Stephanie Hallett
September 02, 2016 1:47 pm
Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images

Ashley Graham is the poster girl for body confidence: She’s a size 14 model who regularly shares inspiring messages with her fans on Instagram, and she pioneered the hashtag #BeautyBeyondSize. She works in a tough world for women who are bigger than a size 0, so we’re always moved by her words.

She recently spoke to Elle Canada about what it’s like to be a plus-size model, and shared the body-confidence advice her mom gave her as a child.

“When I was growing up, my mom always told me that I was smart even though I was called dumb in school because I have dyslexia. I was also a big girl who played sports and ate well, and she would tell me ‘You’re fit and healthy.’ I was super-insecure at the time, but it helped to hear her words. Then I moved to New York [to model] and gained a ton of weight because I wasn’t working out or eating right. I hated the woman I had become because I didn’t feel right in my own skin.”

To turn things around, Graham thought back to her mother’s words: “I started telling myself all the things my mother had told me—‘You’re bold, you’re brilliant, you’re beautiful’—and I gained my confidence back.”

Thanks, mom!

While shooting her Elle Canada spread at Muscle Beach in Venice, California, fans and others snapped photos of the model posing with the workout equipment at the beachside gym. Later, Graham shared some of those unofficial snaps on Instagram, using the opportunity to share yet another body-confident message:

“Someone once told me my thighs were ‘cellulite city’. But I now realize these thighs tell a story of victory and courage. I will not let others dictate what they think my body should look like for their own comfort, and neither should you. #beautybeyondsize #effyourbeautystandards.”

So that pretty much confirms it: If we could be any superhero in the world, we’d be Ashley Graham. *Bows down*

Read more from her interview with Elle Canada here!