Group stays grounded in the world of fashion

first_imgAbout a dozen people – not just models but also photographers and agents and others in the industry – gather in a circle of maroon chairs in the simple worship space of Calvary Chapel Miami Beach. They sing hymns, read from bright blue paperback Bibles and share their struggles of remaining Christian in the fashion business. Most come dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts. They are as young as 17, and hail from all parts of the country during the peak season for modeling work. They bow their heads in prayer. Many talk about their boundaries – refusing to do overtly sexual advertisements, or those for alcohol and cigarettes. They also talk about resisting a professional culture they feel often encourages rampant partying and sex. “There’s a lot of pressure to do the alcohol ad or get in your underwear or do whatever publication you don’t want to do. But we don’t need to bow down in order to be blessed in what we do,” said Roman Watson, a 29-year-old model who has done work for Ralph Lauren, Nike and Macy’s. “I want to encourage everyone to be a Christian first and a model second.” Watson said models are often afraid to reveal their moral boundaries on shoots, for fear that it could end their careers. But he urged those gathered at Models for Christ to follow their hearts and they would ultimately be rewarded with work. MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The bodies at this Saturday night gathering are sculpted, the locks of hair full and wavy, the faces made for the covers of magazines. Such physical perfection is a South Beach staple, on its sun-kissed shoreline and in its velvet-roped dance clubs. But these young men and women are not here to find a weekend hookup or to imbibe a $15 drink. They’re here for God. Since its 1984 founding in New York, Models for Christ has sought to bring faith to fashion – spirituality to an industry that puts a premium on sex appeal. The nondenominational organization has since expanded to 19 other major fashion centers, including Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan and Tokyo – and hundreds participate. “This work can lead anyone away from the Lord,” said Jeremiah Johnson, a former model who heads the group’s Miami Beach chapter. “But it doesn’t have to.” Jeff and Laura Calenberg were both models when they founded Models for Christ with a small group of participants. Jeff Calenberg said he wanted to not only provide a place for Christians in the industry to gather, but also provide an example for those not living a necessarily spiritual life. “The business has a lot of darkness in it,” said Calenberg, now a fashion photographer. “And as a believer in Christ, we are seeking to maintain the light within us as well as shine toward others.” At the recent Models for Christ meeting, Heather Funk, a 34-year-old fashion photographer based in Miami, told her own story of club-hopping, and drug and alcohol abuse. She tried to change her life numerous times – she even remembers showing up at church on a Sunday morning smelling of vodka. But she said she was surrounded by others who made it very easy to slip back into her partying life. Funk eventually did become a Christian. She doesn’t credit Models for Christ with her conversion, but she said it has been valuable because it allows her to gather with others from similar lifestyles who are trying to follow God. “The fashion industry, there’s so many extremes in it. The models are extremely beautiful, extremely skinny, make tons of money,” she said. “It may seem an unlikely place to find God, but really it’s not.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more