A white lace dress waits on a hanger.

A True Role Model

Nicole Weider was a 5-year-old when she started modeling. It was a lot of fun and she began to dream of becoming a famous international model. It would be years before she would awaken to the fashion industry’s dark side, years before she would find her true purpose through her relationship with the Lord.

While shopping one day, model Nicole Weider came across a group of preteen girls giggling over an issue of Cosmopolitan. She picked up the magazine with young celebrity Ashley Green on the cover to discover for herself what was so funny. She couldn’t believe what she found inside. The magazine was full of explicit material describing how to “sexually please” a boyfriend. She even read one article entitled, “How a Hookup Can Turn Into Love,” which explained how one-night stands can sometimes work out for the best. She was incensed.

She was outraged that a magazine full of such graphic material would feature a young model on the cover—a model with easy appeal to girls in a 12- to 14-year-old age bracket. She was angered enough to fight back after years working in the modeling industry, which uses sex to sell.

An Innocent Start

Despite starting her modeling career at the young age of five, Nicole escaped the dark side of the fashion world for many years. “When I was young, modeling was a positive experience because there was no expectation to be thin or sexy,” she says. “I could just be me and have fun in front of the camera.” That all changed when she entered her teenage years. “The pressure to be skinny and sexy was prevalent and made me feel bad.”

When she was just 15, her agent told her she should stop playing volleyball so her hips wouldn’t get big. “I’m 5 feet 10 inches and have kind of a curvy shape, and my agent said I needed to be a size 4,” she says. Her agent also told her what to eat: mostly salad and tuna fish.

The agency she worked for was large and respected. Nicole felt she had to take their advice. After all, they were the professionals, the ones who would know how a young woman could succeed in modeling. For eight years she did what they told her—until she came to know Jesus Christ and gained a new perspective on the industry.

As a Christian, Nicole moved forward, redefining her modeling career and starting a ministry that helps young women resist the constant messages pushing them toward early sex. She has been a female David hurling stones at a cultural Goliath—the fashion industry and its cohorts in advertising and media. Before looking at that, however, follow Nicole through more of the journey that brought her to this point.

The Seamy Side

At age 16, Nicole moved to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of becoming a cover girl. But she didn’t fit the rigid profile and was soon directed to swimsuit and lingerie work.

“As soon as I turned 18, I posed for a lingerie magazine,” she says, “I was wearing scandalous, skimpy stuff that made me feel uncomfortable.”

On one shoot for a popular men’s magazine, she recalls a photographer asking her to bend down in the grass and look up at him seductively. “It felt so degrading. When I saw the pictures in the magazine, it was embarrassing. I didn’t even want to show my mom.”

During those first years in Hollywood, Nicole plunged into the glamorous life of a starlet. She befriended many celebrities and got an insider’s view of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. “I believe the enemy was trying to destroy me and lead me in the wrong direction with celebrities and partying.”

One night at a trendy bar, she saw a famous singer who was obviously on drugs. A week later she learned he was dead. “I had tears in my eyes when I heard the news because I had just seen him the week before. I couldn’t believe how people’s lives were being destroyed by the industry.”

As Nicole continued to advance, something inside her changed. Gone were the days where she felt carefree in front of the camera. “I felt fearful, and I never felt pretty enough,” she says. “I always needed to lose seven more pounds … or get thicker hair or clearer skin.”

A turning point came at a photo shoot where she saw an editor retouching a series of photos featuring the famous model Gisele Bundchen. Nicole was amazed at what she saw. “He [the editor] said, ‘OK, now I’m fixing her nose … and now I’m smoothing her skin … and now I’m elongating her neck.’ He told me they do heavy retouching on all photographs, even ones of the most famous models.”

This was when it truly sank in for her that the entire modeling industry was built on illusion. “I was amazed because here was Gisele—one of the most beautiful women in the world—and her photos were being altered that much,” she says.

A New Role Model

At age 23, Nicole fell into a deep depression. The pressures of the industry had finally gotten to her, and while all of her friends were graduating from college and busy getting started with their lives, she felt stuck and alone. For six months she didn’t leave her house. She read countless self-help books and even tried medication. Nothing helped.

One day, her best friend asked if she could pray for her. “She asked God to heal me of my depression,” Nicole says. “She told me that God had a bigger plan for my life.”

As a result of that prayer, Nicole ended up giving her life to Christ and her depression began to lift. “I really felt like I could use everything I had been through to help other people.” She decided that it wasn’t too late to go back to school. She enrolled in college full-time and met her husband shortly thereafter.

For one of her college classes, a professor asked that she read the book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. The author, Francis Collins, was an atheist who became a devout Christian. Nicole says the book opened her eyes to God’s incredible power and encouraged her to seek more answers to life’s problems directly from the Creator Himself. She began reading her Bible as often as she could to learn more about God’s plan for mankind. “I really liked the book of Matthew because it was Jesus’ introduction to humanity,” she says. “I loved Jesus so much and wanted to hear everything He had to say.”

As Nicole grew in her faith, she realized that although she’d like to keep modeling, she no longer wanted to take part in shoots where sex was being used to sell products. Though this cost her some job opportunities (and extra income), it also opened the door for new modeling work that she felt good about.

Nicole Weider, a former model who started Project Inspired, a website offering positive inspiration and advice to young Christian girls.
Nicole Weider Photograph by Nicolaas De Brun

Project Inspired

As her relationship with Christ deepened, Nicole knew she wanted to help young girls avoid the mistakes she had made on her journey. “I wanted to warn young girls about everything I went through in Hollywood. About the pressures to be thin and to get plastic surgery.” Her desires culminated in the creation of Project Inspired—a website offering positive inspiration and advice to young Christian girls at www.projectinspired.com.

Project Inspired welcomes more than 90,000 visitors a month. Part of its draw is that Nicole hasn’t shied away from tackling current topics and speaking her mind on the state of our culture. She has questioned the antics of stars young girls often look up to, such as Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, while promoting more positive role models, such as Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Every Friday afternoon she talks personally with members of the Project Inspired community via video chat. This allows the girls time to ask for her thoughts and advice in person. Discussion often revolves around questions such as “How can I tell my boyfriend that I don’t want to have sex with him?” or “How should I handle a friend who betrayed me?”

Above all, Nicole is constantly pointing the Project Inspired community to the only one who can answer all their questions: Jesus Christ. In a link on her website entitled “The Christian Secret” Nicole says, “There are so many “secrets” out there that promise to put your life on the best path. I tried them all, but only one worked: Putting my faith in God.” That faith has turned a model into a truly beautiful role model for thousands of young women across the world.

Covering Up Cosmo

When Nicole encountered those young girls giggling over a sex article in Cosmo, she took it personally. “I was so mad about what I read that I made a video about it and posted it on Facebook. I got 80 comments on the video, so I could tell it was something people were interested in.”

After skimming the next issue of Cosmo, Nicole found that it, too, was full of graphic sex tips and had an extremely young celebrity on the cover to appeal to a preteen and teen audience. It was then that she decided to email everyone involved in publishing the magazine to express her concern. Her emails were all ignored … except one.

She heard back from a former editor who had recently quit her job at Cosmo because she was appalled by messages the magazine was sending young girls. She applauded Nicole’s effort and encouraged her to keep going. Nicole sent out a flurry of emails to all of Cosmo’s advertisers and many of the retailers that sell the magazine to make them aware of the material they were marketing to young girls, with little response.

She tried the Federal Trade Commission, the only agency that has the legal right to do anything about the magazine. They responded to her by saying “the commission doesn’t act on individual complaints.” Clearly she needed a new strategy.

That’s when she decided to start a petition at Change.org. The petition says that since it’s a crime to market pornographic sex tips to underage kids, Cosmopolitan magazine should be made available only to adults and should be sold in a nontransparent plastic bag. It now has more than 30,000 signatures.

CNN and Fox News recently picked up Nicole’s Anti-Cosmo story and momentum for the movement continues to grow. The FTC became more interested in Nicole’s complaints after they saw she had a petition signed by more than 30,000 disgusted consumers. They sent the Cosmo editor-in-chief a letter of concern, though no official action has been taken.

“The more signatures we can get the better,” Nicole says. “Right now I’m just trying to get the word out.”

Cosmetics sit on a table.

Five Things That Make a Person Truly Beautiful

by Nicole Weider

To me, the word “beautiful” doesn’t necessarily mean outer beauty. In fact, it’s more important how you are on the inside. I’m sure you’ve met many “beautiful” people, yet their mean and hurtful character makes them completely ugly. Here are my top five traits I think make a person oh-so-beautiful!

1. Be a positive person!
No one wants to be around someone who is negative all the time, constantly complaining or whining about their looks, their job, their mom, whatever. The world is already full enough of negativity. Be positive and stand out from the crowd!

2. Speak about yourself in a happy & affirmative way!
If you speak about your qualities and strengths of your character while continually working on what you think you could do better, you will shine.

3. Have a strong sense of faith in God!
So many people nowadays are only concerned with their appearance or how much money they have. A person who has faith in God and accepts His love and puts Him first, that person is the most beautiful because she’s the most fulfilled.

4. Run your own race & stay true to who you are!
It’s so easy to get swept away into what other people think is “cool” and compromise values in the process. Be who you are meant to be. Don’t conform to what the crowd is doing—stand out in your own unique way! Trust in God and let your inner beauty shine through! It’s not all about having the latest jeans or the best hair style.

5. Give unto others!
It doesn’t need to be money or material things. Be openly generous, helping out friends or your parents by looking after their dog, picking up the kids from school or donating clothes to Goodwill. Generous people are truly beautiful because they don’t always put themselves first and they look out for the best interest of others. God says, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you” Deuteronomy 16: 17 NKJV.

The righteous keep moving forward,
and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.”
Job 17:9 NLT
Portrait of model Kylie Bisutti
Kylie Bisutti Photograph by Nicolaas De Brun

A Bright Angel

When model Kylie Bisutti decided to quit her job with Victoria’s Secret, it made headlines around the world. Kylie is the beauty who won a coveted position as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, picked from among 10,000 girls to walk in the company’s annual runway show—a show that made models Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum household names.

Kylie’s dream had always been to make it to the top of the modeling industry. But as she climbed the ladder, she found herself thrust into a culture centered on self. “I thought that being in the limelight and having fame and status would make me happy, but it made me feel worse off.”

She achieved her goal of becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel only to shock the world by canceling her contract. As she read her Bible, she came to understand what God wanted for her. “The Bible talks about what a godly life should look like and it also talks about what my life looked like—a life offtrack.”

After reading about the true beauty of a virtuous and godly woman in Proverbs 31, Kylie was deeply convicted. “When the word of God crossed over with my desires, it showed me where my heart truly was,” she says. “I was living selfishly, seeking attention, slowly tossing out my morals.”

While some questioned her choice to quit Victoria’s Secret, others—even other models—have been supportive. Kylie let everyone know she wanted to save her body for her husband and would no longer work with companies that use sex to sell products. Such a bold decision meant a tremendous sacrifice, but Kylie was surprised as many new modeling opportunities cropped up.

“My relationship with Christ has grown tremendously through this,” she says. “There has been a 180-degree change in my self-image. I now place my value and confidence in the Lord versus what man thinks of me, and I feel better about myself.”