The 31-year-old model was a guest on Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest Goop podcast, and reveals how she and Justin Ervin, her husband of eight years, met and fell in love.
Prior to meeting 29-year-old Ervin, Graham had been dating a “terrible guy” who was “mentally, physically [and] emotionally abusive.”
After hiding their two year long relationship for a year, she decided to get out and find her worth. “I knew that I was a stronger woman for breaking up with him,” Graham says. “In feeling stronger for breaking up with him I was like, ‘What is it that I need to do to change myself so I don’t get back into that situation?’”
Paltrow praises Graham for having the courage to end her relationship. “That’s brilliant by the way. And very rare for someone your age at the time to be able to have that kind of insight," she responds. "That’s astonishing. I was about 40.”
Graham went on to deduce that her problem in relationships was due to the fact that she kept having sex too quickly. “I grew up very Christian and one of the things my mom said to me growing up was, ‘If you have sex, you’re going to die. If you have sex before you’re married, you’re gonna die,’” she recalls. “... I didn’t die, but I did have a lot of sex. In that I realized I’m giving up my power and I’m giving up a little bit of this power to each of these guys and I’m letting them control me. Not constantly control me in every action, but they have a certain control over me.”
Her issues with sex and intimacy, she muses, go back to her lack of a relationship with her dad as a child. “My dad was just the breadwinner and that was it. I didn’t have a relationship with him growing up,” Graham says. “So I was always seeking male attention. Like I always wanted an older brother. I always wanted a boyfriend. I always wanted some guy talking to me to feel worthy.”
After her revelation, Graham decided to hold off on sex until she was married. That decision caused her to weed “through a**hole after a**hole,” and eventually waiting paid off.
The Sports Illustrated model’s mom forced her to choose between attending church and going to rehab after Graham showed up to her agency drunk. Since she didn’t consider herself an alcoholic, she chose to attend six church services, which led her to become a regular church goer.
“The next thing you know… I’m volunteering [at church] that Sunday and I’m the elevator lady,” she says. “… I’ve got a basket of candy and these two good looking black guys come in and the elevator is full, but for some reason we’re locking eyes. And the one guy says to the other guy, ‘If you don’t talk to her, I am.’”
The comment embarrassed Graham who blushed, but she continued to ride the elevator with her future husband after everyone else exited.
“I was like, ‘This is mad awkward. We’re riding the elevator alone,’” she recalls. “And he was like, ‘What do you do?’ And I just kind of brushed it off, like, ‘I’m a model.’ And he rolled his eyes, girl. Like, ‘Oh God, she’s some Facebook model.’”
After the somewhat awkward ride, Ervin found Graham on Facebook and messaged her, “Hey elevator lady. I like how you push those buttons. This is your security guard.”
“I was like, ‘Oh he’s funny. Great!’ I love funny,” she says. “So then we had this back-and-forth of elevator security guard and he asked me out for coffee.”
Despite being “so nervous” about their date, Graham had “so much fun.”
That all changed, though, when he didn’t pay for their drinks. “I was like, ‘Great I have another cheap guy,’” she admits. “It was like five dollars and 25 freaking cents and he didn’t pay. He said that a man always appreciates it when a woman attempts to grab her wallet.”
At that point, Graham was “through with him” and erased his number. He didn’t give up, though. A month later, when they ran into each other at church, he asked her out again and assured her that he’d pay this time.
“He said, ‘I have been taken advantage of and I have had women use me for a steak dinner. I don’t want that. I’m looking for a wife,’” she says.
Though Graham’s mom thought she was “crazy” and needed counseling for agreeing to give him another shot, she’s glad she did. “After our second date, we were inseparable,” Graham gushes. “It was amazing.”
As it turns out, Ervin was hoping to save sex for marriage too. The pair succeeded in that promise, having sex for the first time on their wedding night.
“We didn’t go into this as virgins, but this was a pact that we had made separately and when we met, boom,” she says. “We were both going into this without having sex.”
By waiting, Graham thinks they built “a friendship, communication, trust and responsibility for each other.”
Paltrow was clearly moved by the story, telling Graham, “I have to tell you in all my podcasts, this is the only time I’ve cried since Oprah. That is the sweetest story. That’s amazing.”
Watch the video below for more on Graham and Ervin’s life together: