You See the Real Me
By Raquel Dunn
The 700 Club
"I walked for Versace and you know, you have to be curvy for him. Gucci didn’t like the way I walked, and you know, Missoni wants you ethnic, and I’m not that. But Armani, he likes the really tall, thin blondes, so I was his type. Among all these thousands of girls, he chose like 30 girls. I was chosen to be one of them," remembers fashion model, Jennifer Strickland.
"I thought, this is it! I’m going to do the runway, and I’m going to be on stage, and this is the top of the top. This is Georgio Armani, this is Milan."
It seemed like a dream come true but becoming a top fashion model wasn’t what Jennifer thought it would be.
"It was like the glamour didn’t satisfy, the position didn’t satisfy, the magazine didn’t satisfy, the runway didn’t satisfy, and now the money didn’t satisfy. I was actually just emptier and emptier," she says.
Jen’s modeling career began when she was eight years old.
"My mother was very worried about me being very tall, and not being able to stand up straight, and not being very coordinated. So she enrolled me in a local modeling school. It did become my own little world where I could shine, and I could do something that kind of earned me approval and applause."
At 17, she met with one of the top modeling agents in the country.
"I signed with Ford New York, and they hooked me up with Fashion Milan which is a big model agent over there," she says.
Jen graced runways and magazine covers, even appearing in TV commercials. Offers poured into her agency. On the outside, life seemed perfect.
"They were flying me all over the place, all over the world from studio to studio, and doing all these jobs. Kind of like, if Armani wants you then everyone wants you, and this whole fast- paced lifestyle. I was doing a lot of drugs, and I was starving myself. I was extremely lonely. I missed being around people who loved me for more than what I looked like. I think that drugs became my way of escape because there were so many ugly things going on behind the scenes of the modeling industry. I just buried it, and I think the reason why was I wanted my family at home to be proud of me, and they were so proud of me. I wanted them to believe the illusion that what they saw in the magazines was real. If I looked happy, I was happy. If I looked at peace, I was at peace. The truth is, is that wasn’t what it was like behind the scenes. I got good at wearing the mask."
When Jen went home for the holidays, her parents saw through the mask.
"My parents were worried about me, and they were feeding me. I gained like four pounds and then I went back, and Armani put his hands around my waist. He just kicked me right off his stage, and I wasn’t beautiful to him anymore or perfect. And so he didn’t have any need of me. Well, then all the other clients began to do the same thing. See if Armani doesn’t want you, then nobody wants you. That left me shattered inside. I was like this little girl that just wanted approval. I just wanted people to be my parents-- to be proud of me, and it just hurt. It hurt that little girl inside of me that wanted love."
Confused and depressed, Jen began looking for work in Germany.
"I would sleep really long hours. I would drink too much, I would smoke too much, and I attempted to kill myself in that apartment. I tried to do it, and then I thought of the people who did love, and so I didn’t do it," she says.
That’s when Jen’s life began to turn around. An evangelist on the street handed her a Bible.
"I sat down and began to read it. I remember it talking about the wide and narrow road, and it was like the narrow road is hard and few find it, but it leads to life. And then there is the wide road, and everybody finds, and it leads to destruction. And I read that, and I was like, I am on the wide road. I knew I was on the wide road, but I didn’t really know how to get off that wide road because it was the only road I had ever knew. This was the first time I had ever read the gospel message really in my life. I had no idea what Christ had done for me on the cross, no idea who the Holy Spirit was, and no idea who Jesus was. I knew nothing."
Then on her way to a job, a conversation with a stranger changed Jen’s course and led her to discover what she was always longing for.
"He could see my little mini skirt, my portfolio, and everything and he said, 'Oh no, my dear, you are not modeling here, are you?' And I said, 'Well, yeah I am.' He said, 'My dear, you cannot sell your face, you cannot sell beauty. Turn around now and go back. Go back to where you came, and go home.' And I was like, 'Okay.' and I just turned around because honestly, no one in my life had ever said to me you can’t put a price on beauty. You can’t sell your face. You can’t sell beauty. All my life I was told I could. I was told I should, and so it freed me, and I left, and I never took another picture for money again."
Before leaving, Jen decided to climb the highest mountain in Munich.
"In Germany, there are actually crosses on the trees, with Christ on the cross nailed to the trees in the woods. And so as I was climbing this mountain, it was as if He was at every single turn. You know, Christ on the cross…you know, like I died for you. My broken body makes you whole, my blood that makes you clean…and His sacrifice. His love, it was literally all around me at every turn. I remember laying down in the snow and just going, I believe now. I believe in You. I know you see me because I think I felt like no one saw me. They only saw the outside. They only saw the pictures, but no one really saw me. But, He saw me. God saw me, and I knew He saw me. I accepted Jesus in my heart. And I played like a little girl, and I truly felt like I had been given a new life."
Jen returned home. Now, she's a wife and mother who travels the country speaking to women and young girls.
"There is an identity crisis going on with the women. They think, 'Oh, I have to get botox, and I have to get plastic surgery, and I have to. I have to look a certain way.' And God is up there going, 'I’m the potter, and you’re the pot, and I made you like this, and I love you like this, and I want to fill you with my perfect beauty.' But honey, you’re never going to be perfect, you’re never going to find perfect on earth. You’re never going to; the only perfect is God. And I think discovering a God who loves me for so much more than just my outward appearance, just absolutely freed me."
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