A CONVERSATION WITH JENNIFER STRICKLAND
Jennifer Strickland is a former model, a published author, a graduate with a master's degree in writing and literature, a wife and mother. I spoke to her recently about her groundbreaking book, Girl Perfect, and found her to be passionate, kind, intelligent, and purposeful.
Jennifer, how did you first enter the modeling industry?
My mother got me involved when I was eight years old. I wasn’t interested in ballet or sports, and a local modeling school was giving a “Cinderella class.” It seemed like a great fit for me at the time. It helped me deal with my height, stand up straight, and gain some poise.
How did your parents feel about you becoming a model?
My parents were very supportive of me pursuing my dreams. They wanted to give me every possible chance to succeed in anything I wanted to do. Later on, while living in Europe from the age of 17 to 23, I hid a lot of things from them, mostly because I didn’t want to shatter their image of me and of the “exciting life” of a professional model. I wanted them to be proud of me and I didn’t want them to know what life was like behind the scenes, because then they wouldn’t have supported it. I wanted the freedom to travel as a young woman on my own and to make money.
Can you give me some examples of ways that being in the modeling industry hurt you as a young girl?
It really hurt my sense of self worth, teaching me that the only important thing was what I looked like. I was a “thing,” a mannequin, a product to be bought and sold. It taught me that my value was based on my outward appearance.
What turned your life around?
After doing the Armani shows in Milan, I hit bottom as a result of an eating disorder, drug use, and loneliness. I couldn’t maintain the façade anymore. Like many of the other models, I was just too tender of a person to be considered a “thing.” I became ill and lost my “good looks,” which caused me to experience even more rejection.
Some people reached out to me in Munich, sharing the Gospel with me, taking me to church, and even giving me a Bible. As I read the Word, my eyes were opened to the fact that there was more to life than modeling, and all that involved, and that there could be hope and a future for me.
Tell me about the title of the book, Girl Perfect. What does that mean?
The search for “perfect” is something we all want and are taught can be found. According to the fairy tales of the world, we are told that we can find the perfect love, the perfect dream, the perfect future … and the world tells us we need to have the perfect body, the perfect look, the perfect success story.
Girl Perfect is about every girl in search of perfect, in search of something that will fill the longings of our hearts. I feel compelled to tell girls and women that what they see in the magazines is a complete façade, and that just because a girl looks perfect in the picture it says nothing about the fulfillment she has in her personal life. Pictures can be very deceiving, and I don’t want yet another generation of young women comparing themselves to the women found in magazines and feeling “less-than.” I’m desperate for them to know about the reality of the struggles of models’ lives, and to realize that the world’s perception of “perfect beauty” is an illusion.
In Chapter 1, you talk about guys and sexuality. What do you think the world is teaching girls about this?
The world is telling girls and young women that their sexuality is their source of power and worth. Affirmation is the longing to be approved of and validated. The world teaches girls that their bodies and sexuality are the source by which they will receive approval and validation. But the truth is, God validates us by one thing: the cross. He made us, He loves us; we are His creations and His daughters. But even further, He says our bodies are His temples where He desires for His spirit to dwell and reign. Christ on the cross is the perfect picture of His love for us — it is our source of affirmation.
When our affirmation comes directly from who we are in God’s eyes and how valuable and special we are to Him, we do not need to use our sexuality as a way to get that affirmation. We become so much more secure in who we are and how precious our sexuality and bodies are.
How have you been able to use your experiences to enrich other girls’ and women’s lives?
I’ve been getting letters from girls all over the world about the impact the book has had on their lives, so that is a huge blessing. I also speak at women’s and girls’ events across the country, sharing my story and teaching them what God sees as real, lasting beauty. I love sharing the biblical picture of beauty and helping women base their identity and self-worth on who they are in God’s eyes alone.
For more information about Jennifer’s ministry, go to: www.jenniferstrickland.net.
Paula Friedrichsen is a writer and speaker who lives in Central California with her family. Visit her Web site at www.pfministries.com.
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