Even if COVID-19 hadn’t shut down much of her industry, Ashley Graham probably wouldn’t have been doing much work over the past few months. The model gave birth to a son, Isaac, in January and has spent the first six months of his life hunkered down with her family in her native Nebraska.
Graham just did her first formal photoshoot of the pandemic, one that’s as notable for its implied message about COVID-19 as it is about the content of the pictures themselves.
For Elle‘s Friends and Family issue, Graham’s husband Justin Ervin shot photos of her on her aunt’s farm in Henderson, Nebraska. And while it’s not entirely fair to evaluate his work as you would that of an amateur — he’s a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer after all — the fact that Graham, one of the most famous models in the world, returned to work in a way that takes COVID-19 seriously is impressive.
In an Instagram post with what’s sure to be the most talked-about photo of the shoot, Graham included “yours truly” in the credits, acknowledging that she did her own hair and makeup rather than risk bringing in outside professionals.
Kristen Bell conducted the accompanying interview, in which is even more explicitly pro-taking COVID-19 seriously. She talked about her charitable efforts to get masks to underserved communities and the more personal adjustments she’s had to make.
“I’ve had to learn how to be creative and how to live under one roof with my mom, her boyfriend, my husband, and my son. It’s been hard to see what’s happening around us. But I believe we need to stay positive, so we’ve been doing a lot of affirmations,” she said.
Shooting her Elle spread under quarantine is a sign that Graham’s affirmations have worked, that she’s found a way to stay positive under difficult circumstances. It should be no surprise, then, that she’s already looking toward a happier post-pandemic future, one in which the good things that come out of people when they’re facing challenges endure even after those challenges subside.
“I think getting out of this quarantine, my biggest hope is that we’ll continue to have these same actions toward our neighbors, and we’ll be a little bit more sensitive toward them.”
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