There's no doubt 2016 is the year of Ashley Graham.
The 28-year-old self-proclaimed "size sexy" model made history being the first plus-size model to cover Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue and Maxim and landed herself a role as Joe Jonas' leading lady in DNCE's new music video for "Toothbrush."
However, the success didn't come easy for Graham, as she notes in her latest interview with People magazine.
"I had agencies telling me that I had to lose weight," the Addition Elle lingerie designer told the magazine. "I had one that waved money in my face and said, 'If you lose more pounds you can make a lot more of this,' and he was waving $20 bills in my face."
However, Ashley said the agent's tactics didn't work, and instead pushed to her to gain more weight, in order to avoid being an "in-betweener" in the "plus-size industry."
"That wasn't even a motivator for me to lose weight. I was peaking at a size 18, and in the plus size fashion industry, models go from a size 8 to a size 16/18," she explained. "So if you're on the smaller size or the bigger size, you're not going to work as much as if you're in the middle. So he was trying to encourage me to lose weight but it didn't work, because I was that person where if you told me to go on a diet and lose weight, I'm just going to gain weight."
Graham also told People that although her mother comforted her when she was bullied during her school years ("I was called all kinds of ugly names – cottage cheese thighs, thunder thighs"), she faced more struggles when she moved to New York City at 17.
"I had gained a lot of weight because my mom wasn't cooking for me and I wasn't working out," she said. "I started to really hate myself. I would literally just look in the mirror, and I would be disgusted. It was a constant degrading of my body. You're fat. You're ugly. You're worthless. I'm surprised you're a model. Are some of the things I would say to myself."
But Ashley managed to overcome her negative thoughts by changing her thinking.
"A lot of taking care of my body and my mind and my soul had to do with talking to myself and actually giving myself affirmations," she said. "It got me out of my funk. I still had cellulite, I still had back fat, I still had jiggly arms, and I decided to love every part of it."
Ashley's not the only model who has spoken out about being told to lose weight by career agents — back in April, former Victoria's Secret Angel Erin Heatherton revealed she left the lingerie giant for this very reason.
"I was really depressed because I was working so hard and I felt like my body was resisting me," Heatherton told Time. "And I got to a point where one night I got home from a workout and I remember staring at my food and thinking maybe I should just not eat."
She continued, "I realized I couldn’t go out into the world—parading my body and myself in front of all these women who look up to me—and tell them that this is easy and simple and everyone can do this."
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