Beauty: More Than Skin Deep
About the Guest
Everyone has a calling. And for Rachel Lee Carter, it was modeling. Rachel talks about her life as a model--the long hours, the continuous focus outward appearance, and the battles with bulimia. Rachel shares how Christ transformed her perspective on beauty and how she came to identify and rest in Him.
Rachel shares how Christ transformed her perspective on beauty and how she came to identify and rest in Him.
Beauty: More Than Skin Deep
Bob: As a 19-year-old fashion model, working in New York, Rachel Carter had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. When she went to work the next day, she wasn’t exactly sure what to do.
Rachel: I wanted to be able to share with those people on the modeling shoot what had happened to me the day before, but they would have thought I was crazy. I didn’t know what to even say. “I had an experience,”—what is that all about?
I wanted to be able to defend my faith. I wanted to be able to share my faith. I wanted to be able to intelligently explain to them how they could know this true Jesus of the Bible, but I didn’t have any of that. I wasn’t equipped to do that. So, I decided, “I’m going to Bible college.” People thought I was crazy.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife® Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Rachel Carter joins us today to tell us how God led her out of fashion modeling to Bible college and then, back into the fashion industry. We’ll hear her story today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I had actually been spending some time thinking that, “Maybe I ought to consider a career change and think about modeling—until the conversation we’ve been having this week, and I don’t think that’s for me; but—(Laughter)
Dennis: Modeling what!?
Bob: Well, you know—a professional—they go, and they take your picture. You kind of look—sometimes, you have to look pouty. I can look pouty. Sometimes, you have to look happy. I can look happy—it just sounds like easy work!
Dennis: I think you’re doing what you need to be doing, Bob.
Bob: Don’t quit my day job; huh?
Dennis: Well, we have Rachel Lee Carter with us on FamilyLife Today. What do you think, Rachel? You’re a model. Do you think Bob ought to give up his day job?
Rachel: No, I think you’ve found your calling. (Laughter)
Bob: Is that so?—for more reasons than one.
Dennis: I think Rachel is in politics, too. That was very diplomatic.
Well, she has a career in modeling. She is a graduate of Word of Life and is married to Daryl—two sons, lives in North Carolina. She has written a book called Fashioned by Faith.
Earlier, I already asked a question of you, Rachel, that was kind of a gritty question right off the bat. I got to thinking about it, and I wanted to kind of come back to that question again and have you unpack why you answered like you did. I asked you the question, “If you had a daughter—currently, you don’t, but if you had a daughter—and she said, ‘Mommy, I’d like to be a model like you,’ would you encourage her to be a model?” You answered—
Dennis: Now, that’s really interesting. What I want you to unpack a bit is, “Why would you not want your daughter to head in that direction?” because you’ve given 20 years of your life to this industry.
Rachel: That’s right. It came with a lot of scars, a lot of scars, including bulimia and a lot of heartbreak, a lot of really having to find my identity in something. I tried to find it in the mirror; and then, when that failed, I tried to find it in other things. It wasn’t until I found my identity in Jesus, that now I am able to do this career. It’s such a difficult industry to be in because it’s all on outward appearance, and that is not what we are created to be.
My life verse is 1 Peter 3:4 which says, “…instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” It’s very difficult to find that place when everything around you is so focused on what is external. I would steer her from that—unless, of course, like I said, she has gone to Bible college, she knows the Word of God, she is an evangelist at heart, and she is—
Dennis: She dresses in Scripture verses; right?
Rachel: That’s exactly right, and she is—that would be—and like I said, “If God called her to that business, He would also have to let her momma know.”
Dennis: That really leads me to a second gritty question that I was thinking about asking, as well. This is going to sound kind of tacky; alright? I’m just going to establish that on the front-end. I’m just curious as to how you would answer it.
You spent most of your life—adult life—around the subject of modeling, and it is based upon the external. It’s about physical appearance. Do you ever get weary of people relating to you around your beauty?
Rachel: Yes, very much so. In fact, I remember being in Bible college. It was a small school, but there were 14 Rachels there—some Bible names—so, there were a lot of Rachels. I was considered “Rachel, the model.” I hated that! I was like, “Gosh, why can’t I be ‘Rachel, the Christian’; or ‘Rachel, the blonde’; or ‘Rachel, something else’?” I hated having that identity of just being—it’s just the model—just the model, just the model.
Bob: Prior to that, though, if we dialed it back five years and your identity had been “Rachel, the model”, that’s what you were living for; weren’t you?
Rachel: Oh, yes.
Bob: Talk about how the idol of beauty can warp somebody’s thinking.
Rachel: Well, your—the idol of beauty is what is in everyone else’s mind. So, right now, we are looking at media to establish what is beautiful—whatever media happens to say, “That’s what we follow.” For a long time, it was the Cindy Crawfords—it was the voluptuous—it was the sporty look. Then, all of a sudden Kate Moss comes along, and she’s five foot six; and she’s skinny and “waifey” and all that. Then, all of the sudden, that’s what’s beautiful.
So, we’re always chasing what’s beautiful when media can’t make up their mind what is considered beautiful.
Dennis: Just listening to you say what you just said about beauty—I’m reflecting back on another conversation, Bob, you and I had with three women here in this studio, where we were talking to women about their preoccupation with the mirror.
Men have a problem with lusting after women because of sexual allurement. That’s one of their main Achilles’ heels. I think for women, one of their Achilles’ heels, one of their temptation points, is the mirror. Don’t you agree?
Dennis: Preoccupied with, “How I look,” “What others think,” “How I’m doing on the beauty scale,”—which seems to be a very cruel standard, really.
Rachel: It is. I wonder if Eve dealt with any of that since she didn’t have any media around her to tell her what was supposed to be—you know, “What’s beautiful?” I think we are just so preoccupied with what is going on in media, with Hollywood, and what people are saying is supposed to be beautiful—that we try to measure ourselves up against that standard; and we can’t!
First of all, that standard is not what—it’s not even real. It is photoshopped. It’s dealt with, and it’s tweaked. All of these things are done to it. So, there’s not a standard of beauty; but you’re right—women do, as a whole, have a preoccupation, I think, with the mirror. That comes from something that’s deeper inside of them—which, is a longing to be appreciated, accepted, loved, and adored—all for her exterior.
Dennis: Really, the solution is back to where you found it—in the person of Jesus Christ—and finding your identity in Him—as a sinner, deeply broken, but redeemed by the God of the universe, Who loved you enough to send His own son to die for you. That completely transformed your own perspective of your inner being and gave you a purpose for your life.
Bob: That turning point, for you, actually came as a result of some of your fellow models who began talking to you about their faith; is that right?
Rachel: Yes. That was such a God-assignment for these girls. I don’t even know their names or where they are today, but there were two models on a job that I did in New York. They were sharing their faith with some other models there, and I kind of joined the group and listened.
I told them that, “You know, I grew up that way. I grew up believing that same thing; but now, I’m not so sure that’s what I believe anymore.” They said, “Well, why?” I said, “Well, you know, I mean—”
I shared with them how some of my other friends, “They’re really great people. How can I look at them in the face and say, ‘You know, you’re not going to heaven’? ‘You’re going to go to hell when you die if you die without Jesus.’ These people are more moral than I am! How can I defend that?” I said. “I’m really struggling with this a lot.”
There was so much of the introduction of New Age religion, in the modeling industry at that time, that I kind of delved into horoscopes, and having my chart read, and all of these other things that were just interesting to me. So, the Devil was having such a field day with me—pulling me in all different directions.
These models said, “Rachel, you just need to get really honest with God. Just get on your face before Him, and call out to Him, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Tell Him how you feel. He already knows you. He knows your heart, and just ask Him that, ‘If He’s real, to reveal Himself to you and to come into your heart and save you.’” So, I got home that night, and I just kept thinking the same thing over and over again—hearing what these girls had said to me.
I remember just getting on my knees; and I said, “I don’t even know if You can hear me. I don’t even know if You exist, but if You do, I’m dying inside. I’ve had the world by the tail. I’ve been mingling with celebrities, and I’ve been hanging out and doing all of these fashion shoots. It seems like life would be just absolutely wonderful, but I’m dying inside. If You are real, will You come into my heart and save me?”
I had such an experience that night. I felt the Holy Spirit in my presence. I felt Him infuse me. I felt something completely different. My doubts were gone. Everything about the agenda that I had in life began to change. The music that I was listening to—I went straight to my CD cabinet, and I threw out almost all of the music that I had been listening to because it was just like something turned a switch in my life that, “I can’t even listen to this music anymore.”
The swearing that would have been coming out of my mouth stopped. The people that I hung around with—I didn’t want to be around those people anymore. I wanted to find a church. I couldn’t wait to find a church. I wanted to talk to a pastor. I wanted to open up God’s Word and see what it had to say. Something totally, drastically happened to me that night in my apartment in New York. I knew, at that point, that, “God is real, and I don’t understand it all. I can’t explain it; but I know He’s real, and I know He saved me.”
Bob: The next day you were back in front of the lights, with the clothes on and the cameras going off. Did you look back and go, “Maybe that was just last night?”
Rachel: No. No, it was drastic. In fact, what happened was—when I went into work and I began to work around these models, I started to see the darkness in the industry. It was like God removed a veil for me; and I was able to see these girls that were bulimic, and sleeping around, the swearing that was going on, all the things that were going on behind the scenes, and the way that people were talking. It disgusted me, whereas, two days ago, I would have been the ring leader of all of that.
So, I was just—I felt like my skin was just crawling. I was convinced, “I’ve got to get out of here. I’m done with this. I don’t want to be in this business. I don’t want to be around these people. They are crazy. All of these people that are going to hell—I don’t want to be around all of them.” That’s how I felt!
Dennis: How old were you?
Rachel: I was 19.
Dennis: You’d been in the modeling industry, then, for what—?
Rachel: About a year and a half.
Dennis: So, did you, at that point, pack up and head back to North Carolina?
Rachel: Well, I guess it was about a year—not quite a year and a half. It was about a year. I decided, “I’m leaving this business. I don’t want to have anything to do with this.” I was going to move home to North Carolina; but before I did, I thought, “I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do for my next step.”
I decided—since I knew that my salvation was real, but I knew I couldn’t defend it—I wanted to be able to share with those people on the modeling shoot what had happened to me the day before, but I didn’t know how—they would have thought I was crazy. I didn’t know what to even say. ”I had an experience”—what is that all about?
I wanted to be able to defend my faith. I wanted to be able to share my faith. I wanted to be able to intelligently explain to them historically, and scientifically, and prophetically how they can know this true Jesus of the Bible. I didn’t have any of that. I wasn’t equipped to do that. So, I decided, “I’m going to Bible college,” and people thought I was crazy.
Dennis: From Manhattan—
Dennis: —to Upstate New York?
Rachel: That’s true. So, I did go home to North Carolina; but that was just to unload my stuff, repack, and move to Upstate New York.
Dennis: Was it hard to get into Bible college, with a career in modeling?
Rachel: They were very gracious. (Laughter)
Dennis: So, they did welcome you?
Rachel: They did.
Dennis: I can see some colleges maybe going, “Well, let’s talk about this a little bit.”
Rachel: Right. I wouldn’t have blamed them.
Dennis: I have to wonder, as you’re setting foot into Word of Life Bible College—I mean, you’re 20 years old now—you’re coming in with a little bit different experience of life than the other 18-year-olds who have just come off the high school campus—
Dennis: —from all over the country. I mean, you had lived a high-rolling life! Was that like culture shock?
Rachel: Yes, but I welcomed it so much. I was so eager to be immersed in God’s Word. That’s all I wanted. It was amazing, to me, how some kids would come up—they were just out of high school—that were just kind of rebellious. They didn’t want to be there; and I was just like, “This is all I want! This is awesome. Just pour into me!” I was so desperate to know more of God, to be able to really investigate the Scriptures, and know how to defend my faith. That’s all I wanted—was just more and more of God.
Bob: Any of the patterns of the past that followed you to Bible college? Any of the profanity that slipped back out? Any of the bulimia?—because you had some experience with bulimia; right?
Rachel: I did.
Bob: Did you find yourself brushing your hair, looking in the mirror, and going, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
Rachel: No, I think that I just was so fed up with where I had come from. I was ready to turn over a new leaf. So, that’s what I did in going there. I looked at the rules. They had all these rules and strict guidelines of what you had to do in going to Bible college. Some of them were really foreign to me because I was like, “This does not seem like something—can I do this?” but I was just so eager—I was just so eager to just be filled up because I was empty. I was totally empty, and I needed a cup that overflowed.
Bob: Did you try to change your appearance? Did you try to wear sweatshirts and put your hair in a ponytail or something—just—
Bob: —just so you wouldn’t look glamorous at all?
Rachel: (Laughter) No! Why would I do that?
Dennis: Bob, she’s a woman!
Bob: Well, that’s true. You were thinking that you might meet a guy at Bible college, too; right?
Rachel: Yes. That was—I mean, you know, if I’m going to go to Bible college, (whew!) I’m excited to meet the husband that God’s got for me there.
Bob: So—you wanted to defend your faith and find a man?
Rachel: Yes, all one in the same! (Laughter)
Dennis: Now, what about your career at that point? Did you give up all modeling?
Dennis: There is the story, though, of T.J. Maxx in Boston—
Dennis: —who called you.
Rachel: Yes. I had an agent—that came a little bit later—but I had an agent that called me and said that they wanted me to shoot for T.J. Maxx. That’s how I paid for the rest of college. (Laughter) I could only pay for part of it—going there. The rest of it got paid for by T.J. Maxx.
Bob: So, in the middle of Bible college, you’re off for a photo shoot?
Rachel: Yes. I was very squeamish about it because the thing was—I was—just because I didn’t go straight to Bible college, at that point, I still put on that “freshman 15”. It came on. Then, when I got to Bible college, it happened again. So, I didn’t care! I was like, “Hey, I’m just studying the Word of God. I just want to be here, and swim in Lake New York, and go hiking, and learn about the Lord.” I began to put on weight. They have good food there.
Then, when T.J. Maxx called and they wanted me to come do this job, I knew I wouldn’t fit the clothes. I knew I wouldn’t, but I needed my college paid for. So, I decided, “Okay, I’m just going to go do this.” I had a friend of mine that came up to me. I was so worried about flying out to Boston to do this job, and he came up to me. He handed me a slip of paper that said, “Do not worry about what you will wear,” from the book of Matthew. I just cried. I thought, “I’m going to trust You, Lord.” So, I did.
So, what ended up happening was—I got on this job. Typically, they would have a size 4 or a 6, there on the shoot. Well, I knew I wasn’t a 4 or 6. I was more like an 8. I was like, “Well, I’ll just do my best to squeeze into the clothes, and it’ll be good. I’ll just hold my breath or whatever it’s going to take,” and the clothes weren’t there. I saw them—they were doing my hair and makeup. Everything was going fine.
I could see people scrambling around. “Where are the clothes? Where are the clothes? We’re supposed to shoot these clothes.” People were looking at their watch. People started blaming each other. I could hear this going on while their doing my makeup. Then, we decided to break for lunch. Still, haven’t shot anything because there are no clothes.
They finally decided, “The clothes aren’t coming. We don’t know where they are. So, we’re going to go to a local T.J. Maxx and we’re going to pick up an outfit that we know that we need to shoot anyway.” The only size that they have was like a 12, and they put the outfit on me. It hung on me. It was too big.
They had to bring in a seamstress who would tailor that outfit to fit me precisely. It was—nobody ever scratched their head and wondered why I wasn’t fitting the—I mean, God had that totally planned out that I would wear these clothes—that they would be tailored to fit me. He said, “Do not worry about the clothes you will wear.” He might as well have written, “Rachel, do not worry about the clothes you will wear.”
To this day, I sit back and wonder, “Wonder where God was hiding those clothes?” Eventually, they had to have come, but God had another plan. He said, “I’ll take care of you. Don’t worry about that. You go back and study the Word of God some more.”
Dennis: Yes. As I’m listening to you, I’m thinking how your story really illustrates Romans 12, verse 1 and 2, “I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Your story really illustrates all of that. You were conformed to the world; but you met Christ and yielded to Him, and He transformed you. We have to be talking to a listener right now who’s been on the borderline—or maybe they’ve stepped over. They are in need of yielding. They are in need of surrendering. They are need of calling out in honest prayer, like you did, “God, I’m not even sure if you exist.”
I’m amazed, Rachel, God really does take us where we are. He’s not nearly as hung up on a prayer like that as we might be, but He meets us at that point. He does reach down, and He does invade our lives. When you encounter Jesus Christ, you’ll never be the same.
Dennis: That doesn’t mean you’re going to be perfect and all the issues are going to go away because there is more to this story, that we’re going to hear, as you continue your modeling career. The issues got tougher, and the boundaries did get higher as you moved forward.
Bob: Well, you outline a lot of that in the book that you’ve written, Fashioned by Faith, which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners may want to get a copy of that book. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Rachel’s book. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call us to order a copy at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
I want to go back, Dennis, to what you were just talking about. There may be some listeners who have never gone to God and said, “I acknowledge that I’m a sinner. I acknowledge that I’m in need of Your forgiveness. I want my life to be different.” On our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, there is a link you’ll see there that says, “Two Ways to Live”.
It’s a pretty clear explanation of what it is that we’re talking about—how a person can have a right relationship with God through what Jesus did on the cross. If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on that link, “Two Ways to Live”, it will give you that information.
If you’d like a copy of a book called Pursuing God—if you don’t know Christ and you’d like to know what it means to be a follower of Christ, that’s a free book that we’d love to send to you. Call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask about that book; or order a copy from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, we’re happy to send it out to you. We hope you’ll read it with an open heart, and an open mind, and that God will use that book to draw you to Himself.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on the resources we’ve talked about here today; or call us toll-free at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
We need to say, “Thank you,” to a handful of our listeners, those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with your financial contributions. I think the last numbers I saw are—about 10 percent of those who listen to FamilyLife Today will make an occasional donation to help support this ministry. Many of you made a donation at the end of 2011, and we appreciate that.
There are an even smaller number of listeners who are Legacy Partners, who support this ministry with a donation each month. We appreciate all of you. We appreciate your partnership with us. You make FamilyLife Today possible. You help cover the production and syndication costs for this program and keep us on the air and online. We just want to say, “Thanks,” again for your support, especially as the year came to an end. We really appreciate your partnership with us there.
We’re excited about 2012 and what God has in store for this ministry. Some new things we’re going to be telling you about—new ways that you can engage with your friends and family members to help build more godly homes. We’ll keep you posted on all of that. So, “Thanks again for your support.” We appreciate it.
We hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow. Rachel Lee Carter is going to be back again. We’re going to talk more about some of the tough choices that she has had to face as a fashion model.
Rachel: I knew God was showing me, “I don’t want you to model this anymore. I never wanted you to model this. This is where I want you to draw the line.” I had to go to my agent, at that time, and say, “Okay, you know that I don’t do dot, dot, dot, dot, dot; but also, I want you to add to my list of don’ts—I also don’t model lingerie.” She said, “Rachel, this is really going to affect your income. This is triple rate”—is what lingerie pay is—“triple your rate.”
I said, “I know that, but I just have to draw this line. I cannot do it anymore. This is just where it is.” They said, “Okay, that’s fine.” Right after that, I was on a job. I was just going to be modeling tops, and blouses, and trousers, and just—the demographic is like 45- to 65-year-old women. So, they book a 30-year-old model. Isn’t that funny?
I’m modeling these things—except the woman comes out and she says, “Hey, you know what? We have a make-up shot that we need to do that we missed from yesterday. The model had to leave, but we have this shot. We need you to make-up.” So, I say to her, “Well, I don’t model lingerie.” Well, instead of respecting my position, like my agency did, she was angry.
My agent called me on my cell. She said, “Rachel, listen. I know we’ve had this conversation; but I mean, she says it’s not provocative or anything. Would you please? Could you please just model the bra?” I said, “Pam, if my morals were for sale, I’d be a prostitute.”
Bob: We’ll hear what happened when Rachel drew that line tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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