Ashley Graham’s first boyfriend dumped her because he thought she’d get "as fat as [his] mum".
The 28-year-old model admits she was left feeling insecure and embarked on a number of casual relationships after the guy broke up with her when she was just 16.
She said: "He’s like, ‘First, you won’t have sex with me. And second, I’m afraid you’re going to be as far as my mum.’
"Never in my life had I felt more ugly, insecure and unworthy.
"That was the beginning of how I would relate and interact with my own body. I started seeking affirmation from boys because of one man’s words."
When she was 17, Ashley moved to New York and felt like she "dated half the city".
She said: "I did it all wrong. I dated a lot of the wrong guys and was having sex for a lot of the wrong reasons.
"I was just looking for love and affirmations."
The brunette beauty then found herself in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic, but admits she was too "insecure" to walk away from the damaging romance.
She said: "He was abusive in more than one way.
"He threw a couch on me. He came home drunk. I was sitting on it and he flipped it upside down. I remember my elbow being jammed but thinking, ‘He didn’t hit me, he was just really angry, you know?’
"You hear stories of women who say the exact same thing – I wasn’t showing up with bruises, he wasn’t beating me every day.
"I should have left, but I was an insecure woman in a terrible relationship who did not know herself."
After being urged to leave her boyfriend by her friends and family, Ashley – who is now married to Justin Ervin – was too "embarrassed" to tell them they were still in contact for almost a year
She told Britain’s Cosmopolitan magazine: "They would tell me, ‘You’re a 10. You need to put more value in who you are as a woman.’
"But it was hard. For six months to a year, I hid that I was still talking to him.
"I was embarrassed that I couldn’t step away.
"I don’t think that heartache made me a better person but it helped me figure out my worth."