In her new memoir, the 29-year-old has opened up about her relationship with her estranged father, her pattern of abusive and bad relationships with men, and the criticism she’s had to deal with during her career.
Although the Sports Illustrated cover girl is an advocate for body positivity, she still struggles to accept her flaws on a daily basis.
“No matter how many jobs I landed, I always found something to criticise about my appearance,” she writes.
In the memoir, Graham reveals that her father was not a regular presence in the family home, but when he was around he would scream and, at times, hit her. He was also verbally abusive.
“His insults, though, hurt way more than any of his slaps, and my father was a master of the cutting insult,” Graham writes.
“His nickname for me was Duh, because he didn’t think I was very smart.”
Graham was also the victim of a sexual assault and several inappropriate encounters with older men during her childhood. When she was just 10 years old, the son of ‘family friends’ exposed himself to her in the family laundry.
‘That’s what you did to me,’ he said and then made her touch his aroused penis.
“I was scared and quickly ran away,” she writes. “Did I do something to make that happen?”
Two years later, when she was just 12 years old, two aspiring male models five years her senior, ‘Paul and Scott’, tried to get her to into a hot tub with them alone.
Another time one of them noticed that she was wearing braided pigtails and said: “Ooh, a b*** j** with handles”.
Graham believes that although she initially felt fear during those incidents, she used them to boost her self-confidence. She attributes this weird attitude to the relationship she had with her father and her ‘daddy issues’.
“It didn’t matter how inappropriate, unsolicited, or confusing it was, any male attention was good attention as far as I was concerned,” she wrote.
Graham’s first boyfriend dumped her because of her weight and the fact that she refused to sleep with him.
“I have to break up with you,” he said to her. “Because you won’t have sex with me. And I’m afraid you’re going to be as fat as my mom.”
She then slept with the high school quarterback, who ignored her after they had sex. Graham writes that she continued this pattern of relationships until she returned to the church and met her husband, Justin Ervin.
Graham and Ervin married a year later, when Graham was just 22-years-old, and they waited until they were married to have sex.
Working as a plus-size model has had it’s downsides for Ashley, and she has received a lot of harsh criticism from talent agents over the years, with one telling her that if she wanted to make more money she needed to drop the pounds.
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“Another senior agent’s favourite line was: ‘It’s time for you to put the Snickers down.’ Never mind that I didn’t eat Snickers. I got the point,” she said.
But Graham says all this criticism and her turbulent childhood has helped her develop a thick skin.
“No matter what your job is, you’ve had to do things a little differently if you are a curvy woman. I have had to constantly justify my career choice over and over. But that might just be the secret to my success.”
Brava, Ashley Graham. Brava.