Nicole Weider, 26, may seem an unlikely role model for young Christian girls. She started modeling when she was just 5 years old. By the time she was in high school, she was modeling lingerie for photo shoots in Los Angeles. In her late teens and early 20s, Weider ran with the rough Hollywood celebrity crowd, partying nonstop.
By the time she was 23, Weider's dissipation had turned into to a deep depression. She started feeling paranoid in front of the camera, afraid people were judging her. She began to isolate herself from everyone around her. But one of her friends, who was a Christian, kept praying for her and telling her God was not through with her life. At her friend's urging, Weider enrolled in community college and read "The Purpose Driven Life," by Rick Warren. From the midst of her despair, she asked God to deliver her. The depression slowly began to lift.
"After a couple months when I was feeling better, God revealed his plan for me, which was to empower young girls to not make the same mistakes I made," she said. "I don't want them to turn to Cosmo for advice and then be promiscuous and think they have to be sexy."
Weider now models only for jobs that align with her new lifestyle and works to inspire young girls to find their value in God rather than in their sexuality. Her website, projectinspired.com, provides Christian guidance and modest fashion advice for young girls. As part of her effort to encourage young girls, Weider launched a petition drive last year to make Cosmopolitan Magazine available only to adults.
Weider recently took a break from her campaign to talk about her work and what inspired her to take on Cosmo, arguably the leader of the fashion world.
How do you see yourself differently now that you are a Christian?
Truly, when Jesus said, 'Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,' honestly that is what happened to me. My mind does not think about worldly things anymore. Material possessions, I don't focus on them anymore. I wake up every day and want to be a good person, and I want to make God proud. It influences every single one of my actions. I always think about an eternal perspective. It's weird. I'm not motivated by things that I used to be motivated by - fame, or by money, or by my looks.
What happened to your career when you made your choice to model only modest clothing and subjects?
That narrowed a lot of my potential jobs. And also, I'm a size six, and not too skinny, so that alone knocks a lot of jobs out. So the way I'm built and with my values, I don't get a lot of modeling opportunities. It's just a hobby of mine, just for fun.
Do you tell girls that modeling can glorify God?
I do tell them that. With my job, I want to glorify God. I just try to be a light in that way, and say to girls, 'you can be beautiful without selling your body in a cheap way.'
What impact does Cosmo have on young girls?
Their message is completely dangerous, because they are telling girls that their only worth is based on their sex skills. They are telling them not only to have sex with a partner, but also, they have to do it in 75 freaky ways. They don't talk about actual healthy relationship tips. It's all about from the get-go, having sex. Give it up. You're not worth anything else.
On so many levels, it's harmful, especially for girls. When they are younger, in their teen years, they are very susceptible and very vulnerable to outside influences, and especially magazines that have a voice of authority, like Cosmo.
What do you say in response to help young girls?
I say first of all, your worth is not determined by your sexuality. The culture wants to tell you that you have to be sexy, but it is more important to have a strong sense of who you are through your character and your faith in God. That ultimately is more admirable and more beautiful than your push-up bra or how sexy you look. So I just tell them, 'Be a leader. Be faithful to God. Who you are on the inside is what is valuable and what will make you stand out from all the other girls.'
What is your goal for your campaign against Cosmo?
My ultimate goal is to make their magazine sold in a non-transparent wrapper, so not only do adults 18 and over purchase it, but young eyes can't see the graphic headlines on the cover. I'm just asking them to sell it only to adults.
What has been the impact of your message?
A lot of girls tell me personally, 'Thank you, Nicole, because I was depressed for a while that I don't look a certain way. I was contemplating suicide, but thanks to your positive message you give, every single day I realize my life is worth living and God has a plan for me.' I honestly have saved lives because of this. It's very powerful, but I give all the glory to God.