Former Maxim and Victoria's Secret model Nicole Weider shares why she walked away from a lucrative modeling career to follow Jesus and why she's now using her influence to help other women and girls use their beauty for good.
Weider founded the largest online community for teen girls in 2010 called Project Inspired. The initiative focuses on helping girls find their inner beauty. In 2012 she started a petition on Change.org called the "Anti-Cosmo Mission" to combat the dangers posed by Cosmopolitan magazine's strong sexual content that's targeted at teenagers.
Below is an edited transcript of an interview with Weider in which she shares why she walked away from modeling to use her experiences to improve girls' self-esteem and confidence.
Can you share your testimony. You were a model in a very provocative industry, what made you walk away and go another direction?
Weider: I realized that being a model was truly not what it was cracked up to be. I felt degraded, that I was never "perfect" enough, and being judged only on my appearance was hurting my self-esteem. I realized I wanted more for my life. I rediscovered my faith that I had as a little girl, and it changed my life because I was passionate about using my gifts for God instead of the empty modeling industry.
You praised Walmart on their campaign to ensure all retailers require Cosmopolitan to be sold only to those 18 and older. Since openly speaking out about Cosmo targeting teens with adult messaging, what has been the response?
Weider: I am so happy that Walmart has decided to remove Cosmopolitan from the checkout aisles of over 5,000 stores. That is a huge victory. That means thousands of less copies being sold and thousands of less risqué covers being put in front children's faces. (And teens, and adults too.) It's a huge victory. I was praying for Cosmo to be removed or limited for so long, and to see this come to pass in God's perfect timing is just incredible.
What is the message you'd like to leave with young women everywhere?
Weider: That they are beautiful just the way God made them. To not get caught up in the comparison trap. It is too easy on social media to feel like you need to compare yourself to other people. What I do often is, I just make a post about Jesus, and many times I just sign out and not scroll through a lot. To remember that we all have different callings for our lives. We are all uniquely made and equal. My most important advice is to focus on the character of our heart, because that is what matters most to God.
The MeToo movement has gained a lot of traction, what are your thoughts on it?
Weider: I commend the women who have come forward with their experiences and stories. I'm sure many times it wasn't easy to be vulnerable with other people in fear of being judged. I hope that through this movement men will know that the time is over for sexual misconduct. No woman should have to go through that. If this movement saves even one person from being mistreated and forgotten about then it's worth it.
Do you believe the industry will change?
Weider: I definitely believe it can change and it is changing. I read recently that directors and producers can no longer hold castings in private hotel rooms or residences, and that meeting and hiring (or interviewing) actresses needs to be in a professional work environment. That men working in the industry (and frankly, all men) will be held accountable for mistreating women, because now women will speak up.
How would you advise young girls who are aspiring to work in the industry?
Weider: Truthfully, I don't recommend modeling as a profession to any young woman. No matter how beautiful the person is. It's just not worth it to be judged only on how you look. However, pursuing music, acting or other elements of the industry can definitely be fulfilling if their passion is always focused on what the Lord wants and making choices that are going to honor God. It is possible to be a part of storytelling and movies, and I believe God gave us unique and creative gifts for a purpose.
For instance, I am shooting a faith-based movie this summer, playing a wedding planner named Clara Conover. I'm so excited about playing her and this movie will honor God. It's possible to pursue your God-given passion but to be a part of projects that are inspiring, good, God-glorifying and uplifting.
What message would you like to leave with men who are constantly being bombarded with secular worldviews?
Weider: I would say to stay in God's Word daily, [and] to make choices and decisions that honor and glorify God each day. Although none of us are perfect, reading God's Word and promises can help us all make wise decisions. Also to guard their hearts and minds and stay away from derogatory pictures and videos. Social media and the internet can easily get men caught up in sin. It's a slippery and scary road that the devil uses and gets people trapped in. Also to surround themselves with other believers that care about their soul and will uplift them and encourage them in their faith.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our CP audience?
Weider: My main message is this: Jesus loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life. When I was doing things my way I was always trying and striving but nothing was working. It was only when I let go and Let God (I love that phrase) that my life completely changed for the better, because I made choices that honored Him and gave Him glory. The second thing is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said those are the most important commandments and I try to live by them every day.
For more information on Weider and her ministry, visit nicoleweider.com