Thursday, September 30, 2010

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Leah Darrow was one of the final contestants chosen to become America’s next top model. She had an epiphany about the objective nature of the fashion industry and quit the show. Leah talks to True Feminism about her journey.

SD: How did you make it to America’s Top Model?

LD: I auditioned in St. Louis, and made each cut until I was one of the final 14 girls on the Show, Cycle 3. While on ANTM, everything moved so fast, you didn’t have time to think, you just did what they asked of you, because if you didn’t, you were scared of being a target at the judges panel and being eliminated. I remember being scared, lonely and, at times, sad. I was very aware that we all were being watched and video taped, and I had a sense that who I was, was not good enough.

SD: Why did you quit the modeling industry?

LD: I remember my Catholic faith being called into question while on the Show. Tyra Banks, asked me at the judges panel, “Are you Catholic?” This question hit my heart like a pound of bricks, I felt suffocated because by this point in my life, my Catholic faith took a back seat role; I was not authentically Catholic. I lied to Tyra. I told her I was Catholic. Since then, I have realized that we lie sometimes when we wish we were the lie, that the lie would be true. We lie about our status, who we know, our bank accounts, our families; I lied about being Catholic because I truly wanted to be Catholic...and wasn’t.

I was asked to model for an international magazine. The shoot started out like most photo shoots, hair, make-up, and wardrobe. When the stylists brought out the rack of clothes for me to choose from, they were all itty-bitty. I knew that the goal of the shoot was ‘sexy’. I felt uncomfortable thumbing through the clothes and didn’t have the courage at that time to walk away. I thought to myself, “This is a job, be a professional - just do it.”

In the middle of the photo shoot, I had an experience in which my entire life was finally made clear - and the reality was that it was completely chaotic and not in sync with my faith, that I held dearly. I wanted to be loved, I wanted attention but I also wanted to be pure, faithful and authentic. The clarity that happened in front of my eyes, during the shoot, was like a huge hit to my ego but also to my heart. It was so clear to me at that point, that I was the furthest thing from an authentic person. I had to change my life (I wanted to change my life) because I hated living the lie. My life surrounded itself with making sure I always looked good, I desperately cared about what others thought, I based my self worth on the next Vogue magazine or what my boyfriend said about me. It was a terribly wretched way to live and I just couldn’t bare it anymore.

Before I knew it, the shoot was concluding and I ran to my wardrobe room, took off their clothes, put on mine and ran out. I cried, mascara running down my face, while walking down 5th Avenue. Sadly, a sight many New Yorkers seemed to be familiar with, as no one approached me or looked in my direction.

When I reached home, and after many days of crying, I did the only thing a girl can do ... I called my Dad. I told him over the phone that if he did not come and pick me up, I was going to lose my soul. There was an eerie silence on the phone and my Dad then said, “Ok baby, I’m coming to get you.” My father drove literally halfway across the country to come pick me up. He showed up on my doorstep with the largest smile I have ever seen. I was clearly upset, distraught, and depressed but my Dad was happy and joyful. He said, “I am so happy to see you! I can’t wait to see Central Park and go to Carnegie Deli. But first... We’re going to confession!” My Dad told me that if I just wanted a ride home, I should have called Southwest Airlines; but if I wanted help, he was there to take me home - and Church is home.

SD: Who are your role models?

LD: Jesus Christ and His Mother, Mary.

SD: What is your definition of an ideal man?

LD: Someone who knows the definition of a real man in light of Catholic scared tradition and teachings.

SD: Why do you think it is difficult for girls to live modestly in our culture?

LD: I think it is difficult to live modestly when you are surrounded by such things like Lady Gaga, Abercrombie & Fitch, MTV and People Magazine. These influences do not care about your soul or if you are loved or not. They want you to believe that fantasy is reality. The music, fashion and entertainment industries all promote a lifestyle consisting of empty promises. All that glitters is not gold.

SD: Do you have to sacrifice fashion for modesty?

LD: A true fashionista is someone who wears fashion; not someone who wears her body as fashion. Clothing makes a statement about ourselves - it can tell us what we believe, where we are going, etc... Fashion is a powerful and quiet communicator. You only sacrifice fashion when you use your body to make a statement instead of your own personal style. Anybody can show their legs, cleavage, or wear an outfit 2 sizes too small ... It takes someone who respects her body enough to acknowledge its sacredness and dresses it accordingly without losing style - now that’s a true fashionista.

SD: What advice do you have for parents whose children may be interested in modeling or may have trouble accepting the call to modesty?

LD: It is true that not all modeling is bad but I would severely warn parents against putting time, effort and sacrifice into their children’s modeling before they put the time, effort and sacrifice into their faith. Modesty is not just about covering up. Modesty is about revealing the beauty of the soul through faith. When our youth are becoming more and more naked in their fashions, we must look to see how they are understanding themselves through the scope of faith. There is obviously a disconnect.

One of the ultimate ways to humiliate a person in front of others is to strip them naked. By doing this, you strip the person of their dignity. Today’s fashion is doing just that - striping our youth of their dignity by these barely-there fashions. This is beyond immodesty. Immodesty used to describe (in fashion) mini skirts, super tight and low cut tops. Today’s fashion trend starters just have less and less clothes on, period. Have you seen Lady Gaga? All she is is a leotard and clown make-up. [Pop culture] Fashion has become a circus.

1 comment:

St. Ursula said...


This young woman is fantastic. She has made the connection between one's faith and how one lives, something that is not easy to do with all the programming in this culture:

...that it [the modelling lifestyle] was completely chaotic and not in sync with my faith

All the readers here should go to her website and watch her video, especially if they are raising daughters.