Why Ashley Graham Got Slammed For Appearing To Lose Weight

Ashley Graham has been knocking down barriers since she broke into the modeling industry as a teenager. The Nebraska native moved to New York to launch her career, but faced criticism over her size from the beginning. "I called my mom, I was 18 years old, and said 'Mom, I'm coming home,'" Graham said at the 2017 Glamour's Women of the Year Summit (via CNBC). "I said 'I'm not doing this modeling thing anymore, I can't take it anymore."

But Graham's mother encouraged her to change her perspective and focus on her qualities. Those, she soon learned, involved showing that beauty and confidence come in all sizes. "I stopped comparing myself to the women around me and competing with them," she detailed. At 21, Graham was already making an impact as a plus-size model, featuring on the September 2009 issue of Glamour. However, her career continued to be an uphill battle, with Graham having to stand up for herself since early on.

In 2010, she appeared in a Lane Bryant lingerie commercial that was banned by ABC, a decision she was quick to slam. "The first thing I thought of was Victoria's Secret commercials, and how they're just as racy, if not more racy, than Lane Bryant," she told the New York Post. "[The models are] just a lot smaller than what I am." While Graham is used to defending her plus-size body, she wasn't prepared to find herself on the other side of the body-shaming camp.

Ashley Graham faced criticism for appearing to lose weight

In 2016, when she made history as the first plus-size model to land on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Ashley Graham experienced the opposite of fat-shaming. That July, Graham uploaded a behind-the-scenes photo from "America's Next Top Model" to Instagram that showed her in a three-quarters stance in a white crop top and high-waist skirt, paired with a black Balmain jacket. The outfit and angle made her look slimmer. The model felt confident and glamorous in the snapshot, so the reaction to it caught her off-guard.

Instagram users attacked Graham for losing weight after all those years of standing up for bigger bodies. "You don't make plus-size dollars anymore, you make backstabbing dollars," one user commented underneath, as Graham recalled in an essay for Lenny Letter addressing the controversy. Graham denied losing weight but defended her right to do so. "The reality is I haven't lost a pound this year ... And anyway, if I *did* want to lose weight, it would be no one's decision but my own," she argued. Indeed, photos from that time (the picture above is from June 2016) seem to show Graham flaunting her usual size 14 bod.

That wasn't the only time she was accused of giving into the pressure. An October 2018 Instagram post sparked similar criticisms, and Graham once again had to address it. "If these people actually knew me ... they would know that my body just hasn't changed," she told Glamour.

Ashley Graham continues to inspire with her body positivity

Ashley Graham's Instagram followers love her for being real about embracing her body. In Graham's case, that often means displaying aspects of her body that many prefer to conceal, like cellulite and stretch marks. That has been particularly true during her postpartum journey. In January 2020, she welcomed her first child, The Hollywood Reporter noted. In January 2022, Graham gave birth to twin boys, a back-to-back experience that put plenty of strain on her body.

Staying true to herself, she is embracing all of it. "Me myself and my postpartum body feeling sexy confident and unstoppable in my most personal lingerie collection EVER," she captioned a post promoting her collab with Knix. In another post highlighting the designs, Graham shared a snapshot that exposed the stretch marks on her belly. And her followers loved it. "Seeing them peep out over your panty line just like mine made me feel so," one user wrote, adding red hearts to the comment.

In May 2021, Graham addressed the pressure new moms face to lose weight quickly, noting where she was at 16 months after giving birth. "I'm still working on like 20 pounds. When I say working on, I just kind of look at it every day like, 'Hello, new body,'" she told Parents. "And that's just kind of how I go on with it." Whether she loses or gains weight, it looks Graham will continue to encourage women to embrace their unique, ever-changing bodies.