7 confidence lessons from Ashley Graham that every professional needs to hear

People assume that models are born with confidence, but Ashley Graham had to convince herself that it was in her. Learn how she did that and six other confidence hacks.

Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images for Create & Cultivate

Anyone who’s remotely familiar with Ashley Graham knows that the 31-year-old model oozes confidence out of every one of her perfect pores. One glance at her podcast, Pretty Big Deal, proves that.

Graham spoke about her career and confidence at the Create & Cultivate New York conference presented by Mastercard with founder Jaclyn Johnson. Ladders was there to capture Graham’s advice on how to make confidence a part of your daily life.


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Ashley Graham says to keep telling yourself you’re brilliant until you never even question it

Before a big meeting, Graham will take a moment to remind herself to be confident. “Right before I walk out of the bathroom, I look at myself. I’m like, ‘You are fine. You are brilliant, and you are beautiful and bold,'” she said.

As it turns out, Graham’s current unwavering confidence actually comes from a place of insecurity. Graham explained that she didn’t always feel like she was brilliant, beautiful, and bold. 

“I didn’t believe it, you guys. I didn’t. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why I was worthy to have anything I had,” she admitted.

By continuously telling herself that she deserved it all, she was able to get to a point where she feels that way every single day.

“I ingrained it in me. I made it part of my DNA, and now I could whip through any kind of day and know that I’ve got that because that’s a part of who I am,” Graham said.

Ashley Graham talks about money and so should you

Traditional stereotypes of models paint a picture of a girl who’s values lie almost entirely on the outside, with not much going on in her head. Graham and other models, like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (who founded her own digital startup company), are proving that stereotype absolutely wrong.

At the beginning of Graham’s career, she would ask models how much they were getting paid for each gig they did. Six years ago, Graham and four other models realized they were all making vastly different amounts of money.

“We built a whole portfolio based off of how much money we each made and what the plus sized industry was going to do, and how it was going to take off in the next six years,” Graham said. “These agents were so blown away.”

By knowing their worth within their industry, the models were able to negotiate fairer pay. Don’t be afraid to ask close peers how much they’re making. You might even be helping them out by finding a pay disparity.

“You can have those conversations because there’s nothing wrong about building each other up and talking about how much you’re making so that we can all grow up together,” Graham said. “It is a hard conversation to have.”

Ashley Graham said don’t be afraid to talk about diversity

Graham knows that while she’s the current face of curvy bodies, women of color have been embracing their voluptuous figures for generations. Graham acknowledges her white face and demands that diversity isn’t something we ignore in regards to this issue.

“I was talking to Bozoma Saint John … and she said, ‘Don’t just hide something behind the big D word. Say what you want. Talk about it,’” Graham said. “That’s what we need to be doing.”

Sometimes Ashley Graham educate the haters, and sometimes she ignores them

“I want the younger girls to know that you should be standing up for yourself,” Graham said. “You should be able to say, ‘No, I wanted to wear that,’ or ‘I don’t know why you’re talking to me like that. Thank you very much. Have a good day. I blocked you.’”

Sometimes she takes the opportunity to turn hate into teachable moments. Instead of getting upset, she’ll start a genuine conversation with a hater.

Other times, Graham decides it’s just not worth the time or energy. “I do love to block people,” Graham said. “Ooh, I do. My new thing is muting people’s [Instagram] stories.”

Graham admits that she couldn’t do it alone

While Graham isn’t afraid to take credit for working hard to get where she is today, she’s also the first to admit that many ventures wouldn’t have been possible without her team. When discussing products that she develops, she revealed that she loves the ability to customize pieces and change the aspects that bother her. That being said, the business success is a credit to the awesome people around her.

“There’s nobody who has succeeded and who has been absolutely incredible without a team with them,” Graham said. “So if you feel like you’re alone and you feel like, ‘I can’t do this alone,’ you’re right. You can’t. Find a business partner. Find someone who’s your confidant, a mentor, whatever. Ask for help.”

Ashley Graham sets aside “me time

“The one thing that really keeps me centered is waking up and having 15 minutes of quiet time…whether it’s prayer, meditation, reading…just knowing that that’s my time,” Graham said. “It’s not my agent’s time. It’s not my husband’s time. It’s not the world’s time. It’s not my follower’s time. It’s my time.”

Ashley Graham takes ownership of her body

While Graham is the token plus-size model in the fashion world, she doesn’t allow her body to be used in any way that she doesn’t approve of. “I know that my body isn’t a trend,” Graham said.

While magazines will try to convince you to go on a crazy diet, and social media tells you that your body should look a certain way, Graham begs that you ignore that. “This is truly your own journey,” Graham said.

Part of Graham’s larger-than-life confidence comes from her emphasis on health. “t doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, you can be healthy,” Graham said. “It’s about getting up off the couch, moving your body, choosing healthy options, and knowing that your body is yours,” Graham said. “Nobody else has ownership over it.”


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