Gospel Light Minute – Ashley Graham (#265)
She is an American model who has taken the fashion industry by storm, becoming one of the most popular faces in the modeling world and a positive role model particularly for women who are classified as “curvy” or “plus-sized”. Known for her accessibility and body confidence, she has been described as an ambassador of the “real beauty” movement, which celebrates how women actually look rather than the impossible standards set by the fashion industry. With her increasing popularity, she has graced the covers of the world’s biggest fashion magazines, including Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar and has walked the runway for major fashion brands and designers. Her rise in the modeling world and fashion industry as a whole has defied traditional expectations and her presence has created a space in the industry for many other women like her. Along with being a top model and body positivity activist, she is also a television presenter, speaker, designer, podcast host and entrepreneur.
As proud as she is of her accomplishments, she is equally proud of her Christian faith and isn’t afraid to use her platform to share her testimony with fans and followers.
The 32-year-old spoke to Harper’s Bazaar UK in 2019 where she candidly discussed how her Christian beliefs have helped her make sense of her fame as one of the most sought-after models in the fashion industry.
“My [Christian] faith has given me the strength to say no,” she explained. “If I’m not comfortable, or if something doesn’t align with my mission, then I’m not participating. My faith is my balance. My husband and I like to pray together because in the Bible it talks about when two or more are gathered, God is in the midst.”
She also told the outlet that it’s no surprise that her faith continues to impact her career choices. “Growing up in a Christian household, I was constantly questioning what my purpose in life was,” she said. “I believe it’s changing the fashion industry.”
“When I moved to New York, I got away from God. Then I realized that living here, you need something to keep you grounded or you’ll go crazy,” she told the magazine Elle UK in 2017.
“I think that faith is definitely something that got me through the hard times in fashion. It got me through the hard times with body confidence, and the terrible decisions that I had made. My [Christian] faith is something that brought me back to finding truth and value in who I am.”
The 32-year-old met her husband Justin Ervin, also a devout Christian, at church in 2009. The couple wed in 2010 and welcomed their first child this year. She shared how they decided to abstain from sex until they were married. In an excerpt from her book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like, she candidly writes:
I started dating at 16. My first boyfriend and I were together for three months, until he said, “I have to break up with you because you won’t have sex with me. And I’m afraid you’re going to be as fat as my mom.” Thus started a pattern of going out with anyone who thought I was hot; I lost my virginity to a guy I barely knew because he gave me compliments like, “Ashley, you look really pretty today,” or, “I like when you wear your hair like that.” (The next day he ignored me in school.) When I left Nebraska to start my modeling career in New York City, my dates followed a similar pattern: A guy took me out, then we had sex, then I wouldn’t hear from him again.
Eventually I joined a church. I didn’t go there to find a boyfriend; I truly wasn’t looking for anyone other than the person I wanted to be [in Christ]. One Sunday my volunteer position was to stand in the elevator welcoming people, passing out candy and pushing the button to the eighth floor. When two tall men walked in, I didn’t bat an eye. One nudged the other and said, “If you don’t talk to her, I will.” His friend left the elevator, but he stayed on.
I shrugged. This guy wasn’t my type. With his short hair, ill-fitting, baggy Old Navy jeans, white Hanes T-shirt, and Converse sneakers, he exuded a major nerd factor. But there was something sweet about Justin, and I was at church, so I had to be polite. He rode up and down with me a few times, and he seemed to be looking into my soul when we talked. He was smart and funny and had traveled the world. So I agreed to go out for coffee.
The day arrived, and we had a great time—until the check came. I went to the bathroom, and when I returned the check was still resting on the table with his half on top. “Here you go,” he said, handing me the bill. I paid my share of the $5.25 and thought, This is the last date. For a month Justin called, texted, and emailed, but I stuck to my guns. Finally he persuaded me to go out for falafel. “Let me explain,” he said. “I’m going to pay for dinner tonight. And I’m going to pay for the next dinner after that. When you told me you were a model, I assumed you were one of those beautiful women who uses guys for a fancy dinner. I don’t play that game. I do well for myself, and I’ve been burned because of it. I don’t want to go out with anyone who only has me around so I can pay for stuff.”
And just like that, I had my first experience of what it meant to communicate with a man. It was profound; all I wanted to do was keep talking to Justin. The consistency and openness was so new it felt weird. I told him this all the time: “You’re weird.”
My romance with Justin was innocent and sweet. He cooked for me. We went rollerblading and biking; we did karaoke, went to the movies, took an improv class together. Because we weren’t sleeping together—for Justin, abstinence was a firm commitment to his Christian faith—we never tempted ourselves by going over to each other’s apartments late at night. But we’d go to late movies or take walks through the city together. We had a spot on 14th Street and Seventh Avenue where we loved to sit and chat.
Yet despite how wonderful everything was, I still kept part of myself in reserve. While Justin offered so much of himself through our conversations, I answered his probing questions with this: “If I know you in six months, I’ll tell you.”
So how did I finally know he was the one worth putting myself out there for? I brought Justin home to Nebraska. Now, I should probably mention that Justin is black, and that I didn’t grow up around many black people. The sum total of what I learned about African American culture in school was Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Underground Railroad. This was more than my mom knew; she didn’t even see a black person in real life until she was 18 years old.
I never told Justin any of this, and I never told my grandparents that the man I was bringing home was black. I naively hoped everyone would be color-blind—which is not what happened. When my grandparents met Justin, my grandmother was cordial but cold. She greeted him and immediately walked away. When it came time for them to leave, my grandparents didn’t even acknowledge him. Instead my grandmother looked me in the eye, with Justin standing behind me, and said, “Tell that guy I said goodbye.”
I had never seen my loving, hardworking, and wonderful grandma be so hurtful and so racist. I was in shock.
After they left I took Justin on a ride to get out of the house. I’ll never forget what he said as we drove around town: “Racism is never surprising but always disappointing.”
Justin made me understand that someone like my grandma only saw black men depicted on television in situations involving guns, rape, and violence—situations that perpetuate racist stereotypes against black people in general and black men in particular. She had probably never looked a black man in the face, let alone had a conversation with him, and now one was in her daughter’s home, dating her granddaughter.
As if his understanding wasn’t generous enough, Justin called my grandmother on her sixtieth wedding anniversary. He’s not a texter or an emailer; he’s a pick-up-the-phone-and-call-you person, and anniversaries are a big deal to him. Afterward Grandma called my mom and said, “You’ll never guess who called me.” And from then on out, she loved him. Loved him.
I’m so grateful that happened, and it never would have if Justin hadn’t put his hand out there. He always puts love before pride, which is what he did with me. When I was playing games, he called me out on it. When we began dating, he did it with intention, always asking the difficult questions: “What do you bring to this relationship?” and “What role do you see yourself in beyond girlfriend or wife?” I wasn’t always sure how to answer. I didn’t like my mom and dad’s marriage, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. But thanks to Justin’s constant communication, I envisioned a marriage that was more than just two people loving each other. And now we have that marriage: a partnership dedicated to building something bigger than ourselves.
Her name is Ashley Graham.
This is the “Chief of Sinners,” Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, reminding you of what the Bible says, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” like you and me. Just as Ashley Graham trusts Jesus Christ as her Saviour, may I encourage you to do the same. Here is how:
1. Accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23 reads: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In fact, I am the chief of sinners, so don’t think that you’re alone.
2. Accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
3. Accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Bible says in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
4. Accept the fact that you cannot do anything to save yourself! The Bible states in Ephesians 2: 8, 9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
5. Accept the fact that God loves you more than you love yourself, and that He wants to save you from hell. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
6. With these facts in mind, please repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and pray and ask Him to come into your heart and save you this very moment. The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9, 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Dear friend, if you are willing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, please pray with me this simple prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you believed in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, allow me to say, congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour! For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
Remember, friend, Believe by faith. Share the faith. and Keep the faith!