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She made a splash as one of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition’s three cover stars, sharing the honor with UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and model Hailey Clauson, but Ashley Graham isn’t necessarily a newbie in the modeling game.
The 28-year-old Nebraska native has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, to name a few, and fronted Forever21’s celebrated plus-size campaigns. In addition to clinching jobs, the rising supermodel has been an activist working to change the standards of beauty.
Of the cover gig, Graham noted on Instagram: “Truly speechless!!! This cover is for every woman who felt like she wasn’t beautiful enough because of her size. You can do and achieve anything you put your mind to. Thank you so much to the entire @si_swimsuit team! I’m so excited to be a part of your family. I love you all!!! #siswim #beautybeyondsize”
Here are five need-to-know facts about the sexy lady making SI Swim history:
1. She was discovered in a mall at age 12 in Lincoln, Neb.
Graham was discovered in 2000 by the I & I Agency while out shopping. In 2001, she signed a contract with Wilhelmina models before moving on to Ford models in 2003. Her first Vogue profile was in 2007.
2. She has a line of lingerie for Addition Elle.
In 2013, the model designed a line of lingerie for plus-size Canadian brand Addition Elle. It’s success led to a continued partnership which has reaped $1.6 million in sales.
3. Her first appearance in the SI Swim issue was for the 2015 edition, where she was featured in an ad for Swimsuits for All.
A year later in 2016, she was named an SI Rookie — the second plus-size model to do so after Robyn Lawley — and nabbed a coveted cover slot.
4. In 2016, she was featured on Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
The model was recognized for not only her modeling work (she landed five covers in 2015), but her work to change the perceptions of women’s body image.
5. She is a body activist and has given a Ted talk on the subject of body acceptance.
Graham is very outspoken about body image and body acceptance. In addition to participating in activist campaigns like Lane Bryant’s #IAmNoAngel, she also gave a TED talk on the subject in 2015. In 2014, she appeared on MTV’s Made as a coach helping an aspiring plus-size teen model.
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