Ashley Graham says a man spat on her husband for being black: 'It's really heartbreaking'

Erin Donnelly

In a new interview for the July issue of Allure, cover star Ashley Graham addresses the racism her husband, cinematographer Justin Ervin, encounters as a black man.

The 31-year-old model, who married Ervin in 2010, told the magazine about an incident during the interracial couple’s vacation to Italy. The pair traveled to the country last summer.

“I see what my husband has to go through every day,” she shared. “We had gone to Italy, and a man spat on him.” Graham says. “It’s heartbreaking. It can make you really angry. But it’s like, how are you going to change that anger into a teachable moment?”

Ashley Graham covers the July issue of Allure. (Photo: Vanina Sorrenti/Allure)
Ashley Graham covers the July issue of Allure. (Photo: Vanina Sorrenti/Allure)

And while Graham clarified that she’s not planning on having children right away, she’s taking the opportunity to learn how to navigate difficult conversations about race now.

“Read books; have conversations. Educate yourself,” she said. “The more you have conversations with people around you that are different than you, [the more] you’re going to learn and you’re going to grow. No one who isn’t black is going to understand a black person’s life, but they don’t have to be ignorant toward [what it’s like].

“I want to know as much as I can as a white woman who is going to be raising black children,” she said. “We’re going to have to have that conversation of ‘Mommy’s white, Daddy’s black,’ and I want to be prepared.”

In her 2017 book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty and Power Really Look Like, Graham wrote about the negative reactions her own family had when she brought Ervin home.

"I never told my grandparents that the man I was bringing home was black," the Nebraska native wrote in the memoir. "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.'

"I had never seen my loving, hardworking, and wonderful grandma be so hurtful and so racist. I was in shock."

Ervin, she wrote, responded by telling Graham, “Racism is never surprising but always disappointing.”

The model added that her grandmother grew to love Ervin after he called to congratulate her on her 60th wedding anniversary.

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