Former Maxim and Victoria's Secret model, Nicole Weider, quit a successful modelling career to follow Jesus. Now Nicole warns other young women against going into the industry.
In 2011, she founded Project Inspired, the largest online community for teen girls, to show them where their true beauty lies. She wishes to free them from the unrealistic expectations that society places on them.
However, Nicole has battled her own demons in the past, including negative self-image and thoughts of anxiety and suicide.
"Ever since I was three years old ... I always wanted to move to Los Angeles and be an actress," Nicole shares her testimony on her blog. "When I got a little older, I realised I loved modelling just as much as performing."
Nicole had been with the same agency in Oregon for about eight years and even despite going through her "adolescent awkward phase", she still booked jobs. "I loved performing for the camera – the lights, the camera, the action. It felt like where I was meant to be."
Halfway through high school, Nicole moved to L.A. which "came as a complete culture shock that I was not entirely ready for".
"I would get called rude names as I walked down the school hallway," Nicole remembers. "I purposely would not sit at certain tables that were designated for the cool kids and I got made fun of because I did not have a car. Because of my experiences at this school, I could not wait to leave and graduate!"
When Nicole was eighteen, she signed with an agency and her agent told her that she would be best suited for lingerie work. So that was what Nicole did. However, she felt very degraded and humiliated on set when she was asked by photographers to pose more seductively.
A few months later, Nicole was doing work on a commercial. When she was on set one day, she watched the photographer's assistant as he retouched a model's neck, thighs and removed her freckles [on the computer].
"I could not believe it," Nicole states. "Here I was, in the same room with women I looked up to my whole life and they were stunning in person – but their photos were so digitally altered it made me feel like I needed to tell all the girls out there what I was seeing!"
During her modelling jobs, Nicole began to develop anxiety. "Each time a camera was focused on me, I didn't feel skinny enough, pretty enough or completely ready to be scrutinized by the people who make it all 'happen'," she admits. "I tried to hide it and forget about my problems by going to the hottest clubs, partying and drinking with celebrities, yet I still felt lost. I needed God badly in my life."
Then, Nicole moved into a house on Laurel Canyon, one that was owned by a Hollywood horror-movie producer.
"I was not a believer so I thought it was no big deal," she says. "I liked how close the house was to my 'Hollywood' friends. However, as soon as I moved in, demonic oppression set in. The air in the house was heavy. I felt like something was attacking me. I felt a real spirit of fear very different than I had ever felt before. I felt like something evil was watching me. I knew I needed to get out of that house."
Nicole moved to Arizona for a year and a half with her family "to try and refocus my life; also because I was still traumatized by the horror house incident".
"Yet I still had not given my life to God," she shares. "I turned to every self-help book available, but nothing helped me."
When Nicole and her family moved back to L.A., "I was excited at a new chance at life," she remembers.
But, according to her, that year, 2009, was "the worst year of my life. I had depression and I had thoughts of suicide. I could not figure out if God would forgive me if I killed myself ... I could not find the answers anywhere. I had once felt so full of promise, so alive. I had so many hopes and dreams of a wonderful future."
However, one person continued to encourage and strengthen Nicole; her best friend, Christina, who was a believer in Jesus.
"Christina and her friends waged war with the devil in their prayers and he fought back hard for my life," Nicole tearfully remembers. "I [experienced a vision] and learnt that heaven and hell were very real places and I did not want to go to hell. I started praying and reading the Bible. In June of 2010, I made the decision to accept Jesus into my life."
Three months later, Nicole met her future husband, Eric. They were married in November, 2011 and, in 2013, they had a little boy, Elijah.
"Looking back, I can see God at work in my life even when I did not see Him there," Nicole says as she encourages other young girls who may be struggling with similar issues. "He knew that everything I went through – all of the dark, painful experiences and spiritual attacks – would be used as a voice for His kingdom.
"God listened to my prayers. His power helped deliver me through the depression I was in. God hears your prayers too and He knows what is best for you. He has your eternal future in mind. God can make anything happen – He did with me. He will do it for you too. I hope, through my story and through God's will, that I can inspire you to give your life to Jesus; because He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."•