I’m No Angel: From Victoria’s Secret Model to Role Model by Kylie Bisutti tells the story of her successful rise through the modeling world only to abandon it at the height of her success.
As a young girl Kylie was thin and pretty with “freakishy long legs,” and constantly people would tell her she looked just like a model or should be a model some day. Kylie makes an important point when she says:
Adults don’t always realize the profound effect their words can have on young kids—girls in particular. These people mean well, of course. What harm could possibly come from telling a little girl she’s pretty? Technically, none—unless that’s the only affirmation she ever hears…
It wasn’t as though I didn’t have anything else going for me…but whenever anyone looked at me, all they seemed to see was model.
As my identity became wrapped up in being pretty, it also became the primary attribute I used to define my value. If people weren’t praising me for my looks, I started feeling like I was lacking somehow, and I would go out of my way to make them like me. This would turn into a cycle that would haunt me for years to come.
In her junior high years, she felt a growing disconnect with her father, who had taken a new job and was working all the time so that she could “have what [he] didn’t have growing up.” She “missed their old life…when we had less money but more time together.” Then her height and thinness started getting her teased at school, with girls saying she was anorexic and boys calling her a giraffe.
So when opportunities for modeling did come her way, the positive attention and affirmation soothed. her. She hoped to “prove something to all the people who had teased me at school” and even to “regain [her] dad’s attention.”
From the very start, at just 14, she was made up and dressed to look older than she was and to appear sultry and sexy and pose provocatively. Being expected to change clothes in a room with models of both sexes made her uncomfortable, but she figured it was part of the job and she needed to get used to it. In addition:
That’s one of the harsh realities I learned early on about the modeling industry: ultimately, your body doesn’t really belong to you. It belongs to the client. Since they’re paying, they figure they can do pretty much whatever they want to you. They can curl your hair, straighten it, dye it, cut it –even shave it. I’ve seen hair extensions being pulled out by the roots and smoke billowing out of flat irons while the hair inside gets singed and fried. I’ve watched models squeeze their feet into shoes so small their feet literally bled, and I’ve seen false eyelashes torn off so quickly that the natural lashes came off with them. Modeling may look glamorous on the outside, but believe me, beauty can be an ugly business.
Some girls even had surgery to remove ribs to look thinner, Kylie herself, at a size 2 and 115 lbs., was referred to as “the big model,” and her agent called her a “fat pig” and a “cow” and told her she needed to lose weight.
After a devastating heartbreak in high school, Kylie was open when a friend invited her to her church’s youth group. She began going to her church and learning about God, Jesus, and salvation for the first time. At a youth camp some time later, she finally put her faith in the Lord Jesus as her Savior. After she came home, her mom saw such a difference that she was open to what Kylie shared about what she was learning.
It still took years, though, for Kylie to come to a realization that there might be a problem with her modeling, especially modeling lingerie. We are saved in a moment, but growth and sanctification are processes that come with time in God’s Word and in His church. Kylie tells how her modeling career continued until she reached what she considered the pinnacle: winning a Victoria’s Secret Runway Angel competition. Aspects of modeling continued to bother her, but at first she just thought it was part of the job, then didn’t want to displease her agent or company or jeopardize her job or risk rejection. Finally she was convicted, but continued to compromise. She “wasn’t mature enough to understand this at the time, but it wasn’t simply a question of what you can or can’t see in those types of photos. My sinful choice was rooted in something deeper: what the photos represented. I can only imagine how sad it made God to see my complete lack of honor and purity and respect, not only for myself, but also for my parents, for my future spouse, and most of all, for Him.”
Had I been further along in my Christian walk and more focused on serving God rather than myself, I might have seen that. But I still had a long way to go in my faith. In my mind, being a Christian meant that God loved me and that He wanted me to be happy, healthy, and successful. I’d been listening to CDs that taught me how to transform my mind, when I should have been immersing myself in the Bible so God could transform my heart through His Word. Up to that point, I’d been treating God like a genie in a lamp, making childish wishes and then waiting for Him to deliver.
But God didn’t send His Son to die on the cross so that one day I could become a famous fashion model. He doesn’t exist to serve me; I exist to serve Him.
When she married, her husband at first didn’t realize all that was involved in her modeling, and once he did, instead of “making” her quit, he just quietly prayed for God to convict her. And He did. “God was opening my eyes to the fact that I couldn’t glorify Him in my life while at the same time taking modeling jobs that compromised His values. The disconnect was too great, and if I kept trying to do both, I would end up despising one. I had to choose. Would I serve the world, or would I serve God?”
When she repented and chose to serve God, at first she thought she would continue t model but avoid jobs that were immodest.
But as I continued to grow in my relationship with the Lord, I started to lose the desire to model at all. Regardless of the type of clothing, I knew that modeling promotes the world’s sense of beauty. This wasn’t the type of beauty I wanted to endorse for girls and women. Not only that, but the temptation would always be there to be thinner, prettier, and more in demand. I’d seen how addictive those desires can become, and I didn’t want any part of it anymore.
Unfortunately a sad consequence of modeling is that the photos that were taken of her will forever be available on the Internet, even some by a unscrupulous photographer who sold some to a porn site. There’s no way to get them back or have them erased. “I could make godly decisions related to my future, but I couldn’t control how others chose to exploit my past.” She chooses to think of them as “a powerful reminder of the consequences of sin and the depths of God’s redemptive grace.”
Now she is married with two children and a ministry encouraging women in their walk with the Lord. She blogs at I’m No Angel.
A few years ago during Victoria’s Secret show on TV, Kylie was watching Twitter and finding mostly negative comments about it, some from women who felt that it was a negative not only because of the immodesty, but because of making “everyday” women feel inadequate. One man tweeted, “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a VS model.” Kylie responded, “I quit being a VS model to become a Proverbs 31 wife.” Within minutes she was contacted and asked to do a guest blog post which went viral and led to interviews on a number of news sites. There were some verbal attacks as a result, but there were also words of encouragement in unlikely places in the industry.
At the end of the book is a 30-day devotional section titled “The Master’s Makeover,” with Scripture and words of wisdom about beauty from God’s point of view.
I found this quite an eye-opening book and was blessed by Kylie’s growth. As far as I can tell no one sat her down and had “a talk” about modesty with her, but God dealt with her heart and brought her to conviction Himself. In the few pictures shared in the book, she looks so much healthier and happier, in addition to being more modest, in her more recent photos.
My rating: 9 out of 10
Objectionable elements: I think Kylie does a good job showing the seamy side of the industry without getting unnecessarily explicit, but there are scenes that might bother some. In addition, a lady preacher is mentioned with whose teaching I would disagree, but I think that was who Kylie was talking about when she referenced listening to CDs teaching that God wanted her to be positive, happy, and successful rather than teaching the whole counsel of God.
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Mondays, and Carol‘s Books You Loved)