BY CELIA ELLENBERG self self
Last year, Ashley Graham posted what, in her estimation, was a pretty tame Instagram Story dedicated to “all the ladies out there who did not shave their pits basically their whole pregnancy or at least until the end.” Barefaced is nothing more than a black bra, the model—who became a mother in January 2020—was speaking candidly, as is her preferred form of communication, with one arm up to showcase the soft fuzz that she had been growing for about three months. Meant as a gesture of solidarity with other time-strapped moms—and with the countless women who are uninterested in conforming to perceived grooming expectations—the post was in response to the backlash she received when eagle-eyed fans noticed her underarm growth in a previous image. But the 33-year-old, who has been shattering societal norms since she appeared in that Sports Illustrated ad in 2015 (and on the cover of this magazine, twice), wasn’t content with a simple digital clap-back; this month, she partnered with Flamingo on a limited-edition collection of shaving and body care essentials designed around the idea of “body neutrality,” which goes hand in hand with the “body positivity” conversation Graham has been instrumental in turning into a mainstream movement. “When it comes to self-care everything is about what’s beneficial to you, not what society is constantly telling you is best for you,” says Graham. Here, the podcast host, YouTube star, and entrepreneur with infinite additional epithets shares her wellness approach for cultivating gratitude, nurturing her postpartum body, “tuning out the noise—and turning up yourself.” s
In the age of wellness, what better way to practice self-care than the following 5 tips from Ashley Graham: elf-self
1. Do You
I only incorporate wellness and beauty practices if they make me feel good. Some days, I wake up and all I want to do is brush up my eyebrows with hairspray on a spoolie and move on! Anything I do has to not only bring me joy but it also has to be multitasking. I stopped breastfeeding in February and I stopped taking a prenatal. So I started taking a multivitamin instead. I’m just not a sucker for all the special pills and the powders we’re now being told that we need. I just try to listen to my body more than anyone else around me.
2. Practice Self Love
This is all about affirmations, and cultivating gratitude for your body. I know they’re kind of a thing right now, but I’ve been doing affirmations for 17 years. The words are different for everyone, in every stage of life, but I’ve definitely gone back to affirmations from when I was, like, 19. I’ll say “I am bold, I am brilliant, I am beautiful.” I actually just started a TikTok challenge—the self love challenge—asking people to talk about the strongest part of their body, the part of their body they love most—and I was shocked by how quickly it took off. People want to be reminded to say thank you to themselves. I did another self-care affirmation right before I went on live with CBS earlier this week. I said, “I know you’re tired. But you’ve got this.” I had a really big pep talk with myself. Because no one can do that for me; only I can do it. Eating right is also a big part of my self love. My husband, Justin, makes an amazing lamb stew. While I was laboring, he was making lamb stew in the apartment! He put it on simmer when I pushed Isaac out. I also love Brodo’s bone broth, and my favorite bakery is called 16 Mill in Brooklyn. They do gluten-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free everything and she makes a bangin’ banana bread. I don’t know how she does it. Whenever I travel I have one shipped to wherever I’m going. These are my core things, and I think the fourth trimester cookbooks are also super important for mothers.
3. Motion is Lotion
Sometimes my body says, please take a nap; and sometimes it says, move. I try to move my body at least once a day otherwise I feel all stiff and achy. For me it’s about going to the gym, or doing yoga—or even just doing a 15 minute arm blast with three- or four-pound weights or bands. Even if I’m just taking Isaac to the playground I feel like I’m getting out there. I could easily be a recluse, but he has to go outside at least once a day so he gets me out of the house, too. I’ve been living in this postpartum land, asking myself, What does my body mean to me now? But the same thing applies to my post-pandemic body. What does it all mean? I’ve always had a hard time following online classes because I don’t look like these unattainable bodies. So I started my own channel on YouTube called “Thank Bod.” It’s about thanking your body, wherever you are.
4. Prioritize Me Time
One thing I have to do every time I get out of the shower is lotion my whole body. There are three different lotions in my collab with Flamingo. They’re perfect for whatever occasion you’re in. And I also prioritize acupuncture once a week with Sandra Lanshin Chiu, who also does cupping and gua sha all over my body. Then probably about three times a week, I set aside a time for prayer and meditation. Because if you’re not checking in on your self, you can get really jaded. I have a journal where I write down big events that I want to remember and I want to remind my kids about, but my husband and I really try to keep each other accountable with this.
5. Work Hard, Sleep Harder
If I’m not sleeping well, I’m not a pleasant person to be around, I’m not the best wife or mother I can be, and I’m making bad self-care health choices. I interviewed Ariana Huffington on season three of my podcast, and she asked me what the last thing I did before bed was, and of course, I said “I flip through my phone.” So now, I keep my phone in my bathroom when I go to sleep so it’s in an entirely different room and I don’t look at it before I go to bed. Instead, I’ll either download with my husband from the day or read from my book, which is currently Yvonne Orji’s “Bamboozled by Jesus.” And I got a cheap digital clock from Amazon as an alarm, which wakes me up if my baby’s cry doesn’t. I used to sleep naked, but after I had a kid I got modest. Now, I have to sleep in a big t-shirt. The older the better. I have to have a sound machine and an air purifier. Mouthguards have to be in. My Slip eye mask in leopard print has to be on. And last but not least: I have custom earplugs. I had them professionally made at a place where newscasters get in-ears made. They’re hot pink. I have two sets—one for the bedside, and one for the airplane. Oh! And I take Natural Calm every night. Orange is my favorite flavor. I’ll scream at Justin, “I’m making my drink.” It just calms me down so I can pass out in a very natural way— and it helps me go to the bathroom!