Ashley Graham: “I Know I’m On This Pedestal Because Of White Privilege”
As a plus-size woman, it’s been… nice to see the wave of popularity Ashley Graham has been enjoying over the past year. I can recall seeing the full-figured model in ads ever since I started buying my own clothes back in the day and to witness the way her star has risen since then is inspiring. Yet at the same time, I find all the fawning over her somewhat disappointing. At the end of the day, she’s just another white woman being praised for a frame more familiar to Black women and one in which we’re regular shunned for.
The silver lining is Graham is well aware of this inequity and why it’s so. In an interview with The Cut, she spoke candidly about still being the only one let into the uncharacteristically narrow door for plus-size models, and she knows the reason that is is because of her skin color.
“I know I’m on this pedestal because of white privilege,” she told the site. “To not see Black or Latina women as famous in my industry is crazy! I have to talk about it. I want to give those women kudos because they are the ones who paved the way for me.”
Graham is also likely more aware of her privilege because she has a Black husband. Earlier this year, an excerpt from her memoir revealed the unwelcoming reception her family gave Justin when she took him home to Nebraska for the first time.
“I didn’t grow up around many Black people,” she wrote. “The sum total of what I learned about African American culture in school was Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Underground Railroad. This was more than my mom knew; she didn’t even see a Black person in real life until she was 18 years old.
“I never told Justin any of this, and I never told my grandparents that the man I was bringing home was black. I naively hoped everyone would be color-blind—which is not what happened. When my grandparents met Justin, my grandmother was cordial but cold. She greeted him and immediately walked away. When it came time for them to leave, my grandparents didn’t even acknowledge him. Instead my grandmother looked me in the eye, with Justin standing behind me, and said, ‘Tell that guy I said goodbye.'”
Graham went on to write about how her husband had to educate her on how unsurprising racism is, although consistently disappointing. I’m sure some of those conversations led to the understanding of the privilege she now enjoys as well.
You can check out more of Graham’s interview here.