How Ashley Graham Became the Host of HGTV’s 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge'

'Somebody’s going to want to buy the house like this!' she exclaimed. Is that someone in the room with us now, Ashley?

From: Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge

Photo by: Brock Zych

Brock Zych

Related To:

If Ashley Graham leading HGTV’s all-star roster of contestants through their creation of a life-size, fully-functional Barbie Dreamhouse reminds you of a gleeful girl hosting her friends (and sharing all her favorite toys) at a slumber party, there’s good reason for that — and we’re not just talking about her marabou-trimmed, electric-pink pajama set.

The supermodel and body activist has a unique connection to Barbie, and what went down behind the scenes of this once-in-a-lifetime makeover made it even more special.

Work at the Dreamhouse Was a Lovefest

When the contestants arrived, they were as thrilled to see Ashley as she was to see them. “I love that she was chosen as the host because she represents today’s woman, and it’s super cool,” said Married to Real Estate’s Egypt Sherrod, who stepped up with her husband and partner Mike Jackson for the first round of competition.

Photo by: Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

Luxe for Less’s Anthony Elle had a pure style moment with Ashley: “I thought [you were] going to be pretty and beautiful and perfect, but damn, you're gorgeous,” he told her. “Let me go put on a lash!”

Ashley was also thrilled to see guest judge and designer Christian Siriano, who has collaborated with her in the human-scale fashion world and created red-carpet looks for Barbie. "Christian’s never made me feel like I have to fit in to something," she explained. "He’s always made me feel like I already am something, and I think that’s how he’s going to make each of the contestants feel, too."

Ashley and Barbie Go Way, Way Back

Ashley remembers playing with her aunt’s old-school vintage Barbies when she herself was a child. “Would I have looked at my body differently if I were playing with Barbies that looked like me? Would I have accepted my thighs and my round arms and my round stomach a little bit more? Probably,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

In January of 2016, Mattel announced an expansion of its “Fashionistas” line to include Barbies with tall, curvy and petite body types for the very first time, and Ashley praised them for that progress. Mattel was listening, and the company promptly asked her to help create a special-edition Ashley Graham Barbie.

“I got to go to the Mattel headquarters and actually pick out her hair, the shape of her eyes and her lips, and her nose,” Ashley recalls. She even has wider hips than the OG Barbie, and she has a little lower belly fat.” One more key detail: “She had to have her thighs touch. No ands, ifs or buts about it, she recalls. “It was important that the Barbie resembled me as much as possible. The thighs touching was one way to show young girls that it’s OK for your thighs to touch, despite society saying that a ‘thigh gap’ is more beautiful.”

Ashley-the-Barbie wears a look inspired by an Ashley-the-woman red-carpet appearance, including a form-fitting Opening Ceremony dress, a Sonia Rykiel cropped denim jacket and Pierre Hardy boots. To say that the two are close is the understatement of the year.

Ashley Feels Right at Home at Barbie’s Place

Ashley tasked the HGTV Barbie Dreamhouse contestants with creating features that are “toyetic.” She told them, “Every Dreamhouse has those playful toy-like elements. They can be a surprise or dual-purpose. You need to create at least one of them in your spaces, so let your imaginations run wild.” Since Ashley inspired a Barbie — one with a doll-sized version of the Glamour Woman of the Year award she won in 2016, no less — she’s got a pretty solid understanding of the toyetic vibe.

Which is not to say she was prepared for what she saw in the finished house, mind you. “I didn’t know what I was going to walk into, but I’m glad I walked into this,” she said.

From: Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge

Photo by: Brock Zych

Brock Zych

On the kitchen: “I’m obsessed with this color palette, too. This is above and beyond. This is … I was not prepared!"

On the primary bath: “You’re joking! This is freakin’ cool.”

On the primary closet: [Wordless screaming.]

On the primary closet, II: “This is exactly how I want my closet to look. This is exactly what a girl would want her closet to look like.”

Ashley Graham: Perfect Host, Not-so-Perfect Judge

“It’s a hard life being Barbie: All this hair and makeup, these high heels,” Ashley joked. (In fact, she had a three-person glam squad for the show, including her hair and makeup artists and a stylist who toted around multiple shades of pink thread 24/7, to be ready for any and all fashion situations.) “I’ve had so much fun hosting this show, because I love Barbie.” Her playful pointers for hosts-to-be: “Have fun, smile, fake it ‘til you make it, and make sure the mic’s on.”

Photo by: Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

She’s well aware that she’s not the woman for the job when it comes to rendering a verdict at the finale. “This is going to be really hard for all the judges," she said. "I don’t know how they’re going to actually make a decision at the end of the day. Somebody’s going to want to buy the house like this!

Photo by: Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

Is Ashley on the phone with a real estate agent here? We’ll never tell.

The four-part Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge special premieres on HGTV July 16 at 8|7 and is available to stream on discovery+ the same day. Keep up with all things Barbie Dreamhouse at HGTV.com/Barbie.

Next Up

Interview: Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt Win HGTV's 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge'

HGTV sits down to chat with Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge champions Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt of 100 Day Dream Home. Plus, watch their superfan Marco's amazing reaction to his team's exciting win.

Go Behind the Scenes of HGTVs ‘Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge’

HGTV's four-part YouTube series gives us an in-depth look at the making of Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge. Watch episodes weekly right here.

Take a Sneak Peek at HGTV's 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge' Home

Progress report: The Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge is on. HGTV stars are working around the clock to deck out the Los Angeles-based home in Barbie-cool furnishings from across the decades.

Here's How Jonathan Knight Went From NKOTB Member to 'Farmhouse Fixer'

His love of homes began long before he became a teen heartthrob.

How 'Small Town Potential' Hosts Davina and Kristen Met and Fell in Love

We've got some insider info on one of HGTV's newest power-couple duos, Small Town Potential's Davina Thomasula and Kristin Leitheuser.

Get to Know the Hosts of 'Renovation Wild'

Grant and Lynsey Cumings navigate life and renovating a safari resort in The Lower Zambezi National Park in the African bush.

All the Details on HGTV's 'Battle on the Beach' Season 3

Our favorite HGTV-hosts-turned-mentors are back and ready for a beach-reno battle. Who will take home the Season 3 win?

Kim Wolfe Returns to HGTV in 'Why the Heck Did I Buy This House?' Season 2

Our favorite Survivor-winner-turned-HGTV-host is back with more savvy home renovations. HGTV has all the details on Season 2 of Why the Heck Did I Buy This House? with Kim Wolfe.

HGTV Stars Share Behind-the-Scenes Details from Season 5 of 'Rock the Block'

The latest season may be set in paradise, but the fan-favorite competition is set to be full of new challenges we've never seen before.

On TV

Bargain Block

10am | 9c

Rock the Block

11am | 10c

Home Town

12pm | 11c

Home Town

1pm | 12c

Home Town

2pm | 1c

Home Town

3pm | 2c

Home Town

4pm | 3c

Home Town

5pm | 4c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Home Town

6pm | 5c

House Hunters

7:30pm | 6:30c

House Hunters

8:30pm | 7:30c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

House Hunters

12am | 11c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30am | 2:30c
What's Hot

Home Town

All new January 7 at 8|7c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Luxury Home Giveaways

HGTV Smart Home

A sophisticated Southwestern home in Santa Fe, New Mexico

HGTV Dream Home

A modern mountain getaway in Morrison, Colorado

HGTV Urban Oasis

A Southern-inspired escape in Louisville, Kentucky