When Ashley Graham signed on to host and executive produce season two of Lifetime’s American Beauty Star, the supermodel and body-positive activist knew she had another opportunity to champion inclusivity within the industry.
One of the ways Graham put her stamp on the beauty competition series — previously hosted by former Victoria’s Secret Angel Adriana Lima — was by emboldening the network to hire a remarkably diverse group of models for the show’s 14 contestants to work their magic on. According to Graham, the varying ethnicities and body types seen on the series week after week is her doing.
“I asked, ‘How many curvy girls are we going to have?’ I also wanted to make sure that we had a wide range of ethnicities and heights,” Graham told The Hollywood Reporter at an American Beauty Star screening held Thursday night at New York’s Hearst Tower. “We need to be inclusive of everyone. That was non-negotiable for me.”
Graham — who made history last year as the first plus-size model to star in a Revlon campaign — went on to say that Lifetime and the series’ production company Herrick Entertainment were “100 percent on board” with her idea.
“Lifetime was so open and so was American Beauty Star and all the producers. More than anything, though, I was just like, ‘This is happening,'” she said of the conversations she had before filming began in Atlanta last summer. “And everybody was like, ‘Great! It is happening.’ There was no pushback.”
Graham told THR in December that while fashion and beauty brands have steadily embraced plus-size models over the last several years, she’s still noticed a “lack of [representation for] women of color when it comes to curvy girls.”
Now, at the helm of American Beauty Star, the current Elle cover girl hopes she can move the dial in the right direction.
“I want anything I touch to provide an opportunity for more inclusivity. I don’t want there to ever be an opportunity that I’ve missed, where I haven’t said, ‘This is where we need to be talking about size and race,'” Graham said on Thursday. “We need to continue to talk about diversity in beauty and fashion. I won’t stop talking about it until there is representation across the board.”
American Beauty Star — which also stars makeup guru and mentor Sir John, as well as judges Christie Brinkley, celebrity photographer Yu Tsai and Hearst chief beauty director Leah Wyar — airs on Lifetime Wednesdays at 10 p.m.