Ashley Graham covers the February 2019 issue of ELLE US, styled by Anna Trevelyan for images by Carin Backoff./ Hair by Ben Skervin; makeup George Sandev
Graham, now 31, has moved light years from her discovery at the Oak View Mall in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. In the years since, Graham is widely known as an advocate for body confidence and inclusive sizing in the fashion industry. Graham blitzed into the 2016 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue as its first curvy model. After all, men notoriously prefer women with curves, right?
In her ELLE interview with Allie Jones, Ashley Graham makes it totally clear that she’s just getting started.
She’s launched her own podcast, "Pretty Big Deal;" has begun filming the feel-good talk show "Fearless," for Ellen DeGeneres’s digital network; and has become the newly minted host as well as an executive producer of American Beauty Star, Lifetime’s reality-competition show that pits top hair and makeup artists against each other in a series of challenges, à la Project Runway. “There was only one person we wanted to host the new season of American Beauty Star, and that was Ashley Graham,” says Gena McCarthy, executive vice president and head of programming for Lifetime Unscripted and FYI. “Her charisma and confidence are unmatched, and her infectious personality is always inspiring.” Graham’s co–executive producer Ross Elliot sums it up thusly: “It’s the Oprah factor.”
Graham shares her own aha moment, experienced at a grueling hardcore wellness retreat in Calabasas, California. Listening to an Oprah podcasts, the model heard one of Oprah’s producers say, “If I had a dollar every time someone said, ‘I’ve got the next Oprah,’ I’d be filthy rich.” Bingo.
Something changed for Ashley Graham in that moment, and it was the realization that she’s not going to be the next Oprah or the next Ellen. “I was like, I’m not gonna be Oprah. I’m gonna be Ashley.”
“I think that for my generation, podcasts are the new TV,” Graham explains. “They are the new daytime TV. I’m carving out my own thing.”
Graham’s husband pf eight years, the cinematographer and director Justin Ervin, came up with the name for the pod. “He said it so practically: ‘Pretty Big Deal.’ I was like, ‘Why?,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, you’ve always been called pretty for a big girl,’ ” Graham says. “He’s like, ‘You’re my pretty big deal, and all the people that you’re gonna be interviewing are a pretty big deal.’ I was like, ‘Perfect. Let’s do it.’ ”
The couple brings a similarly positive attitude to their sexual relationship, and Ashley Graham probably has a podcast on sex in her future. Just sayin:
I ask how she keeps the relationship fresh, and she grins. “Just have sex!” she shouts, her voice reverberating throughout the quiet restaurant. It’s 9 a.m. “Have sex all the time. Even if you don’t feel like it, just have sex. I have found that if we haven’t had sex, we get snippy, and then if we are having sex, we’re all over each other. For us it’s like, ‘Oh, let’s have sex.’ And then we’re just right back in a great mood.”
In a truly fascinating interview in which Ashley Graham has plenty to say, we learn that the couple is equally passionate about their faith.
Graham says the couple’s shared Christian faith keeps them connected. “My husband was raised super-charismatic evangelical, and I was raised Southern Baptist—like, you don’t even raise your hands,” she says, laughing. They’ve found a church somewhere in the middle that works for both of them. Lately, they’ve been fasting together one day a week, she tells me during our car ride to Shape House, a sauna that’s also a celeb haven. “When you fast and you pray, it’s bringing more sensitivity to hear from God,” she explains. “That’s exactly what we wanted; we were like, ‘Okay, we want more sensitivity to be able to hear from God in the big decisions that we’re making.’ We do it together because there’s a verse in the Bible that says, ‘Where two or more are gathered, He is in the midst.’ So as we do it together, it just makes it even stronger.”
There’s a lot more to learn in Ashley Graham’s interview. Read on at ELLE.