Ashley Graham, Candice HuffineChristian Siriano x Lane Bryant Runway Show, United Nations, New York, America - 09 May 2016

NEW YORK — Being on the set of a national lingerie ad campaign with major models conjures a stereotype of thumping music, empty Champagne glasses and frazzled assistants scurrying to-and-fro, procuring their every demand.

But the vibe was far more girl power than fashion diva at Lane Bryant’s shoot for its fall lingerie campaign on Monday.

Reprising their roles in the latest ads were Ashley Graham of TED Talks, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and Candice Huffine, whose May cover of Elle and runway jaunt for Prabal Gurung have her on the radars of major casting directors. And while these women have been modeling for the plus-size retailer for well over a decade, it’s only been in the last few years that they’ve caught the attention of the overall fashion industry — not to mention the public, whose outcry for stylish clothes in a greater size range is finally being heard.

“I wanted to be a model so badly, it was my calling,” said 32-year-old Huffine, who has been modeling for 17 years, 10 of those signed with Lane Bryant. Even after all that time, she didn’t anticipate the fame that would sweep over her and her fellow plus-size models who appeared in the 2015 “I’m No Angel” campaign. “None of us could have seen that coming 10 years ago when we were shooting Lane Bryant. We were shooting jeans and T-shirts and dresses and it was just simple.” Now both Huffine and Graham, the latter a self-proclaimed “body activist,” see inspiring women to embrace their bodies as part of the job. The newest campaign was shot once again by Cass Bird and will debut on various digital, print and outdoor platforms on October 2.

“I get e-mails daily from young girls, young women, young men, old men, sisters, daughters, on and on and I get questions like, ‘How do I get confidence and how do I keep it?’ The other thing I hear is ‘thank you,'” Graham said.

Graham recalled poignant a letter from a young woman suffering from bulimia. “She had just watched my Ted Talk and she just decided if I could be as healthy and happy in my skin, so can she. And she just started saying affirmations in her mirror.”

Ashley Graham backstageMichael Kors show, Fall Winter 2017, New York Fashion Week, USA - 15 Feb 2017

Ashley Graham backstage at Michael KorsX Prutting/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Both models stressed that their message isn’t solely dedicated to curvy women, but to everyone and that one of their biggest goals had been met in walking shows at New York Fashion Week in February. “I was freaking out,” recalled Graham of being backstage at the Michael Kors show. “Bella [Hadid] was in front of me and Carolyn Murphy was two ahead of me and they were both like, ‘Girl, this is exciting, this is your moment.’ Bella was just like, ‘Girl, be yourself.’ and Carolyn was just like, ‘Michael loves you and if he didn’t love you, you wouldn’t be here, so just be yourself.’ It was really nice to feel that girl power.”

Candice Huffine and Designer Prabal GurungPrabal Gurung show, After Party, Fall Winter 2017, New York Fashion Week, USA - 12 Feb 2017

Candice Huffine and Prabal Gurung at the designer’s show in February.  MJ Photos/REX/Shutterstock

Huffine was overcome with emotion, but kept it in check at the Prabal Gurung finale, in which models wore T-shirts with pro-feminist sayings. Hers said “Our Bodies, our minds, our power.”

“I’ve been holding out and hoping that [New York Fashion Week] would be something I could be a part of for years now,” said Huffine. “It was so validating and surreal and special because I knew for so many years that I belong there and I wanted to be such a good representation for the women that were waiting for me, or for us, to be there.”

Related Stories:

Lane Bryant Partners With Pandora for Mobile-First Marketing Strategy

Meet Squeem, the Ashley Graham-Approved Shapewear Line

Candice Huffine Collaborates With Fortnight

Elle Taps Six Models of the Moment for Swimsuit Issue

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