Project Inspired: Inspiring teen girls in their faith

(Photo: Project Inspired/Nicole Weider)
Nicole Weider demonstrates one of her images before and after Photoshop has done its work

The entertainment industry is well known for its systematic, and often unhealthy, approach to the way women and girls should look and behave, and the increasing obsession with physical beauty is a cause of concern.

Nicole Weider, a Christian and former model and actress, believes it is time for a Hollywood voice to take the best interests of young women to heart.

She is the founder of Project Inspired, an online resource that covers a huge range of topics such as body image, dating, healthy and beauty tips, culture, modest fashion and articles about growing in faith for young women. It is home to the largest community of Christian teen girls on the web.

"I realised there weren't a lot of Christian websites out there for teen girls to read, and so I wanted to create one where they could come to know God as well as read about other current issues that all girls face," Nicole says.

"Using my experience as a platform, I'd like to be a voice that's out there to help others – especially young women – be their best selves. By questioning cultural norms, exposing the truth of media exploitation, and finding and sharing inspiration from scripture and my own life, I can show those who seek it what it means to be a person of value and confidence."

Nicole came to faith after moving to LA aged just 16 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. The reality of the Hollywood lifestyle soon became apparent, and she says she witnessed many of her friends "compromise their dignity" as they tried to find acceptance in the industry.

"The glamour, glitz and the lights had a dark side that terrified me," she says, and after sinking into depression, Nicole turned to God and eventually became a Christian.

She now wants to help other young women who become infatuated by the same messages and ideals that she did, and hopes to show them that there is a better way than buying into our sexualised and misogynistic culture.

"My personal inspiration is to reach as many girls as possible to share with them the message of hope and forgiveness through Jesus.

"I want to tell girls that they are perfectly made and beautiful just the way God made them," Nicole says.

She labels the portrayal of women in the media as "devastating", and has made it her goal to counteract that message with the good news of Jesus and the unconditional love he offers.

"This unrealistic expectation is having dangerous effects on women of all ages and ethnicities. When you look at issues such as self harm, eating disorders, bullying and suicide, it becomes apparent in just how many ways it manifests itself.

"Some of our favourite topics on Project Inspired are discussions about lies that come from the media and illustrations of how the media uses programmes like Photoshop to alter photos of women."

Nicole says that the only way we can effectively stand against this culture of constant self-improvement and the manipulation of the media is to share God's love and the message of hope that he brings.

"The most powerful way we can stand up together is to share the love that Jesus has with someone," she says. "To tell them that they are perfect the way God made them, and that earth and all its troubles are temporary, because we are meant for eternal life with God."

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