She started to work as a model at the age of twelve, and today she is one of the best known and most sympathetic curvy models of the world. Ashley Graham from Nebraska (USA) is now 29, and had problems to be accepted the way she is, because of her figure (she wears size 16).

“Actually you are quite pretty for your size!” or “You could earn much more money if you lost weight!” These sort of sentences made her feel angry and hurt. But she transformed this hurt into strength and made it on to the international catwalks. However, she did not only go this path for herself, but to represent many other women who are unhappy with their bodies because they do not correspond with the current ideal of beauty.

Obviously Ashley’s development did not happen overnight. She had doubts about her appearance, and lost faith in herself as she was continually made to feel insecure by others. Even her ex-partner did not accept her as she was.

Ashley overcame these crises with the help of friends, and her mother, who kept telling her what a precious person she was, and that she was able to do anything she wanted. Her current husband has also given her the strength to be herself, and accept and love herself for the way she is.


Today Ashley knows why it took so long for her career to start, and why fashion photographers and magazines noticed her relatively late to book her as plus-size-model. The world was not ready for strong women like her (with a positive double meaning).

Only in recent years – and this is down to social media – have fashion companies started to get interested in using Ashley as model. She is representing a large group of women who have so far been neglected by designers as potential customers. So far, well-built women simply did not fit into the fashion world’s rigid ideas of ideal body sizes, and shapes.


Therefore, Ashley stands for a new method of emancipation which wants to guide women away from slimness mania to a positive body feeling. Many women confirm her success. Ashley has been overwhelmed with grateful responses from them. She encourages them to stand up for themselves, and their curves. And due to Ashley’s role model effect these women dare to wear bikinis in public for the first time.

Ashley, “Beauty is a question of attitude! I do not see myself as model only but also as body activist! And it is not only about sizes! I want every woman to know, no matter what skin colour, or problems they have got: there are many out there who feel like you. So show what you have got!”

Source: myself 4/2017, Photo:telemundo.com




I got my first brace in my late forties… I have to admit, it was an aesthetic decision. My dentist informed me about all the health aspects of a jaw correction, but, in the end, the reason for my decision was a different one.

However, how much has aesthetics got to do with the widespread slimness mania and the excessive body culture? Are there any invisible borders which have been quietly crossed in the western world?

The fact is that…

  • … there have never been so many photos of super slim, super perfect and super wrinkle-free girls and women on the net than now. Mind you, not least because of photoshop and photo filters.
  • … it has never been so easy and affordable to ‘create’ the female body according to general taste, to wax it, to pluck, to cream, to botox, to exercise, or to starve it. In the meantime, there are not only Botox-parties and Botox-flat rates, but also special Botox offers for students.
  • … the inhibition threshold for cosmetic surgery has never been so low. Breast operations, plastic surgery in the genital area, or even chest operations, where ribs are removed to gain a slimmer waist, have been part of the common beauty culture for a long time.

The interesting thing is that most of the women do not primarily want to be prettier or slimmer, but they long to be part of certain groups in society with their styled bodies. Furthermore, most of these women suffer from a compulsion to control which also effects their bodies:

The sociologist Eva Barlösius says that women want to express an attitude with their bodies, to have control, to be disciplined, and to have a willingness to perform. As long as our ideal of beauty is connected with success and social status, nothing will change.

Whereas one group of women exercise so long and intensely that you can see a vertical furrow on their stomach, slowly a counter-movement starts to form. Bloggers encourage us to love our bodies the way they are. They stand by their cellulites, or their stomachs left by pregnancies, and a few kilos more on the hips, or thighs. The documentary ‘Embrace’ encourages women to give up the pseudo-femininity madness.

Actually this madness has not got anything to do with femininity. But as long as women do not really understand what femininity means, nothing about this female body culture will change.

But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon: it is the ‘millennials’, the generation born between 1980 and 2000. An increasing number of these women (and men) live a healthy life style and say NO to the pseudo-femininity madness. I will talk about them in one of my next blogs.