Former International Model Gives Young Women a Message of Authentic Beauty and Worth at Wonderfully Made Young Women’s Conference
(Santa Barbara, CA) April 15, 2009 –
Wonderfully Made, a non-profit Christian ministry dedicated to helping today’s modern young women know their true value will host former international model and author Jennifer Strickland as the keynote speaker at their Young Women’s Conference on Saturday, May 2nd, an unprecedented event for Santa Barbara.
Fifteen years in the modeling industry provided Strickland with an up-close look at the inner workings of one of the most glamorized industries in the world. Represented by world-renowned modeling agencies FORD NYC, Nina Blanchard of Los Angeles (now FORD L.A.), FASHION Milan and NOVA Munich, Strickland knows all too well what the modeling business is really like behind the scenes.
At age eighteen, she was named the “Face of the ‘90s.” Strickland appeared in national TV commercials for companies such as Oil of Olay and Mercedes Benz and graced the pages of top magazines including Vogue and Glamour. At the height of her career, she worked the runway regularly for Giorgio Armani in Milan, appeared as “Barbie” for the doll’s 35th anniversary in Italy, and was seen on the covers of fashion magazines across Europe.
By the time she was 22, Strickland’s life was spinning out of control. She struggled with eating disorders, depression, drinking and drugs. She was looking for acceptance and her life was a mess. “I went after perfection until it nearly killed me,” Strickland recalls. “I went after the perfect size, the perfect shape, the perfect image, the perfect look, being the perfect daughter, taking the perfect path and making the perfect escape.”
While in Munich doing runway modeling, an evangelist handed Strickland a Bible. On her way to work, with portfolio in hand and wearing a mini-skirt, a stranger told her, “You cannot sell your beauty.” Strickland turned around and never took another photo for money. Strickland now shares her story with girls across the country. “I want to shatter the perfect image, to tell girls the truth about the image behind the girls in the magazines, behind the scenes.” Her recently published book Girl Perfect, gives a haunting account of the experiences she encountered during her years in the modeling industry, documenting her journey from fashion to faith and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Shining light on the principles of true beauty, Strickland attempts to shatter the illusion that worldly beauty and success satisfy, leading young women and teens to the powerful, lasting knowledge of who they are in God’s sight as His beloved daughters, hand-crafted and made for something so much more than the world’s calling them to be.
“Jennifer Strickland’s message goes hand-in-hand with the mission and purpose of Wonderfully Made,” says WM Founder & Executive Director Allie Marie Smith. “Today’s modern young women are desperate for hope and dying for healing.” Having experienced severe depression and body image issues both as a teen and college student, Smith knows the issues many young women in America face first hand. Smith recently published her first book “HEAL: Healthy Eating & Abundant Living: your diet-free, faith-filled guide to a fabulous life.” HEAL teaches young women how to develop an emotionally healthy and positive approach to food, their bodies and life. Wonderfully Made sponsored HEAL groups have been offered throughout Santa Barbara at various locations including UCSB dorms, Westmont College and downtown Santa Barbara. With the books release, these groups have branched out to help young women throughout the United States, Germany, Australia and the U.K. rise above disordered eating.
“Not only has Wonderfully Made and the HEAL program helped me find my true value as a woman after struggling for many years, but it has also given me the opportunity to share my journey and healing with other young women who’ve had similar experiences,” says Nina Vogel, who has been a part of the ministry for over three years.
Allie Marie Smith, along with two members of the executive leadership team, Meghan Incorvaia and Janelle Bosko, graduated from Santa Barbara’s well-known WEV (Women’s Economic Venture) Self-Employment Training course and are continuing to expand Wonderfully Made to reach more young women across the nation. They credit WEV to giving them the business confidence to expand the ministry.
In addition to offering inspiring messages and live music the conference will feature merchandise and book signings by both Jennifer Strickland and Allie Marie Smith. Also featured is 31 Bits Designs, a fair trade organization, based out of Gulu, Uganda, which sells handmade jewelry by native Ugandan women. Started by 4 college girls, 31 Bits Designs works with displaced women who use their talents to create beautiful jewelry made from recycled paper. 31 Bits focuses on the creative art and entrepreneurship already present in the women, while empowering and enabling them to have a sustainable income.
“Our hope for this conference is to see young women learn how to become confident and secure in who they’ve been created to be so they can give back. This world needs them,” says Smith. The upcoming conference will enrich the lives of young women around Southern California and beyond, with Strickland’s powerful and honest message, personal stories from real girls in Wonderfully Made, live music, and global impact.