Ashley Graham is one of the most famous models in the industry these days. A self-described body activist, Graham is the first size-16 model to snag a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, and since then, she’s made it a goal to promote size acceptance in fashion, media, and society.
Graham, 30, has been married to her husband, Justin Ervin for seven years now.
Read on to learn more about the man who stole Ashley Graham’s heart.
1. Graham’s Grandmother Wasn’t Supportive of Her Interracial Relationship at First
In an interview with People in May, Graham opened up about the first time Justin met her family. She joked that perhaps naively, she hoped everyone would be colorblind.
“When my grandparents met Justin, my grandmother was cordial but cold,” Graham explained to People. “She greeted him and immediately walked away. When it came time for them to leave, my grandparents didn’t even acknowledge him. I had never seen my loving, hardworking and wonderful grandma be so hurtful and so racist. I was in shock.”
On their way home, Ervin told her, “Racism is never surprising but always disappointing.”
Ervin ended up winning Graham over when he called to wish her a happy sixtieth wedding anniversary. Graham explains, “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.”
2. He Met Ashley While Volunteering at Her Church in NYC
Justin and Ashley met while volunteering at her church in New York City in 2009. Ashley tells Glamour that she joined the church after a string of negative experiences with men, and she in no way expected to find a boyfriend. She tells Glamour, “I truly wasn’t looking for anyone other than the person I wanted to be.”
While volunteering at the church one Sunday, she was in an elevator when two men walked in. Graham says that one of the men nudged the other and said, “If you don’t talk to her, I will.” When Justin’s friend left the elevator, he stayed on it. At first, Graham admits, she wasn’t really into Justin. Once he spoke to her, though, everything changed. “… 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,” she says.
Ashley writes about her relationship with Justin in her upcoming book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. “All I wanted to do was keep talking to Justin… The consistency and openness was so new it felt weird. […] My romance with Justin was innocent and sweet. 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 faith — we never tempted ourselves by going over to each other’s apartments late at night.”
3. They Live on Two Different Coasts
Justin lives and works in LA, while Graham’s life is in New York City.
In an interview with ET last year, Graham opened up about how she and Justin are able to make it work despite the distance.
“We have a rule. We don’t go longer than two weeks without seeing each other,” she tells ET. “It’s absolutely fabulous. I love it. We just meet in L.A. or New York. We meet in Paris, Miami. It’s pretty sexy.”
4. He Is a Cinematographer
Justin is a cinematographer, and has worked on documentaries like Elephant in the Room and the TV series Paranormal State. His other credits include Derby in Black, 12 Steps to Recovery, and UFC Ultimate Insider.
5. He and Graham Waited Until Marriage to Have Sex
Graham has been open about her past experiences with men, and reveals that the reason she waited until marriage to have sex with Ervin was because she was “losing her power” in other relationships. Speaking to ET, she says, “There was already this sexual tension, this roaringness… We had already established such a friendship that we had the two combine. Which, in my mind, just made magic, because now not only am I sleeping with someone that I trust and I love, but I know that he wants me. He affirms me all the time and lets me know how sexy and beautiful I am.”
Do the two intend on intending their family? Absolutely, Graham says. “We are going to totally have kids. We are probably going to do it in the next few years… Just another part of my brand building.”