Former America’s Next Top Model contestant Leah Darrow visited Montclair State to speak to students about the importance of healthy body image during an event sponsored by the MSU Newman Campus Ministry. Darrow was a contestant on the third season of America’s Next Top Model and previously active in the modeling industry in New York. Since then she has become an inspirational speaker, addressing the topics of her faith and healthy body image for women and men alike..
With a society full of Photoshop retouching, makeup and photos of perfection it’s no surprise that ideas of beauty have become slightly warped. Darrow admits to her body image changing over time like many other women and girls.
“Before I saw my body as my money-maker, as a fashion model. So the image I had of myself was very consumerist. I used all of the fashion models as a lot of girls still to this day, as the benchmark of where I needed to be. So I was constantly obsessed with having the skinniest thighs and working out and the right hair and teeth.
It’s changed now, thank God, because I’ve been able to uncover the lie that the beauty industry puts forward. Now I realize the beauty industry is based on a lie of perfectionism. Not everything about the beauty industry is horrible and bad; it’s just good to know where they are coming from. Just knowing and being able to uncover that sham of perfectionism helped me back then and still helps me today on how I view my own body and having a healthier body image. I also realize that I am a lot more than just my body and I’m not going to let a modeling agency or industry or cosmetic group let me know I’m not valuable if my thighs are a little bit bigger these days.”
Many young women today say that when they grow up they dream of being a model. Even as a woman who was very active in the modeling industry, Darrow thinks that there’s something more for women out there.
“I don’t suggest the modeling career for girls at all and I know that’s not a very popular response or thought but I just think were more than just a pretty picture. And I don’t think we really want to aid in this lie of perfectionism or the standard or beauty. Beauty is just everywhere and it’s not a talent, it’s a gift. And we’ve marketed it though as it’s a talent and you either got it or you don’t. What I do think we need are a lot more people who are fashion designers and creators and actors and people who have a true sense of self who will honor the dignity of the human person and not look at human as an object as something to use.”
Darrow’s speech to students rang truly inspiring and uplifting to the audience. Body image is a very important topic to discuss in our society not just here in America, but all over the world. Darrow has traveled all over the world and explained that the shocking problems with the way we look at ourselves isn’t just present in the Western hemisphere.
“What is sad is that were seeing the same effect happen in all other parts of the world and they’re taking their lessons from us, unfortunately…You have people who are trying to be a little more like the people that they see in the magazines in the US or Western Europe. There’s a problem with that… I was in Ghana Africa and I spoke to these women and they were telling me they were not happy with the fact that their skin was so dark. That they would actually put on lotion to lighten it. There’s a problem with that so we need to speak to it.”
With speakers like Darrow promoting the importance of a healthy body image, it really gives hope for a change in all our perspectives on true beauty and acceptance of ourselves the way we are.
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