FARGO – Supermodel Ashley Graham says an aspiring model from Fargo has “the talent and potential to break through” in the industry.
Heylie Amini, 30, met Graham during a filming of the CBS television show “Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition” for an episode that premiered Friday, June 22.
Graham, who is famous for appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue, wore a disguise and posed as a wannabe model named Morgan when she met Amini at a casting call in Miami. Amini, a Fargo South graduate, thought she and Graham were part of a documentary about modeling.
Graham said in the episode that Amini was “sweet, kind and had a beautiful demeanor” as she started giving Graham advice.
Amini said she was “completely frozen” when she found out who Graham really was and felt a little silly that she was offering advice to the supermodel, whom she has admired for years.
Amini moved to Fargo from Afghanistan with her family when she was 12 years old. Because it was shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, she endured cruelty from some classmates and some family hardships as well. The two women said they felt like “insta-friends” and “soul sisters” after spending the day together.
After revealing her true identity, Graham arranged a modeling contract and a professional photo shoot for Amini and gave her $10,000 to attend Full Figure Fashion Week in New York City. Amini said she had planned to take a train from Fargo to New York City but was running short of money, so she was moved to tears by Graham’s generosity.
“Someone always has to be there to give you a shot or give you a helping hand. For her to be that person for me – that I’ve looked up to her – this just doesn’t happen to a small-town girl from Afghanistan,” Amini said.
Amini says she shot the episode of “Undercover Boss” last fall and it’s been difficult not to tell anyone about it. She just got back from New York City where she had the photo shoot with Graham that the supermodel had promised. And it didn’t disappoint.
“She is just an incredible person,” Amini told The Forum this week. “She is so down to earth, just like you and me.”
Following last Friday’s episode, Amini says her Instagram followers went up from 400 to more than 3,000 and she’s received messages from people all over the country.
“Strangers have told me I’ve inspired them to pursue their dreams and that they’re going to be more accepting of their own bodies now,” she says. “That’s been one of the best parts of all of this. I had no idea how many people this would touch.”
Amini currently works as a developmental disabilities program manager at Fargo’s Southeast Human Service Center while pursuing her modeling career. She says she’s grateful her employer has been so supportive of her.