By Nicole Weider
I didn’t realize it at first, but I see now that my life has always been guided by Jesus Christ. I did not set out to become a mentor for young Christian teen girls, but that is exactly what the Lord had in mind for me. Instead, I had my sights on Hollywood stardom and I believed that being a model or movie star would bring me fulfillment. I could not have been more wrong! In my book, Into the Light: My Journey from the Glare of Hollywood to the Glow of God’s Love, I talk about how my Hollywood dreams quickly turned into a nightmare, and I fell into a deep depression that only a spiritual experience would heal. Now, I am strong through my faith in Jesus Christ and I am providing the inspiration and guidance that I never had to teens around the world through my website, Project Inspired, which reaches the largest community of Christian teen girls in the world.
Ever since I was a little girl, I believed that stardom was my purpose in life. Growing up without a father, I also wanted to make sure the world approved of me. I wanted the attention and needed the spotlight. When my family moved to Los Angeles to support my dream, however, I was not prepared for what I encountered. I was enrolled in a school in an affluent community. There were BMW’s, Mercedes, and other expensive cars in the parking lot. All the kids wore designer jeans and the latest fashion styles and I could not afford any of that. I could feel their judgments. They said mean things to me. I was being judged by how much money I had, what I was wearing, and whether or not I had a fancy car. It felt awful and I did not fit in.
In order to feel cool and special, I started skipping school and hanging out with the Hollywood crowd. In the beginning it was fun. I started modeling, and found an agent. The agent pushed me to lose weight and told me I didn’t have the body type to ever become a high fashion model. He suggested swimsuit and lingerie work, which was not what I wanted to do. Many of the modeling and acting jobs I got were disappointing and painful because of one devastating issue after another. Through it all I kept hearing the message that I was not good enough.
I kept pursuing this career despite the pain it was giving me. I had a lot of crazy experiences in Hollywood. Two of the most eye opening things I remember are when I was chosen to be a Victoria Secret body double. When I was working on the commercial, it was a dream-come-true. I noticed, however, one the main super models, Giselle, had the most beautiful hair and I complimented her. She said, “Oh, Nicole, these are hair extensions!” Then when we had a break the photographer’s assistant showed me how he was retouching all the images of these beautiful girls. The finished images all looked so false and impossibly perfect. It was really disheartening to me. When I got my own assignment modeling lingerie for Maxim, I was told to stick out my chest and look seductively into the camera. It just felt so uncomfortable to me and I was embarrassed with the final pictures. Through these jobs, it became clear to me that my value was only about the superficial me and not the real me. I was not feeling good about myself.
I started running on empty, full of fear and anxiety. In my book, Into the Light, I go into detail about my darkest moments, when I wanted to die. I firmly believe I battled the supernatural dark forces, and they almost won. Yet I also believe God showed them to me so He could save me.
I thank the Lord for my one true friend in high school, Christina. She reached out to me and did a powerful prayer intervention with another Christian friend. Satan did not like it one bit at all. He was convinced he had me because I wanted to end it all. However, Christina and her friend engaged in what I believe was spiritual warfare-for me. Then James 5:16 held true: “When a believing person prays, great things happen.” (New Century Version)
We began going to church together and she explained how my past did not matter and that Jesus had a purpose for my life. I started praying and my life started getting better. The dark clouds that had been hovering over my life for so long began to dissolve. I started having God-incidences, so I knew I was on the right path. In my mind, they were not coincidences; they were a signal from God. I started listening to God more and more and trusting that inner voice because of the signs I was getting.
I read everything I could about the Christian life, poring over my Bible most of all. I was hungry for God’s word and fell in love with Jesus. He was so kind and wise. I now understood that I was the precious daughter of God and He began to knit together all the broken places of my heart. Now I was stronger and I was in a good place emotionally. God brought me miracle after miracle, including the love of my life, Eric. He was very interested in my dream to help teen girls and he immediately caught the vision of the positive difference it could make in a young girl’s life. He helped make it happen and Project Inspired was born.
One of the things I share with the girls is that unfortunately the media never shows them the dark side of the glamour: the loneliness, the eating disorders, the desperation, and the depression. The teens see images that are not real; it is a false reality. It is just smoke and mirrors and is damaging to a girl’s self esteem! They think that these external things will make them happy, just like I used to think. Yet the message I give girls through my website, Project Inspired, is that real beauty comes from within. I also share that their relationship to God is the most important relationship they can have. He always has their best interests at heart, He has a purpose for everyone, and He will never disappoint them.
I get so many hundreds of hand written cards and letters telling me how much they appreciate the messages I share. They love the community, and the ability to connect with other teens facing the same issues. They ask for help with their depression or what to do if their friends are gossiping with them. Sometimes I get questions about appropriate wardrobe choices, if their parents are out of town. Once a week we have a live video chat about God and I answer their tough questions. My goal is to empower these girls and tell them how beautiful they are and how they are loved by God!
I am most excited to be writing another book for teen girls and the issues they confront today. It will be published by Zondervan, a division of Harper Collins, and is due out in the fall of 2015. The book will cover all issues teen girls face, including bullying, peer pressure, dating, and dressing in a modest fashion. In addition, I will be starting a fashion blog in order to reach a broader audience and let girls know they do not have to compromise their belief in God if they want to feel stylish and fashionable. I’m trying to send a message to all women that you can be who God created you to be without the pressure of others trying to fit you into a certain mold. God created you to shine, and that happens by being authentic in who you are.
Nicole’s book, Into the Light, is available for free download at www.projectinspired.com.