SI model Ashley Graham and husband Justin Ervin got married in 2010, but their union began with a rocky start. In an excerpt from her upcoming book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty and Power Really Look Like, Graham recalls a time when her family didn’t approve of their relationship because Ervin isn’t white. From Harper’s Bazaar:
The model recounted the first time she brought her then-boyfriend home to meet her family in Nebraska, where she “didn’t grow up around many Black people.”
“I never told my grandparents that the man I was bringing home was black,” she wrote in the memoir. “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 that meeting, Ervin even told Graham, “Racism is never surprising but always disappointing.”
Graham explained in the book that her grandmother “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 had a genuine encounter or conversation with a black person in real-life.
But Ervin was understanding, and didn’t let the hurtful first impressions get in the way of his relationship. He reached out and called Graham’s grandmother to congratulate her on her 60th wedding anniversary, and she eventually softened up.
“Afterward Grandma called my mom and said, ‘You’ll never guess who called me,'” Graham wrote. “And from then on out, she loved him.”
Still hard to believe that in this century, there would be such overt racism. But the story at least it had a happy ending.