As a rising star in the modeling world, Nicole Weider found out the hard way it was not all fun and glamour.
Now, she's on a mission to expose fashion's dark side, even taking on the ever popular Cosmopolitan magazine.
The 26-year-old left Oregon at 15 years old to try and make it big in Hollywood. She became a rising successful model, landing jobs with Victoria's Secret and meeting supermodels like Gizelle Bundchen.
In her quest for fame and fortune, she modeled sexy lingerie and made the covers of racy magazines like Maxim and Esquire.
Eventually, that kind of modeling left her feeling used and empty.
"I just felt degraded. The photographer was like, 'Nicole bend down, go lower, stick your chest out, suck in your stomach.' I felt bad about myself," Weider said.
By age 23, she fell into a deep depression. A Christian friend urged her to reach out to Jesus for help.
"I just said, God, show me that there's a better way, and I accepted the Lord," she recalled.
"And my mind was renewed through God and I just realized that my mind was almost like clear, and I knew that I was put on this earth for a bigger purpose," she said.
Part of that purpose is to shine a light on the dark side of fashion. For her, that includes taking on fashion magazine Cosmopolitan and its highly sexual content.
Weider said the magazine targets teens by putting young actresses like 18-year-old Dakota Fanning and Disney favorite,19-year-old Selena Gomez, on the cover.
"It is so damaging because it's so explicit," she explained. "The sexual tips in there are just so pornographic and it's so harmful to girls because you have girls as young as 13 or 14 buying the magazine and taking the contents to heart."
A Giant Battle
Weider admitted the battle against Cosmo is a little like David versus Goliath.
"Yeah, when I started this I had no idea what I was up against," she said. "I was in for a huge mountain. Unfortunately, the magazine has still to this day, not yet responded to me."
But the public has responded. So far, more than 24,000 people have signed her petition on Change.org.
It states that Cosmo is filled with adult content, so it needs to be sold in a plastic bag to people over 18 years old.
The petition caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which is now reviewing the magazine's content.
"The power is in numbers and most importantly we have God behind us," Weider said. "I know it's going to happen."
But some ask, what's the big deal? It's just Cosmo. They're a little over the top, but is what they're selling really that bad for young girls?
Weider said it's more dangerous than you know.
"People think it's just a fun women's fashion magazine, but the magazine's central core is all about pushing sex from a young age to girls, but pushing it in a very graphic manner," she explained.
"It's not just saying, 'Oh, have sex with your spouse,'" she said. "It's saying saying, 'Girls give it up right away to a hook-up.' That's the term they always use."
Studies show that over-sexualization of girls is detrimental to their psychological growth. That's why Weider reaches out to young women on her website called, Project Inspired.
Her blogs teach girls what it means to have a healthy self image, not a perfect one like in the magazines.
"I want to tell girls that they're so beautiful and perfect the way God made them and they're a masterpiece," she said. "So there's a lot of articles that talk about their self-worth through God and how they're put on earth for a purpose."
Nicole also reveals that most of the models you see in magazines are Photoshopped.
"I saw top model, Gizelle Bunchen, being retouched in real time," Weider said. "They made her nose smaller and her hair more full and her legs more narrow so the models aren't even real."
Weider also bravely shows her own retouched photos on her website.
She said now that she's a Christian, there are certain types of modeling she won't do anymore.
"I will not do any lingerie work. That is the No. 1 thing I will not do, and I will not do any swimwear," she said.
"I am now a married woman and my body is for my husband," she added. "I don't want to parade my body around to just anyone."
While Weider still enjoys modeling and acting, she's most passionate about being a good role model for young women. She gets about 90,000 hits a month on her website, Project Inspired , where she also enjoys sharing the Word of God.
Today, she hopes to inspire young women to have a balance: enjoy fashion, but never lose sight of the fact that they are a beautiful one-of-a-kind creation.
And she says that true fulfillment only comes when you live your life for Jesus Christ.
Click here if you would like to sign the petition to cover Cosmo's explicit content.
--Originally published February 28, 2011.