Model Ashley Graham never dreamt that she would end up changing people’s lives just by being a fashion model. Never-the-less, her contagious confidence and persistence has not only catapulted her into supermodel status, but has helped to spark a desperately needed conversation in the fashion industry — one where people are starting to accept that women of all shapes and sizes deserve a place at the table. But Graham wasn’t born with unlimited reserves of self-love. Rather, she discovered through practice that when she was positive and kind about herself, it made others feel better about themselves too.
Her new book A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty & Power Really Look Like is an honest, raw and inspiring memoir detailing the painful lessons she had to learn about life and how they helped her to grow her confidence and start demanding a space for herself in an industry that was obsessed with perfection. Here are a few things we learned:
The biggest misconception about confidence is that people who are confident are impervious to feeling vulnerable or insecure. Graham understands that confidence and insecurity are not mutually exclusive: “Vulnerability isn’t a sin, and everyone is entitled to his or her feelings,” she explains. “I didn’t start out liking my cellulite or stretch marks, but I faked it until eventually it felt real. When you put yourself down so often, you begin to internalize the criticisms — but if you act like you’re amazing, eventually you begin to believe it.”
No matter who you are or how much success you have, everyone needs a community of people from who they can draw strength and support. Unfortunately, so many women are taught to consider each other as competition. Graham found that when she reached out to other women in her industry, she was pleasantly surprised by how therapeutic it was:
“It was an incredible relief to know that there were other strong women who felt the same way I did.”
Not only did Graham make friends, but she also learned about strength in numbers. When Ford Modeling Agency closed its plus size division, Graham and a bunch of other models found themselves in a predicament — what to do now? By banding together and realizing how much work they had collectively brought to their agency, they were in a position to negotiate with other agencies.
“We models had relied on each other as support throughout. And underneath was another layer to our initiative–to make real change in the curve category.” Graham writes. And together, that’s exactly what they did.
One of Graham’s biggest pet peeves is when people speak negatively about the way they look, especially models who are paid precisely because they are beautiful.
“I’ve seen it over and over on set, and it’s ugly to watch.” she writes. However, it helped her learn a very important lesson that’s served her well in her career, and personal life:
“I vowed to myself early on that I would not belittle myself [publicly], no matter what anyone else said to me or how I felt about myself, privately.”
So, next time you have the urge to be self-deprecating, ask yourself, would I say this about someone else? If the answer is ‘NO’ then don’t say it. How you treat yourself teaches others how to treat you, so be kind.
You can read more wisdom in Ashley Graham’s book A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty & Power Really Look Like available HERE.