Ashley Graham opens up about the controversy over her Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover. As the first plus-sized model to grace the cover, she’s responding to critics and sharing an empowering message for women.

Photo: Ashley Graham
Credit: Instagram

The 28-year-old Ashley Graham was one of three women chosen for three separate SI swimsuit issue covers, she shared the honor with Ronda Rousey and Hailey Clauson. While she has given interviews before, and taken to Instagram to express her excitement over being chosen, her appearance on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ marked her first major television interview since making history with her SI cover (above).

The labels are so important, too. And that was one of the topics that Graham addressed during her interview with host Ellen DeGeneres. She has, in the past, denounced the term “plus-size.”

Once again, this time before a studio audience, she took the opportunity to share her views. She told the host and the audience, “Plus size starts at a size 8 and it goes up to a size 16-18. So the majority of this room is considered plus size, hope you feel better about herself.”

She went on to say, “That’s the problem. We’re telling women that they’re plus size. For me, I just like to call it curva-sexalicious.”

Yes, it’s not a surprise that appearance on the cover has sparked much discussion and that as she makes the promo rounds, she’s very much on the defense. There’s been widespread applause, but along with that, it’s been peppered with plenty of criticism, even from the likes of supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, who told E!News. “I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches].”

Tiegs went on to say,”That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it.” She added, “No, I don’t think it’s healthy. Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”

This was after Graham’s appearance on the show, but it’s not to say she hadn’t already been facing a barrage of comments aimed at her including the comedian Nicole Arbour, known for her “Dear Fat People” viral video. She returned to deliver a second equally stinging discourse, this time, directed at Ashley Graham’s SI. cover although not naming her by name, insisting the cover should be “the mecca of perfection.”

In a previous interview, Ashley Graham, told E!News, “I am hopefully going to change the lives of so many different young women.” She went on to elaborate, saying, “So many young women who have been told that their cellulite is ugly; that their inner-thighs that jiggle and touch are ugly because I have all those things, and I’m on the cover of Sports Illustrated. So they must be beautiful!”

Ashley Graham, willingly in the spotlight as a pioneer in this body-image battle, continues to find herself in the midst of what’s become an increasingly vociferous debate in society. You can see the full video of Ashley Graham’s interview below along with her ‘Sports Illustrated’ photos.