Ashley Graham would like everyone to stop using this one word every time she puts on a bathing suit, like now, please. That word would be "brave," which Graham made very clear in a tongue-in-cheek — or maybe, more accurately, cheeky — selfie she posted this weekend. On Instagram, Graham shared a behind the scenes shot of her behind from a photo shoot.
This untouched photo has Graham proudly showing off her stretch marks and cellulite to the world. We would expect nothing less from the model, who describes herself as a "body diversity ambassador." It's her caption, though, that caught our attention, which goes after those who think they have any say in what she should wear to the beach. "When they call you 'brave,'" she wrote.
She's right, that word, "brave," seems to be a backhanded compliment used by those who think only certain bodies that can be seen in certain ways — whether it's Graham bravely posing in a bathing suit, or Amy Schumer bravely stripping down for a calendar. Schumer, like Graham, thought that description was laughable and even talked all about it on her show Inside Amy Schumer, her Netflix stand-up special The Leather Special and at the 2016 Critic's Choice Awards. “That’s what you want everyone to say when a naked photo of you goes viral," she joked at the awards show. "You want them to say, ‘What a brave photo.’ You’re like, ‘Thanks, wow, thank you.’”
Graham's "brave" caption seems to be in reference to another untouched bathing suit selfie she posted a day prior. After someone wrote, "So is this supposed to be normal? Am I supposed to look up to her and young women supposed to think this is okay?" a fight seemed to break out in her comments. Most people were there to defend Graham and to tell her how much they admired her. One person even wrote, "I just want you to know that you inspired me to wear my FIRST two piece bathing suit in my 42 years of life!"
Recently, Graham opened up about her swimsuit insecurities, which Refinery29 found was a big problem for a lot of women. About 73% of the 1,000 women in Refinery29's recent survey said that wearing a swimsuit to the beach or pool is the most stress-ridden situation they can imagine when it comes to their bodies. When Graham makes the point that she doesn't want to be called "brave" for wearing a swimsuit, it's because she knows that there are other things she's done in her life that she truly considers brave.
In an interview with V Magazine, Graham shared what she thought was the true bravest thing she ever did: it was leaving a former manager who she had been with for a decade. "I was agent-less for about eight months and it was a very scary time of my life," she said. "I had no idea what I was going to do. But I sucked it up and said, 'Hey, whatever happens, happens.'"
What happened was she created ALDA, a collective that aims to represent "beauty overall — without divisions, boundaries, and most of all, IN ALL SIZES." It's what helped her set her career in motion after so many told her she couldn't be a model. "We were always all told, 'You’re just catalog girls,'" Graham told V. "'You are never going to be on the covers, you will never be able to be who you want.'"