Plus-size model Ashley Graham is the star of a risqué and boundary-breaking photo shoot in V Magazine‘s January issue. Famed photographer Steven Klein photographed the 28-year-old model in a series of provocative poses at the Standard Hotel’s Meatpacking location in New York City.
One shot features Graham lifting a suit-clad gentleman while wearing a barely there Balmain dress with Christian Louboutin pumps.
In the issue, Graham, who is best known for her work with plus-size retailer Lane Bryant and being the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s popular Swimsuit Issue, discussed her role as an advocate for body positivity and her status as a role model for women around the world.
“I’ve been doing this now for 17 years, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve spoken up about the label ‘plus-size,'” she told her friend Chelsea Handler, who interviewed Graham for the issue. “I don’t think women should be labeled at all. I think that it’s completely divisive. But, for whatever reason, I am the one that has been given the opportunity to be on so many covers and to have a voice. I don’t take that lightly, and I think that being the voice and face for so many women that haven’t been represented — in fashion, or film, or TV — is encouraging, it’s amazing.”
In the past, the model has used her voice to speak about topics that affect women in the industry, such as body shaming, and she has never been one to shy away from making a statement while doing so.
Her passion led her to launch ALDA with four other models — a unique and supportive community of models who believe that “beauty exists without regard to color, size, or any number of categories within our industry rooted in exclusion.”
Graham shared that many of the models within the collective were told that they were “just catalog girls” or that they weren’t cover material at different points in their careers. ALDA works to shift that belief in society and empower girls through a number of different projects, including going to a weight loss camp every summer to help girls learn to accept and embrace their bodies.
“Really, it’s for girls whose parents place them in this camp because they have issues with weight on various levels,” Graham explained. “We go there and we talk to them about being comfortable in your own skin, because clearly they are at this camp for a reason.”
The main goal of the initiative is to promote acceptance and body positivity. “Ultimately, what we do is encourage women to be proactive about themselves because, now more than ever, it is time to build up and support the women around you and encourage each other to be who you want to be, to not take no for an answer, and to not let society’s stereotypes take you down,” she said.
Graham hopes to have a lasting impact through her work in the fashion industry.
“I want to contribute to helping create a world where women can stand up for who they are and express who they want to be,” she said. “I want to be seen as a woman who helped shape an environment that allows women to be unafraid to take risks, because those are the kinds of women that you remember; those are the women you talk about for generations.”