What a difference a few years make.
In 2010, model Ashley Graham appeared in a Lane Bryant commercial, showing off sexy undergarments the plus-size clothing store has for women. ABC was planning to air it during an episode of “Dancing with the Stars,” which often features C-list celebs shaking and gyrating in even less clothing, but decided it was too racy.
Graham immediately knew what was going on. While it’s downright normal to see wafer-thin supermodels parade around half-butt-bald-nekkid in Victoria’s Secret commercials, a lingerie ad featuring a size 14/16 model like Graham might’ve been a turnoff for some. “(ABC) can’t handle bigger on TV,” Graham told the New York Post at the time.
Cut to today. Graham is on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Actually, she’s one of three separate cover stars (the other two are model Hailey Clauson and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter Ronda Rousey.
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While many might see the inclusion of Graham in this year’s swimsuit issue as, you know, a good thing, some weren’t feeling the girl power. Sadly, former SI cover girl Cheryl Tiegs didn’t think Graham fit the right criteria as a swimsuit model. Tiegs told E! News that she felt that our culture is “glamorizing” full-figured women, adding “your waist should be smaller than 35 (inches). That’s what Dr. Oz said and I’m sticking to it.”
OK, first off: Even though Dr. Oz technically said that women whose waists are 35 inches or larger are more at risk of having chronic diseases like diabetes, do you really want to use Dr. Oz as your point of reference? In some parts of the country, he’s known as that guy who usually comes on before “The Price Is Right.” Second, not only is Graham’s waist not 35 inches (it’s 29.5), she’s also an avid promoter of health and fitness, even launching a Web workout series a year and a half ago called “Curvy Fit Club.”
While Graham brushed off Tiegs’ comments (“…my skin is so thick,” she told E! News), Tiegs ended up penning an open letter/apology to Graham on The Huffington Post. Along with pleading for Graham’s forgiveness, Tiegs took one more spin at explaining what she meant. “I was trying to express my concern over media images and the lack of education in America about healthy choices, thus the reference to the 35-inch waist as a guideline to health,” she wrote. She also added that her waist is – surprise! – 37 inches.
Tiegs might have thought she was hipping people to the dangers of living an unhealthy lifestyle. However, it sounded like an aging, formerly in-demand model hating on a young lady on the come-up just because she doesn’t fit the supermodel specifics. YouTube vlogger and fellow bitter blonde Nicole Arbour also came after Graham in a YouTube video titled “Dear Fat People 2: The Second Helping.” (The first “Dear Fat People” got over 10 million views and a flurry of negative reactions.) I won’t go into details into what she said, mainly because most of what she uttered didn’t make any sense.
It’s sad when ladies like Tiegs and Arbour remind women that if you’re not a trim, perfect specimen, you’re practically a freak of nature. I know I’m not revealing some major news here, but women come in all shapes and sizes. And while there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be healthy, shapely stunners like Graham shouldn’t be called out or body-shamed (by fellow females, no less!) for daring not to adhere to the usual, antiquated, mainstream beauty standards.
If anything, Graham is just one of several entities out there as of late, from Mattel coming out with a line of curvy Barbie dolls to writer Kelsey Miller discussing her struggles with being full-figured in her Refinery29.com columns “The Anti-Diet Project” and her recently released memoir “Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life,” making sure that future generations of women realize they can still be good-looking and confident – no matter how their bodies are shaped.