Model Ashley Graham on how to Rock a Size 16—Did someone say cellulite?

I fear we may need a defibrillator, judging from the guys overheating at the next table.

Ashley Graham doesn't seem to notice. The 22-year-old is busy trying to convince me she has cellulite. I'm not buying it, having seen her lingerie ads. Sitting in a restaurant a block from the Ford Agency, habitat of the supermodel and her second home, she's wearing a Hippy-dippy Urban Outfitters floral sundress that, on her, is a devastatingly sexy number. It just fits her to T-no, an S-snaking in at the waist, hugging her vavavoom size-16 curves, and cupping cleavage that, I can assure you, has caused half of Manhattan to suffer, if not from heart failure, certainly eye strain.

No cellulite, I tell her-I've looked.

"Girlfriend," she says barely containing herself, "that's airbrushing!" Her laugh takes flight as if you've disturbed a huge, feeding flock of pigeons, and then wings muscularly through the air, sucking you up in its wake. "I've had cellulite since I was 12, and when I sit down I've got a little bit of a roll," she grabs a handful of stomach to show me. "Back fat, too. See? But I dont' care. I'm a real woman. A. Real. Woman."

It's so strange to hear those words coming from female lips, I wonder if she actually is for real. But the more we're together, the more I'm convinced she is-and it's intoxicating. I wish I could dab a little Ashley on those perfume scent cards you find in magazines, and then send them to every woman I know. For the moment, though, let's just listen in and see if some of her might not rub off...

Welcome to Ashley's World

Never Thin: Graham grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska with two younger sisters. "I was always, quote-unquote, thicker than all my girlfriends," she says, "and at times in high school I was called 'thunder thighs.' But my whole family is curvy, and we're all confident about our bodies. Our parents taught us that if we weren't, no one else would be confident in us." In 6th grade, big-boned turned into sexy. And by age 15, after a photographer spotted her, Graham started getting gigs. "When I was in YM magazine, the girls in school said, 'You're not a real model; you're a fat model.' But I was like, 'Look it, I got paid for that job.'" As soon as she graduated, she beelined to New York.

The Plus-Size Apple: When Ford's Gary Dakin, first saw her, he thought, "Holy s---, this girl looks like Eva Mendes, and she's so funny." Dakin, the colorful head of the agency's plus size division, took her on. "A beautiful 17-year old-girl with all of that," he sweeps his hand in a dramatic wave. "I wasn't prepared!" Of course, alongside the work-Macy's, Target, Bloomingdales, Old Navy, Lane Bryant, Kohl's, Hanes-club life beckoned. "I was a Nebraska girl in New York," Graham says, grinning. "Sex drugs, and rock and roll, baby. But I was always responsible." And Dakin says that's true.

The Whole Lane Bryant Thing: Then there was the lingerie commercial this April, when Graham's fetching figure was reportedly too much of a good thing, initially, for Fox and ABC TV to air. If you missed the "bra-haha," as it was called, you can watch her on Jay Leno here, and read Joanna Douglas's blog on Shine. "Plus politics" aside (for example, no one had a problem with Victoria's Secret flesh-free panty models), the controversy has been great for Graham's career. She's even gotten a few calls from film directors.

Her Bikini: Naturally, she wears one-but it's a string bikini. "Just because I'm a big girl doesn't mean I want to cover up," she says. "Victoria's Secret bottoms are extra large and that's me all the way. But their tops don't go to a string 38 DD. So I get those at Old Navy, and mix and match."

The rest of her measurements?
Waist, 32 inches. Hips 47. Height: 5'9".

Doesshe have a scale in her house? "Ew gross, no. I don't care what I weigh."

Her diet:
"It's not like I have a burger or pizza every night. But I'm also not munching on greens all day. I eat steak. And I'm going to have a potato with it too."

What about exercise? "I HATE the gym." Huge laugh. "I do like Bikram yoga and rollerblading because they make make me feel good, and then I take great photos. But I have gone months without working out. It's been fine."

The Douchebag Boyfriend
. She did date a personal trainer who, after three months, told her, "I think you need to go to the gym."
"For what," Graham asked?
"Just, you know, to tighten up."
She gave him a look that, no doubt, could shrivel a six-pack. "I am tight," she said, and told him to walk.

Does she ever have a "fat day?" "I wouldn't care if my butt grew to the size of Timbuktu. But when I feel I need to go to the gym, it's my stomach."

The Love of Her Life: A little over a year ago, she was serving at her church working the elevator, and she noticed that one of the passengers just didn't get off. His name was Justin Ervin, seven years older than her and a videographer. Fast forward to this June. They're sitting on her stoop in Brooklyn webcamming one of their "Justin and Ashley Episodes," and he brings up marriage. "I'm not talking about that until there's a ring on my finger," she tells him, and anyway she already knows how he'd ask her. "No," he says, "actually I'd do it like this." And he pulls her in close, whispering how much he loves her. "And then," he continues, "I would get down on one knee and pull a ring out of my pocket. And then I would put it on your left hand, and then I would ask, 'Will you marry me?'"

The African Passion: Also through her church, Graham has been going to South Africa every year to help build community in all kinds of ways. Justin, she discovered, "has just as big a heart for Africa as I do." This Christmas, they'll both go, taking their own group to volunteer for two weeks. "That sealed the deal," says Graham. The wedding is in August.

The Other Love in Her Life: As we ride the elevator up to Ford, I notice her necklace charm on delicate gold chain. She spins it, and shows me that it says, "I love you." How sweet. Was it from Justin? Another guy? Mom? "No," she says. "It was a present to myself four years ago. I'd just gotten over a boy and thought, I'm not going to let a man take me down. I wear it every day." She looks at me and spills into another of her rolling laughs, knowing how risque this is about to sound. "I love," she says, not caring, "me."

One, two, three, repeat after Ashley... What do you think? Is it helpful, or annoying, to see a size 16 woman loving her body?

For more curvy love....
Kate Dillon-Skinny to Plus-Size Model
Do Full-Figured Models Make Women Feel Bad About Themselves?
Dear Belly, Can We Stop All This Hating?

[Photo Credit: EricK Basilio for Ford Artists]
[Photo Credit: (black dress) Getty Images Entertainment]