Ashley Graham is known for being especially open when it comes to body positivity and working in the fashion world. But in her new book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like, the model gets real about another personal aspect of her life: her marriage, and her family's initial struggle to accept her relationship.
Graham wed Justin Ervin in 2010, but she reveals that when she first introduced her man to her family, they initially rejected him because he is black. In an excerpt of her memoir obtained by Glamour, Graham describes the evolution of her relationship with Ervin, from meeting him in an elevator at her church to eventually bringing him home to Nebraska, where she "didn’t grow up around many black people."
"I naively hoped everyone would be color-blind—which is not what happened," Graham writes. "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."
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After the interaction, Graham says Ervin told her, "Racism is never surprising but always disappointing," and he helped her to contextualize her family's reaction to their relationship.
"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 writes. "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."
The story does have a happy ending, though. At one point, Ervin called Graham's grandmother to congratulate her on her 60th wedding anniversary—"Anniversaries are a big deal to him," Graham explains—and from then on, Grandma "loved him." Adds Graham, "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."
Ashley Graham's A New Model is set to hit bookshelves on May 9.