Ashley Graham Details Sexual Assault, Body Acceptance in ‘A New Model’

“For me, being pretty was wrapped up in sex.”

ashley graham talks a new model cosmo interview

Ashley Graham is more than just another pretty face, she’s among the fleet of fresh models to emerge out of 2016 after becoming the first plus-sized model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

This week marks the release of Graham’s debut memoir, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like (HarperCollins Publishers), out now. In her book, the 29-year-old star recalls her rise to model fame after being scouted at a shopping mall in her native Nebraska at just 12-years-old. In only a year, Graham has set the precedent for voluptuous beauty in an industry replete with models of svelte stature, glossed the covers of Cosmopolitan and Elle magazine, and was also named the poster child of H&M Studio last fall.

On the heels of sudden fame, Graham bared it all in a recent interview with Cosmopolitan (May 9) covering everything from her first book, history with sexual assault and how averting the fashion industry’s stereotypical body standards enabled her to find approval with her own form.

ashley graham talks a new model sexual assault body positivity
Fem Competitor

But coming to this realization wasn’t always easy. As was the case for Graham, who makes mention of particularly traumatic recollections in her book, including being sexually assaulted at age 10 when a family friend trapped and flashed himself at her in a laundry room, to her experiences with an abusive ex-boyfriend later on in life. Assuredly, the supermodel holds to confronting these painful moments as a way of overcoming them, with hopes of inspiring other girls to do the same:

“Being 29 years old, I had already come to terms with some of the [darker] aspects of my life. Even so, writing this book was definitely like a therapy session. Another reason I shared those stories, one that it hurts to say, is that so many women have had [these sorts of things happen to them]. I didn’t know what to do in that moment [in the laundry room]. Maybe if I had read a book about a girl who had been through something similar, I could have known to say, ‘Stop that! It’s not right!’ or told my mom, and it would have been handled.”

ashley graham a new model book
HarperCollins

In other passages of A New Model, the star recounts even more unpleasant awakenings she experienced when her grandmother refused to speak to her husband, Justin Ervin, a black man. “My grandmother was an ignorant white woman that had never been around black people,” Graham said. “It didn’t change my relationship, but in the moment, it made me feel really sad. I had never seen that side of her before.”

Despite having to dig up so many painful memories, Graham assures her book has a light at the end of the tunnel. Overall, the circular notion is to encourage women and girls alike to accept their bodies, that there is no such thing as perfect, and that her readers are never alone in the daily struggle of accepting oneself in the face of constant social conformity.

While these concepts may seem like old adages to the politically correct, I, too, believe these ideas should be doubled down. I believe Graham’s protests against making others feel guilty or ashamed about their pasts or wanting to find comfort in their own skin is still so relevant today. Though dejectedly, the road to self-love and acceptance, in all its forms, is a long and slow journey but it is not an impossible one.

A New Model is available for purchase now: Order it here

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Written by Paris Close

Paris Close

Editor-in-chief at Paperback Paris. Saving myself for Andy Cohen. Give me Gillian Flynn, or give me death.