Ashley Graham Told Me Her Favorite Beauty Products and Kind of Changed My Life

Being around her was inspiring, but I was too nervous to tell her that, so I asked her about makeup instead.

If you've visited xoJane today, you might have (read: definitely) noticed that we posted our very own "Swimsuit Edition" to coincide with Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue hitting newsstands — except our version is rife with scantily clad male models. Hooray for turning gender-specific sexual objectification on its little head and whatnot!

Even though I conducted a couple of the male-model interviews for xoJane, the interview I was most excited about during our shoot last week was with Ashley Graham, plus-size supermodel and SI Swimsuit Issue rookie and cover girl. She stopped in for a couple shots with the guys and gave them tips on recreating the poses she and the other female swimsuit models were instructed to do, and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to ask her about her beauty routine for xoVain.

In fact, the last thing I wanted to ask her about was What It's Like To Be The Face Of The Beauty At Every Size Movement, because a) she's being asked this by everyone and their mothers, and b) I have mixed emotions about it. Specifically, I feel what she's done to help people realize that gorgeousness exists outside of the very slim (in more ways than one) gamut of traditional fashion-model bodies is amazing and necessary; at the same time, shining this extra-bright spotlight on the plus-is-equal idea will inevitably result in the media (and, thus, its consumers) focusing on the plus-ness before the equality, and that emphasis could inadvertently further segregate bigger bodies from smaller bodies before we come over the crest and start seeing all bodies on the same broad spectrum — not skinny vs. everything else.

So I didn't ask her about that. But while she was there, a very personal realization bubbled up in me — one very much related to having a bigger body.

As soon as Ashley arrived, she arrived. Her physical beauty is magnetic — your eyes would have no choice but to shift in her direction, even if she wasn't saying a word. But she wasn't quiet. In fact, she was boisterous. She individually greeted every person on set, and then proceeded to just be herself — uninhibited laughter, joking around with people she'd just met as if they'd been friends for years, not censoring herself or caring about seeming "cool."

And this moved me almost to tears. Seriously.

I have never in my adulthood had a small body. I was medium-sized by conventional beauty standards at my smallest and have otherwise fallen into adjectives like curvy, thick, chubby, zaftig, etc. I've also never in my adulthood had a small personality. I have a loud laugh, my default social-setting disposition is goofy and friendly, I seem to be an extrovert (it's an illusion). And I have always felt a strange shame over having both a bigger body and a bigger personality. I can't possibly be not-small in both ways and still be someone other people want to be around, I felt. Jokes sound better told by thin girls, no? Bigger girls are already taking up more space, so we should be quieter, right?

But here was Ashley Graham proving those fears so very wrong. She was taking up the space she takes up and being her vivacious, unsubtle self unapologetically. It was one of the most inspiring interactions I've ever experienced, and I hope she reads this because I was, ironically, too shy to tell her at the time.

Instead, I asked her about makeup and stuff. Here's what she told me.

XO MARCI: Your signature makeup look seems to be a nude lip, smoky eye...

ASHLEY GRAHAM: Yes. Not too smoky, though. I mean, I will do smoky for, like, an event. But, like, day to day, no work involved, I’m a mascara, bronzer, Aquaphor girl.

Aquaphor — on just lips?

Yeah.

I’ve read that some people will go to bed with, like, Aquaphor or Vaseline all over their face.

No, I have read that, too. I do that on my feet and my elbows. There’s a big, ugly thing of Vaseline next to my ugly mouth guards.

You’re wearing mouth guards to bed?

Yes, yes. Because I grind my teeth at night.

What are your top three favorite nude lip colors?

Oh, Jesus.

I know.

Spanish Pink, Tom Ford. I have it in my bag. Clinique Heaping Hazelnut Chubby Stick. And probably – Lord have mercy — there’s a Tarte color that I love, and it’s like an orangey pink.

What mascara are you wearing right now?

Lash Star. It’s a new brand. Tracy Murphy, the makeup artist who does all the SI girls. It’s her brand-new line, and it’s coming out very soon.

Are you wearing a bit of a sparkle?

I think so. I don't know — I got my makeup done.

Okay, so when you are left to your own devices...

No sparkles, really. It’s about the brow. The eyelashes. A little bronzer. A little concealer, depending on how tan I am. And Aquaphor.

Man, Aquaphor. They need to put you in a campaign.

[SINGING] Aquaphor!

What hair products are you embracing right now?

Oribe. Oribe. Oribe.

That stuff smells so good.

So I just shot with him. And first of all, dynamite man. Like, gorgeous. The nicest. The second day, he comes in with, like, bags. Huge bags. Like, [SINGING] "Dah dah dah dah dah. Ashley, these are for you." And I was like, "What?!" I get home from the job, there’s a bag this big [MOTIONING THAT THE BAG WAS GIGANTIC] waiting at home from Oribe! So I have everything Oribe. And I’m obsessed.

How often do you wash your hair?

Every three days. It doesn't get greasy. It just doesn't. Like, you know, I throw a little texturizing spray at the ends and then the middle. But, like, on top, I’m good. 'Cause I like it to be flat.

You do?

Yes. It’s weird. I don’t like it sticking-to-my-forehead flat.

Well, yeah.

But my roots, they go straight up. Which – it’s a blessing. But when I blowdry, I have to be like – errr [IMITATING STRUGGLING WITH A BLOWDRYER]. And I have cowlicks galore in the front.

So when you’re doing your own makeup, are there any techniques that you don't feel entirely confident doing yourself?

Oh, yes. I cannot do a cat eye. No, like, what you have going on right now? I couldn't do it on myself. I can't.

Has anyone covered your beauty marks on a shoot?

Yeah, all the time.

Why?

I don't know. But I keep coloring this guy in now [POINTING TO ONE OF HER BEAUTY MARKS]. I have a client that I’ve said “stop retouching me” to.

They take them out?!

It’s bizarre. It’s so bizarre. They don't ask me. They just do it. Because it’s easy in Photoshop.

Okay, my last question: teach me how to selfie.

Girl, the easiest thing. Lights. There has to be good light. Daylight’s the best. And it’s an angle. And if you don't like this part of your neck—

And I don't.

Stop in the middle of your swallow. There. Done. Got it.

And then I made what was potentially the biggest mistake of my life and took a selfie next to Ashley Graham. (Actually, Ashley took it because she's taller and, as we just learned from her, angles matter.)

  • Do you follow Ashley on Instagram?
  • How do feel about Sports Illustrated releasing three covers for their Swimsuit Issue this year? And, I mean, how do you feel about the Swimsuit Issue in general?
  • Who's your favorite model?