Her activism and body-positive message have put the light on her. Even if she is far away from the Hadid-Jenner scale, she is still a social network mogul. And she gets some contracts thanks to her digital popularity and influence. Indeed, many designers know how important it is today to not only make clothes for people to see but also to put them on famous faces people want to see. But for now, the only plus-size woman that regular brands are calling (from H&M to Forever 21 to Sephora) is Graham and only Graham.
Orange Is The New Black actress Danielle Brooks can’t stand it anymore and said on an interview with American Vogue: “I don’t know if fashion has made a wholehearted effort [regarding dressing plus-size women]. It’s more like, ‘Oh this is a trend, let’s get on it.’ Then they bring in Ashley Graham, who is amazing, but isn’t the only plus-size model ever to exist.What about Marquita [Pring], Denise [Bidot], Philomena [Kwao], Tess Holliday? When I look at the ads I don’t see faces like mine, I see skinny white women.”
And she is not wrong, appart from people who work in the industry and is interested in the plus-size sphere, no one can name a curvy female nor male model because they are still anonymous and rejected by the media and the brands. It all looks like Ashley Graham — just as Naomi Campbell in her young years as the only black model with a name- is THE justification and THE ace card to play when media wants to follow the trend of body-positivity and oppeness.
The antidote to this virus is definitely to give a voice to other plus-size models and influencers. This is exactly what the US television did with last season of Project Runway. Models like Liris Crosse have definetly been the star of the show and is the kind of powerful woman we want to see in high fashion and on the cover of magazines.
At the same time, plus-size influencers are engaging more and more people on their feed and multiplying capsule collections with ready-to-wear brands. Earlier this year, I had an interview with one of the most popular French plus-size influencer : Lalaa Misaki. I was charmed by her authenticity and motivation to live her life to the fullest. With a strong community of 60K followers, a new collaboration with the brand Gémo, and an inspiring blog and YouTube channel, she is now regarded by the press offices and the brands. She even told me that once she was invited to a lauching party for a well-known brand that did not even make clothes that fit her size. How shocking ! But the point is that she is getting more and more popular, and she is the kind of people who could break the glass ceiling and join Ashley Graham at the top of the pyramide.
As she told me herself : “Today Ashley Graham is Ashley Graham. She is here to stay. The door is opened for other people to follow her path, but she is imprinted in people’s mind. (…) But I am myselft. I can’t stand it when fashion PR look at me and can’t stop talking about how much they love Ashley Graham. Especially in France, I feel like some brands, only because they have seen that curvy girls are trendy, are now inviting them to attend their events. I’m lucky it’s me. Of course, I’m not going to complain, but it is kind of annoying. Why did they wait so much time to invite us in the first place ?“.
The road of Ashley Graham was not an easy one, nor is the one of the others plus-size mannequins who want to be role models too and be in the light to speak up for themselves. Let’s hope that they will never stop fighting even if high fashion and media are still reluctant to hire them. Having someone like the gorgeous Paloma Elsesser on the cover of both British Vogue and I-D magazine is already a step forward.