In December 2011, then 19 year-old Victoria Secret Model Kylie Bisutti stunned the fashion industry when she chose commitment to Christ and her husband over fame and fortune, making the switch from supermodel to role model. She was back in the news this past week with the release of her new book “I’m No Angel: From Victoria Secret Model to Role Model.” In the book, Kylie shares her story of early years struggling to make it big in the cut-throat world of modeling, her “big break” winning the Runaway Angel competition, followed by the disillusionment and spiritual warfare that increased with her new found success. She goes into great detail about her personal struggles with inadequacy, self-esteem, and the never ending quest for approval from a world that says you aren’t tall enough, skinny enough or whatever the case may be. But what ultimately led Kylie Bisutti to leave the industry and what is the message she seeks to spread today?
VICTORIA’S SECRET: THE INDUSTRY
Before we get there, let me give you some background on the industry and the context from which Kylie Bisutti operated in prior to leaving. Victoria’s Secret is America’s #1 specialty retailer of women’s intimate apparel, operating approximately 1,000 shops throughout the United States and Canada. Some credit Victoria’s Secret as single handily transforming America’s conception of lingerie by pioneering “sexy underwear as fashion” and “lingerie as mainstream entertainment,” which has many societal manifestations and implications of which warrants another discussion.
Another cornerstone of their brand is Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and the Secret Angel (the brand’s most visible spokeswomen) which was started back in 1995 but has grown into a national phenomenon since. Kylie Bisutti was just nineteen years old when she beat out more than ten thousand other contestants to win the coveted title of Victoria’s Secret Runaway Angel, which was nationally televised and captured the attention of millions of viewers worldwide. When she strode down the runway and took the crown, Kylie had achieved a lifelong dream that millions covet but fail to obtain each year. But she gave it all up by leaving because of deep spiritual convictions from the Lord about how the lingerie modeling industry ran counter to following Christ.
“I’M NOT ANGEL”
In her new book, Kylie discusses her disenchantment with the modeling industry and the unhealthy practices that she claimed were part of the job. In a recent interview about her experiences, of which you can see here, she described the industry:
“There was intense pressure on me and I know on many models around me to be incredibly thin. I went as far as doing crazy crash diets to drop the weight after my agency had called me fat and told me that I needed to lose weight off my thighs and hips, and I did very unhealthy things to lose weight, but I was told if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t book jobs and become successful.”
The lingerie modeling industry took a both a physical and spiritual toll on Kylie. In hindsight she describes her time in the industry as “selfish” and “vain ambition” that not only led little girls astray as it relates to what beauty is but also men in causing a stumbling block to them.
“I believe that the types of images I took when I was a lingerie model brought a lot of men into temptation. And I do know that a very high percentage of men fall into porn addiction through looking at their mom’s or wives’ lingerie catalogues. My heart is broken that images that I took in the past and things that I did in the past could have possibly brought men into [porn] addiction.”
A turning point in Kylie’s life was when her little cousin wanted to throw up food so she too could look as pretty as Kylie. That exchange with her cousin ultimately crushed her heart and helped her to see that she was leading many astray in contributing to the disillusionment of what true beauty was. Additionally, with the countless prayers of her husband, God started changing her heart and convicting her through the Holy Spirit as to what needed to change in her life and how she could find true joy and pleasure. In the end Kylie decided she had to leave the industry in order to fully pursue Christ and ever since she has used her time, gifts, and talents to counsel young women about Christianity and true beauty.
THE FIGHT FOR TRUE BEAUTY
Kylie Bisutti’s story isn’t an anomaly as it relates to succumbing to the societal and internal pressures to look a certain way, to dress a certain way and to behave a certain way. It’s a temptation that both men and women face, but one I believe women wrestle with most. Therefore we at the Urban Gospel Mission encourage and urge our sisters (and all women) to not yield to these temptations or believe the lies.
Through the Scripture, a life-giving source of truth, we know that you were created in the image of God regardless of what outward appearance is present. You may believe yourself to not measure up to society’s standard of beauty, but know that God has a whole different standard. You may have your battles and issues with eating disorders, feelings of inadequacy, or whatever may be broken as it relates to your life, but know that there is only newness, beauty, love, and redemption found in Christ through faith. Know that God calls you to a higher standard although the world perpetually lowers it. Know that God loves you in spite of how unlovely you may feel. And know that God wants and pursues you regardless of what people have said and done to you that may cause you to think otherwise.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,” 1 Peter 3:3-5