Ashley Graham felt 'relaxed' enough to twerk in tiny bikinis for SI's swimsuit issue

Leah Prinzivalli
Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

For Ashley Graham, when it comes to body confidence, her actions speak just as loud as her words.

In a new video posted to Instagram, Sports Illustrated shows what it was like behind the scenes of the curvy model’s shoot for the annual swim issue. As Graham revealed in a voice-over, “there were a couple twerk-offs.”

“We have a lot of fun on set. We work hard, but we play even harder,” she added. Graham and the magazine’s senior editor Darcie Baum got down on the set while the rest of the crew cheered them on. The video shows the two dancing, and Graham cracking up in between stone-faced sultry poses and taking her suit off on the beach.

Graham often tells fans that she wants them to believe in their most beautiful selves, but there’s something just as inspirational about watching her confidence in action. “It’s my third year, I feel really relaxed,” said Graham. “I was in a th0ng more than once, so I had to let them know what I was packing,” she said. Her relaxation level? Enough to twerk in a th0ng in front of a beach full of colleagues. Now that’s self-love.

Graham, a barrier-breaking model, is consistently asked about her body confidence and uses her platform to show love to all types of bodies. When she shared the knockout photos from SI Swimsuit to her own Instagram, she captioned her photo, “‘Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretchmarks’ ..OR cellulite.”

Since Graham became the first plus-sized body to appear in the SI Swimsuit Issue, it’s become natural for fans to demand curvy representation in the magazine’s pages. In shifting the visibility of curvy models, she’s also changed readers’ expectations — and that’s called progress. It also helped catapult Graham’s career. “[The first cover] was an eye-opening experience for me in that ‘Oh my God, I can do anything I want,'” she told The Cut. Three years later, she’s still at SI, only this time she’s calling the shots to create a “party vibe” on set.

Even though she’s worked for her status in the fashion world, Graham also takes the opportunity to be a role model seriously. “This is the thing: I know I’m paving the way for the next generation of girls, and they’re not going to have to do this. That’s what I hope,” Graham told The Cut. “I’ll take the brunt work and just handle it, and then you guys can just sail right on through.”

Every time Graham dresses in lingerie or agrees to do an unretouched photoshoot, she’s helping to normalize bigger bodies. With this latest video, she’s made something as simple as dancing on the beach look normal (and pretty fun) for all sizes.

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