IMG_0402Lane Bryant model Ashley Graham (with fellow LB model Tonya Pittman) was at Mall of America Thursday for the opening of the plus size retailer’s redesigned store. But all eyes were on her, thanks to the controversy over television networks reportedly refusing to air the lingerie commercial she stars in. Once we got the serious questions out of the way about size and prejudice in America (read it in the St. Paul Pioneer Press), we talked about her exercise routine (yoga and a trainer once a week – “If I’m not busy”) and what she’d eaten for the day (yogurt, a ham and cheese omelet with whole wheat toast for breakfast; a chicken Cesar salad and side of fries for lunch). And we talked about being a size 16 – which frankly, has never looked so good. Ashley, who doesn’t seem “big” in the least in person, had not yet changed into her Lane Bryant uniform when we met. She was wearing Robert Rodriguez skinny pants, a Top Shop shirt, a cropped jacket from Barney’s and carrying a Mui Mui bag. What’s that about plus size girls have no shopping options? “I can’t just walk into Yves Saint Laurent and buy a cute shirt,” Ashley said. (Neither can I, honey – wallet size hurts, too.) But she did name several designers that have extended their size run, including Marc Jacobs and Prada. Of course, her size 16 might technically be considered “plus,” but it isn’t exactly the same league – or struggle – as a 26. Ashley said she’d like to see the retail world do away with the “plus” label. Why can’t every women’s department simply feature clothes from a 0 to a 32 without, as she says, “banishing (plus size women) to the back of the room?”