Recently one of my favorite famous people has become Ashley Graham, a business woman, body activist, designer, podcast host, plus size model. I chose to write first business woman because that is what she is. It doesn’t matter how she started and which job she has been doing the longest, Ashley Graham has so many facets. That versatile side of hers is what is most inspiring to me. Oh and, of course, her unapologetic attitude that she always irradiates. Her podcast Pretty Big Deal hosts incredible people whose life journeys allow us to think about ours and also to believe in what might seem impossible.
This wonderful woman is first and foremost known for her activism within the modeling and fashion industry. She shows us and teaches us that all body sizes matter and that REAL NORMAL should be a norm. Do you ever think of the fact that just size stands for something that is shown as neutral, when we are actually talking about very skinny girls. Everything outside of that needs an additional explanation. Thanks to Ashley Graham, but also to other plus size models, as they are unfortunately called, perceptions of women’s bodies have started to live a huge revolution. First of all, it had to happen within the fashion industry and we, as consumers, naturally get influenced by it.
Although a lot of things related to what Ashley preaches have to do with the way we perceive our bodies and how we feel about them, there is so much more! She is very open and generous when it comes to sharing her personal life experiences and I find that extremely valuable. It is what makes famous people just people and it leaves us with a message that nobody is perfect and that sh*** necessarily happens along the way.
Today I am going to share with you certain things that Ashley Graham said and that resonated with me.
#1 FEARING OTHER PEOPLE’S REACTION
‘’What do you do for a living?’’ was a question that Ashley dreaded the most when she was starting in a fashion industry. Ashley Graham had to explain herself because people would not understand when she would answer by simply saying: ‘’A model’’. She always needed to add that she was a plus size model.
As someone that is creating her own business at the moment, wakes up early, sits down and works her ass off, I feel like I need to be apologetic about what I am doing. Sometimes being without an official job feels embarrassing and wrong. It’s as if I had to justify each time when I speak to someone why I quit my job and chose instability and uncertainty. When I mention that I am building something that might never give an income, people do not understand why I am doing it. Sometimes, I even feel like I have to comfort people. They would feel more confident about my current life journey when I tell them that I am gaining many important skills. That is when they feel reassured, because I am not ‘’wasting my time’’.
Quickly, I realized that people who have this kind of reaction are the ones that are scared. They fear that someone might take away from them their stability and security. It is not me that they are worried about, it is them! Their comfort zone is shaken. I do not blame them nor do I judge them, but it is sometimes difficult not to be affected. Sometimes it is easy to question decisions that were very hard to make. Does questioning make them irrelevant? Not at all! But doing something scary does not mean that once you’ve done it, all the fear magically disappears. That is a lesson that I am still learning. Questioning my decisions from time to time does not mean that I am not on the right path, it just means that I am growing.
#2 ASHELY GRAHAM IS NOT AFRAID TO PUT FORWARD HER ACHIEVEMENTS
Ever since I opened the Klitmit blog, I learned so much about feminism, which was a primary goal! As time goes by, I become more and more conscious of things that have been all of my life right in front of me. One of them is how much we, women, apologize for absolutely everything! We excuse ourselves all the time and we are worried about how much space we are going to take. Additionally, we do not put forward our achievements, because we do not want to make anyone uncomfortable.
Ashley Graham says all the time that she is a businesswoman. This amazing, inspiring entrepreneur does professionally so many different things and she is unapologetic. There is also something in the wording, confidence and attitude when she says it. She owns what she preaches and that is what gives power to others. Uncompromising belief in herself is what inspires me most when it comes to Ashley.
Unfortunately, you would rarely see that in women. There are obviously many powerful, achieved businesswomen, but we are thought to stay invisible, to be kind, loving and to keep always other people’s feelings into account. We are taught to shrink and to consider it inappropriate and impolite to speak about our professional achievements. As if we could not be polite and successful at the same time. Why is feminine often considered as the opposite of kick-ass-businesswoman?
On the other hand, there are also women that use the patriarchal way of behaving in order to succeed in a man’s, man’s world. That is understandable, since certain standards have been set, but not acceptable. We need to find other ways to achieve our goals. Reproducing the existing patriarchal model will not get us far in the fight for equal gender rights.
Ashley Graham’s accomplishments are huge, yes, however we do not need to become a CEO in order to say out loud that we have achieved something. I feel like our achievements need to be over the top so that it is socially accepted that we ‘’brag’’ about it. But we are the ones that need to recognize our achievements first. To be comfortable with our own success. To own it, be open about it, think more about our success than about what is left to be done. That is when others will start to do it as well.
#3 ASHLEY GRAHAM IS NOT A QUITTER
One of the biggest Ashely’s successes came from the fact that her commercial was banned from the TV. As a plus size model, she showed her cellulite, something not acceptable at the time for the TV. Now that I think about it, it is still not acceptable!
Instead of weeping and being miserable about a failure, she figured out how to go about this obstacle and make it success. Just think of the fact that this was the time when Ashley Graham was not known and when plus size models were not on the runways or commercials. That is when Ashley Graham made her own laundry line! She also started using social media as her own media and as a platform where she can express herself in a free way. And look at her now! Ashley is one of the most influential people today. This plus size model took a failure and turned it into something great that is changing so many lives!
I take no’s as maybes and turn my maybes into yeses.
I heard once that the more failures and no’s you have, the more you increase your chances to have a yes. More no’s bring you closer to a yes. This has been my mantra whenever I feel like everything I do does not make any sense and that it will not take me anywhere. We are afraid to be hurt by that NO. Highly achieving people don’t take no for an answer.
#4 MIRROR, MIRROR, WHO IS THE PRETTIEST WOMAN OF ALL
We see our reflection in people around us. Have you ever heard that what bothers you most in others is actually what you don’t like about yourself? There is that kind of reflection, but also there is another one, the one that molded us and made a huge deal of what we are today. It is the reflection of our mom.
Ashley Graham’s Mom told her constantly that she was beautiful and Ashley also felt that her mom thought that about herself. That was the key, to see and feel what your closest see and feel. Because you can say or hear different things but you need to be coherent. Since we pick up more of what is not said than of what is said, we will not believe the words. We believe only the feelings and deeds.
It might be difficult to relate to Ashley Graham here because not many of us hear those words while growing up. First of all, it takes our moms to be comfortable with themselves and their beauty. So, if we want our children to believe us, then they need to see their mom that loves herself, from the inside out.
Do I love myself enough? Do I believe that I am beautiful enough? Not yet, but I embarked on that journey, and as many things in life, this also is a path, not something finished. I repeat to myself the powerful words: ‘’I am on a journey, not seeking perfection, but only love, acceptance and understanding for myself.’’
For Ashley, the mirror was her mom, for my child I want it to be me.
#5 COOPERATION IS THE KEY
We often say that women do not work together, that they always see each other as a competition and try to do you harm. There is not much space out there, that’s how it feels sometimes. However, that is only an illusion. We can and need to be the ones that will open those spaces.
Four curvy models joined, went to the same agency and asked to work with them. They felt that they had power together, united in the same mission. To them, joined like that, no one would ever say no. They understood the importance of cooperation, of teamwork and support. These fours powerful models revealed each other their salaries, their dreams and aspirations. It might have been challenging and difficult for them, especially in something that competitive, but they put the jealousy, uncertainty and vulnerability aside.
It is the four of them and this bold move of theirs that changed the way the modeling industry works today! We can only be thankful to what they have done because that is changing the way all girls around the world perceive their own bodies. Four women believed not only in themselves, but in the strength and power of cooperation. That is all it took! They used what many women would see as competition and threat and turned it into strength.
And let’s finish with these powerful Ashley Graham’s words: ‘’Knowing who you really are and getting to know yourself is really the key for whatever industry that you are in and for which ever mountain that you are trying to move.’’ Because, only if we work on our potentials, we can get to know ourselves better. Love will inevitably come with it!