On Wednesday, February 22 female students at the Milford Central Academy had the privilege of meeting model Ashley Graham as she gave a presentation on positive body image and self-esteem. Now an internationally known plus-size model, Ashley took time to speak with Milford’s eighth and ninth grade girls about respecting their bodies and minds. Ms. Graham has been featured on the MTV show MADE and has appeared on the Jay Leno Show.
Originally from Nebraska, Ashley grew up in several different states around the country including Texas, Alabama and Arkansas. Now living inBrooklyn, New York she has come a long way from where and who she was as a teenager. At the age of 12 Ashley was found as a model and began working for Wilhelmina Modeling Agency at the age of 13. At age 15 she signed with Ford models and now at the age of 24 models for international companies such as Lane Bryant, Target and Macy’s.
Ms. Graham told the students of her struggle of liking her body and liking herself as a plus-sized girl growing up among her friends. At an early age it was apparent to Ashley and her friends that she was larger than the other girls in school.
“I really hated my body so much as a teenager,” commented Ms. Graham. “I would hate what I was, what I looked like and it took me a long time to realize that my mind had to change before my body did.”
Demonstrating to the girls that they are not alone in their uneasy feelings about their own bodies, Ashely asked each girl to turn to their left and tell their partners one thing they love about their body and one thing they hate about their body. Each girl in the audience was met with a schoolmate who had similar feelings about the issue. Ms. Graham stated that these uncomfortable feelings are due to the girls’ need to compare themselves to models and other females in the media.
“The only thing you see when you look at those women on television is the outside appearance and you do not know what is going on inside of them,” stated Ashley. “There is no reason why you all should compare yourself to them.”
She also spoke of the dangers of not loving who you are both on the inside and outside. Ms. Graham explained that self-hatred can lead women to make wrong decisions when choosing what relationships to build with others.
“If you can’t love yourself, how can you let anyone else love you,” stated Ashley.
The presentation to support self-esteem and positive body image among the eighth and ninth grade girls at Milford Central Academy was part of a larger initiative by Communities in Schools, an organization that aims to surround students with a community of support.
“I work with these young ladies everyday,” commented Communities in Schools Site Director Kia Lockhart. “I see some embracing the young woman they are becoming with confidence and eager anticipation but unfortunately they are the minority. The majority of the young ladies I see have a poor sense of self. They seek affirmation from young men in very unhealthy ways, they don’t understand how to accentuate their positive physical assets in an appropriate way and they are crying out for attention by any means necessary. I knew Ashley could reaffirm what me, and so many other caring teachers, try to help the young ladies understand.”