It feels like model Ashley Graham has been in the headlines every month this year with game-changing career accomplishments. She broke barriers on the cover of the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition in February; covered Maxim and Glamour's special plus-size issue and announced her own ready-to-wear line in March; and starred alongside Joe Jonas in DNCE latest music video in May. Just this week, Graham launched her bathing suit line with Swimsuitsforall and two styles have already sold out. As if all that wasn't enough to keep Graham busy, InStyle has formally announced that the model is the magazine's latest contributing editor, marking the first time she has joined a glossy masthead.
Dedicated readers of InStyle may have already seen Graham's "Great Style Has No Size," column in the May and June 2016 issues, and the model will continue sharing her styling knowledge each month. "I've picked up a lot of things over the years," said Graham on Tuesday. "For so long people have been asking me: How do you dress your curves? Which brand do you love? How do you hide this, how do you accentuate that? And I really just wanted to give my 411 on everything curves-related and just give back, in a way." After 16 years as a model, Graham says she's picked up tips and tricks from stylists and on all kinds of shoots. "I never went to college... my college experience was in the midst of catwalks, catalogues and casting calls."
The industry's approach to plus-size models and fashion has changed radically over her career, but Graham says there's still a long way to go to properly cover this nearly $18-billion industry. "It's been a huge struggle... Then all of a sudden in the last five years you see a couple more [models], a couple more, and now you're hearing about multiple plus-size, curvy models all over the world," she said. "I think that magazines are finally following suit. Sports Illustrated was a really big one: throwing me on the cover was such a trailblazing moment... And now with InStyle and so many other magazines that are following slowly but surely, Glamour magazine with their special issue — it's happening. Nothing great comes overnight; you have to work hard at it."
Graham said she wants to highlight trends in future columns because "for so long curvy girls have had basics — basic tees, basic jeans, dresses." She also wants to promote the many under-the-radar plus-size brands that rarely get covered by mainstream magazines. "Thank god for the bloggers, they've really gotten a lot of brands to skyrocket, [and for helping] so many young girls understanding how to dress their bodies."
The May column focuses on swimwear — something Graham is an expert on, especially now that she's helped design her own collection. The 11-piece Swimsuitsforall collection is on sale now, featuring suits inspired by James Bond (with style names like Heist and Espionage) and available in sizes 10 through 20. "I wanted the women that were wearing the bathing suits to feel that they are in control of their own lives and [be] their own badasses," she said. "I wanted her to feel sexy and confident, but of course supported on top of it all." All the suits have a built-in bra or extra strings for added support. And speaking of strings: "It's really hard for girls my size to find string bikinis," said Graham. "Companies think a girl my size just wouldn't want to wear it because we want to cover our bodies. But I love wearing a string bikini, so that was one of the first things I told Swimsuitsforall."
It's that kind of smart, candid and body positive perspective that has helped turn Graham into one of the most successful models working today. Well, that and her otherworldly beauty. For more of Graham's words of wisdom, check out her column in InStyle.