'I hope what I'm doing is creating an inclusive part of fashion for the next generation,' plus-size model Ashley Graham tells PEOPLE

By Gabrielle Olya
September 09, 2015 11:20 AM
Cindy Ord/Getty

Plus-size model Ashley Graham wants to be an inspiration for girls of all shapes and sizes.

“I think young girls need to have role models who are curvy, who are talking about their cellulite, who are talking about their backsides, because a lot of people are not doing that,” Graham, 27, tells PEOPLE. “They’re hiding behind retouching. I mean, I wear Spanx, but it’s not something [other people] are very open about. I just really want to be open.”

The body positive activist – who will be speaking at Forbes‘ upcoming "Under 30 Summit" in October – has broken barriers in the fashion industry by being the first plus-size model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and by modeling in Lane Bryant’s inspiring #ImNoAngel lingerie campaign. She hopes she is paving the way for the next generation of plus-size models.

“I believe that what I’m doing, and what other plus-size models of my generation are doing, is continuing to open that door for the next plus-size model to come in and to not be labeled as a plus-size girl, for her not to be judged by the number that’s inside of her pants, for her to be able to be on the cover of American Vogue and it not have the whole article be about, ‘Are you fat and happy?’ ” she says.

Graham is about to break another boundary by showcasing and modeling her own lingerie line for Addition Elle during New York Fashion Week.

“I believe we’re the only plus-size fashion show that will be in New York Fashion Week, which is truly exciting,” she says.

While models of all sizes are slowly being included in fashion’s biggest week, Graham thinks this is just the beginning.

“There are so many new opportunities that are coming up,” she says. “I’m excited to see which designers actually put curvy, plus-size models in their show. Those designers will be groundbreaking.”

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