‘Curvy model Ashley Graham inspired me to love myself and appreciate my body’

Ashley Graham was one of the first curvy models who I truly felt inspired by. I remember seeing her for the first time when I began reading more about body positivity in my late teens and ever since, she has impacted on me immensely.

She shot to fame in 2016 when she made her debut on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and ever since she has remained a huge part of the fashion industry.

Not agreeing with the words "plus-size", Ashley prefers to use "my size" as a way to describe her body, which I find refreshing and incredibly humbling.

Speaking about the term "plus-size", Ashley previously said: "I think that when you use the word 'plus-size' you're putting all these women into a category: 'You don't eat well.' 'You don't work out.' 'You couldn't care less about your body.' 'You're insecure.' 'You have no confidence.' And that is none of this [pointing at her body]".

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She continued: "The fashion industry may persist to label me as 'plus-size,' but I like to think of it as 'my size."

But despite agreeing with what she's saying, in my mind, she still represents curvy figures and speaks up for the plus-size community – and it's because of this that I am forever grateful for her and her work.

It was around 2017 that I started taking notice of body positivity and implementing what I'd learned into my own life. As a chubby child and curvy teen, I wanted to embrace my body and appreciate it more, and it was with the help of Instagram that I got to do this.

Following the likes of Ashley Graham, Jada Sezer, Nadia Aboulhosn and other models that represented bodies that didn't fall under the mainline and straight-size category – I slowly learned to accept my body shape and learn how to dress myself in ways that flattered and sparked joy.

I always knew I wasn't straight-sized but never fully wanted to admit that I was anything other than that – even though I knew I was. So following strong, beautiful women who deemed themselves as curvy really helped me come into my own and embrace my body.

Seeing bodies like my own left me enamoured and that's when I really embraced my body and began to see it in a different light.

From growing up loathing my curves, my belly fat, my thick thighs and my saggy boobs – I never thought I would get to a place where I could appreciate all of those "flaws". But by following women like Ashley, and of course the queen herself, I was a changed woman.

Some of things that Ashley has said throughout her career have really impacted upon me positively. My personal favourite quote of hers is: "A lot of who I am is connected to my size, and I am so happy with who I am."

“It doesn’t matter what size your hips are when you measure them. It’s about, do you feel good and healthy in those hips?” is another of my favourite things that she has said.

As is this one: “Sexy is a state of mind, and it can come in all shapes and sizes. It is different for every person.”

But it was when she stripped to her underwear and walked the runway during New York Fashion Week in 2017 that I really got swept up with learning to love myself, my body and my curves.

Five years ago Ashley took to the catwalk for the Addition Elle show and donned a selection of sexy lingerie – proving that curvy bodies are worthy of feeling sensual.

Ashley had designed the collection for the brand, which caters for UK sizes 16-22, having previously designed 15 other collections.

After I saw Ashley strutting her stuff on the catwalk, I realised that our bodies weren't too dissimilar and I decided to strip down to my undies and post my first underwear snap on Instagram.

Wearing a purple bralette and briefs with a kimono over the top, I stood in my bedroom and showed off my curves – fearless and unedited, and proving that I was worthy of feeling beautiful and sexy.

Since then I have posted hundreds of underwear and bikini snaps on my Instagram page, inspiring other curvy women and proving that plus-size women are gorgeous and can wear sexy lingerie too.

I feel I have Ashley to thank for all of this – so, thank you Ashley for helping me realise how beautiful my body is and how worthy it is, regardless of the fat rolls, saggy boobs, stretch marks and cellulite.


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