Nope, This Ashley Graham 'Vogue' Cover Shouldn't Be Controversial at All


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Supermodel Ashley Graham appears on Vogue's March 2017 cover alongside fellow gorgeous women Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Adwoa Aboah, Liu Wen, Vittoria Ceretti, and Imaan Hammam. Once marginalized as simply a "plus-size model," Graham has become a bona fide celebrity who's appeared not only on a bevy of magazine covers, including Sports Illustrated, but also in a music video -- and she even has her own Barbie. So, seeing her appear on Vogue alongside some of her industry colleagues is NBD, right? Except, of course it has to be! Almost as soon as the cover was released, accusations of Photoshop went flying. 

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Here's the cover, which Graham shared on her Instagram account yesterday:

Critics point to the fact that Graham is the only model with her hand on her thigh in the cover shot, and how she must have been posed that way in an attempt by Vogue to make her look thinner. And then, ooh, look how Gigi Hadid's strangely long arm is reaching all the way past Kendall Jenner and all the way to Graham's waist -- yep, another optical illusion conspiracy!

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What's Graham's take? She popped into the comments on her Instagram post of the cover and wrote, "I chose to pose like that.. no one told me to do anything." 

More proof she had a blast and did her thing during the shoot:

@voguemagazine

A photo posted by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@theashleygraham) on

She shouldn't have had to defend herself. Look, I get it: Fashion and women's magazines have pulled shenanigans like twisting and manipulating entire limbs on cover models, or putting Melissa McCarthy on their cover and having her wear a bulky coat.

So, sadly, we're all too used to the gimmicks and shady tricks they pull when it comes to featuring a star who isn't stick-thin. When it comes to seeing a curvier model or celebrity on a magazine cover, there's gotta be some kind of ploy, right? 

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Certainly sometimes, but not always. Sometimes, a cover is just a cover. In this case, I'd like to take Graham's word that she chose to pose this way and that she's pleased with how her image came out. We ought to have faith that if it had been compromised, she'd feel compelled to say so. After all, the model has built her entire career around being so outspoken and body positive.

To see a recent example of that, look no further than in the feature story of this very issue. Graham told Vogue:

Sixty-seven percent of the women in America wear a size 14 or larger. Sixty-seven percent. Maybe you could ignore those consumers before, but now, thanks to social media, they're making their voices heard. Women are demanding that brands give them what they want. And what they want is to be visible.

In addition to being more "visible," I'd argue these women would appreciate simply being normalized. Not to be validated -- because that's never going to be something we can or should look to fashion magazines for -- but to be represented. Because, as the stat Graham points to illustrates, not only are curvier, fuller-figured women completely normal -- they're actually the majority. So, it's long overdue that they stop being relegated to some "special feature" or "bonus section" in a magazine and start appearing in the main features and on covers.

The nitpicky paranoia about Graham's pose aside, Vogue shot this cover treating the size 16 model like just another supermodel. When all shapes and sizes are represented without extra commentary or special provisions, obviously without discrimination, that's progress. No, this Vogue cover isn't a perfect example of that. But it is a step in the right direction. 

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