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Plus-Size Model Ashley Graham Wants to Be the "Curvier Version" of Heidi Klum

Plus-Size Model Ashley Graham Wants to Be the "Curvier Version" of Heidi Klum
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Ashley Graham has already made a name for herself in the modeling industry, but she hopes to eventually become one of the greats.

"I definitely look up to Kathy Ireland, Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Cindy Crawford," the plus-size model, 27, told website The Coveteur. "I've watched their careers and they have just blossomed into extraordinary and amazing things. I can't wait to be the curvier version of all of them."

While Graham – who has modeled lingerie for Lane Bryant and landed a bikini ad in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – faced adversity in the beginning of her career, she believes the fashion industry is changing.

"I've faced criticism my whole career," she said in the interview. "It's come from fans, it's come from agents, and it's come from other models. But I think that it's all a matter of how you handle it and I turned it all into a positive thing. Now the industry has totally changed and it's not as much about size anymore – everyone's really jumped on the bandwagon of not letting size be the defining factor of determining what beauty truly is."

RELATED: Meet Ashley Graham, the First Plus-Size Model to Be Featured in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue

Even when she began modeling, Graham never felt pressure to change her size.

"I got told at the very beginning, when I was about 12 years old, 'If you lost a ton of weight, you could be a major model' and my mom just looked at the lady, started laughing and said 'We won't be doing that,' " she recalled. "That gave me so much confidence because if my mom didn't think I needed to lose weight, then obviously I didn't need to."

"I had an agent wave money in my face and say, 'If you go from a size 18 to a 14, you will make all of this money and more,' and I still didn't even have the gumption to lose the weight," she continued. "I said, 'I don't care what people think about me, I'm not going to change the way I look for clients, I just want to do what makes me happy and be happy doing it.' "

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While Graham did drop down to a size 14/16, she lost the weight for herself, and not due to any external pressure.

"My weight hasn't gone up or down [since then]," she said. "I've regulated it now for about seven years, and it's due to the fact that I'm happy and confident in who I am, and I'm not letting other people dictate where my career is going based on the size of my hips."

For more of Graham's interview, check out the story on The Coveteur.

This story first appeared on PEOPLE.com. For more stories like this, visit PEOPLE.com now.

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