In August 2020, supermodel Ashley Graham and her husband, Justin Ervin, will mark 10 years of marriage. “We met at church in New York City,” she recalls to The Knot of her decade-old love story. “I had just gotten out of a relationship. I wrote down everything I wanted in a future husband, but I knew that in everything I had written down, I didn’t want to date. I wanted to be single.”
Then, the unexpected happened. “It wasn’t even a year later when I met Justin. We were in an elevator. I was volunteering and he rode the elevator up and down with me,” she says with a smile. “I was like, ‘I know what you’re doing buddy.’” Ervin, of course, boldly asked her out on a date during that elevator encounter, and Graham gladly accepted. “We dated a year and we got married,” she continues.
Graham, the brand ambassador for Forevermark’s Engagement and Commitment Collection–which includes 17 ring styles and a variety of diamond shapes–raises the sentimental story behind her own rings in the present and the future. The Nebraska-raised beauty plans to add another gold ring stack to her growing piece when she reaches her 10-year milestone with her husband. (Which, surprise, is marked oftentimes celebrated with diamonds.) “I fused [my engagement ring and wedding band] together and at 10 years, I’m getting it stacked again,” she adds.
Prior to his 2009 proposal, Ervin took creative liberty with the ring design after he had received some feedback from Graham. “He went in and he designed it himself. I sent him literally every photo in the world of things that I did not want,” she recalls. “I was very adamant about not wanting what everybody else had. It’s kind of true to who I am—I’m like I don’t want what anybody else has. I wanted to be different and I wanted to be unique.”
This included a different shape of stone: a flat diamond. “It’s because I’m a very active person: I’m either in the gym or I’m putting my hand in a pocket or I’m changing clothes all the time,” she says. “I wanted it to be gold but not shiny gold, I wanted it to be brushed. I wanted it to be stackable and I wanted to be able to fuse it together.”
For Graham, it’s important for soon-to-be-engaged couples to discuss the ring in advance. “I feel like when you’re talking to your partner and you’re not specific, it’s going to a wild card with what you get,” she muses. “Do you want to have the conversation before they get the ring? Or do you want to have the conversation after they get the ring? I think before is very important, personally.”
Ervin found a creative way to pop the question, while continuing on with their everyday activities. “We used to do this thing called ‘The Justin and Ashley Show.’ This was before Instagram… You know on your iMac there’s like GarageBand, where you can record yourself. We started doing our ‘Justin and Ashley Show’ during our first month of dating and we used that [in fact] to talk about our issues… It was something quirky and weird that we would do together.”
The day Ervin proposed, he asked Graham to shoot another episode, though she was in a hurry to get to a dinner. “We weren’t living together, he was just at my apartment,” she says. “He sets up the camera really quick and starts talking about weddings. I was like, ‘Why do you want to talk about weddings if you’re not going to propose to me? I don’t want to talk about it anymore.’”
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The couple, by then, had discussed a potential engagement for several month and Graham was waning in the patience department. “I was just like, ‘Propose already… I know how you would do it anyways.’”
The truth was—she didn’t. “I told him how I thought that he would do it… ‘You would plan this extravagant thing and you would say these things.’ And he goes, ‘Actually I would do it like this.’” Ervin then launched into a sweet speech about how much Graham meant to him, pulling out the ring to pop the question. “I thought it was fake at first,” Graham admits, “And next thing you know… I started screaming at the top of my lungs in the middle of Park Slope and people were like, ‘What is going on?’ The neighbor goes up and gets us a bottle of champagne, it was very exciting.”
Now nearly a decade into marriage, Graham looks back fondly to that time period–with assurance that he was her chosen life partner from the beginning. “What was different about him was he was consistent. I think consistency is really hard to find in people, in general, and then to find it in a man who is pursuing you? It’s like, ‘Wow, I never had that before,’” she muses. “We obviously had the same traditions and upbringings and beliefs. We made each other laugh. I kept telling him, ‘I’m not tired of you, I’m not tired of being around you.’ He was always shocked by that, because I always would get really bored with guys. He was just so different. The difference in him and his consistency were what really got me.”
Forevermark’s Engagement & Commitment Collection is now available.