Ashley Graham Addresses Lack of Inclusion in Modeling Industry Amid VS Fashion Show Controversy

Ashley Graham spoke out as the lingerie giant comes under fire for its lack of size inclusivity

Ashley Graham continues to be a driving force behind the body positive movement currently taking hold of the fashion industry.

The activist, supermodel and Revlon brand ambassador uses her platform to push for a shift in the way modeling is portrayed in media as she breaks down the unrealistic ideals women are forced to face.

The night the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show aired, Graham posted a series of photos on her Instagram feed from her own Ashley Graham for Addition Elle lingerie runway show, which featured models of all shapes, sizes and nationalities, along with the caption, “#BeautyBeyondSize,” which appeared to be a reference to the controversy surrounding Victoria’s Secret as it faces backlash for lack of inclusion on the runway.

PEOPLE caught up with Graham at the NYC launch of Revlon’s new foundation (which won a PEOPLE Beauty Award!), where she opened up more about the why it’s important to diversify the industry.

“I can’t speak to what anybody else wants to do except for myself and the fact that I will always have an inclusive runway show,” Graham said.

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She continued, “For me beauty has always been beyond size. This is about using women who look different because we all look different and we need to praise that difference about us. That is what is beautiful, it’s that we’re all not created the same. So I am just so happy that I actually make lingerie for women who want to feel sexy and who want to feel accepted.”

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In November, L Brands (the parent company of Victoria’s Sexret) executive Ed Razek sparked controversy after addressing some of the backlash the brand has faced for its lack of inclusivity.

“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special,” Razek said.

In a statement released Nov. 9, he apologized, saying that, “To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings… And like many others, they didn’t make it…But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”

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Pop star Halsey, who performed at the VS Fashion Show in N.Y.C. this year, wrote on social media that although being a part of the annual extravaganza “was supposed to be the best night of my year,” due to Razek’s comments (which were released after the show’s taping), she felt disappointed to be involved.

“I have adored the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show since I was young,” Halsey, who has been open about identifying as bisexual, wrote on Instagram. “However, after I filmed the performance, some comments were made regarding the show that I simply cannot ignore. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity. Especially not one motivated by stereotype.”

She then encouraged her followers to donate to GLSEN, an organization that offers services to LGBTQ youth, and announced that she’d made a “sizeable donation” herself.

However, Victoria’s Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo, who made her return to the runway after a hiatus since the birth of her two daughters, defended the lingerie retailer.

2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York - Hair & Makeup
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“There’s a lot of talk about everything but I think people need to also understand that it’s a show. It’s not saying negative or positive about any body type, it’s ‘this is who they are,’” Prinsloo said in an interview with Elle.

“We’re strong, we’re confident, and I think any woman is a Victoria’s Secret woman. But people also need to understand that it’s just a show. I don’t think that it says that they’re not for a certain type of body. It’s cool to talk about it and great to open up a conversation and so much good has happened,” she added. “Let’s just have fun and not make it about anything and just have a great night and celebrate everyone.”

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