A 20-year veteran of the fashion industry, Rachel Lee Carter (pictured above) has seen the dark side of modeling — yet she’s never compromised her Christian principles. She's had her struggles, however. In addition to overcoming an eating disorder, she's taken some big career risks to stand up for her faith in an industry that's all about sensuality and so-called perfection. Today, Rachel is an author, wife, and mother, still doing what she loves and honoring God in the process as she teaches young women about what's really important in life. We spoke to Rachel during her visit to Hallelujah Acres to speak at our 2012 Women's Retreat. Here's what she has to say about true beauty, inside and out (transcript below the video): http://youtu.be/bxKjM4zygxI
Hallelujah Acres: One of the things that you talk about in your ministry is “removing the mask.” As a professional model, with all the pressure to wear that mask – to be skinny, to look great, to appear perfect — how do you balance keeping a healthy outlook and a healthy life? Rachel: Well, I think that it’s not just the folks in the fashion industry that deal with wearing that “mask.” It definitely affects all women, across the world. We have this agenda that we have to “keep up with The Joneses,” so to speak, or to have a certain façade. One of the top 10 things that God has taught me through the fashion industry is: Don’t be Photoshopped - just be authentic. We try to fit into this mold that wasn’t created for us. And, while it’s fine to present a certain appearance; when it becomes your identity and when that becomes what you’re all about, then you’re putting too much emphasis on something that’s external and you’re really missing the whole purpose of God’s plan for us; and that is — it’s what’s on the inside that counts. That’s why my life verse is 1 Peter 3:4 which says, “instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I think that’s the thing that so many of us so easily forget. And to answer your question about how I balance it all; you have to constantly keep it in check. So, if I, for instance, have a pimple — and I do today (laughs) — then it’s ok. And if I happen to put on some weight, then that’s ok too. You know, I don’t have to put on this façade that I’m perfect, because I’m not. And, well, nobody is. Hallelujah Acres: What are some of the healthy lifestyle habits that you use to make sure that you always have the energy level and the fitness that you need to do your lectures, your public appearances, and your photo shoots? Rachel: SLEEP! (laughs) People really underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. And you know, I love the adage of “beauty sleep” because we all need it. And I think for so many of us, it’s just hard to turn off at night. We’re thinking while we’re in bed, we’re thinking through the middle of the night, we’re thinking when we wake up… We just need to shut down sometimes and allow our bodies to rest — that’s the most important thing. If I’m missing sleep — I’m not able to function well at all. So, that would be first. And the second thing is, have a healthy diet. I’m working on trying to move up to The Hallelujah Diet. I’m about 50% raw right now, and I notice that when I do eat raw foods and have the smoothies, that I feel a lot better. And as far as exercise, I don’t do too much of it. I don’t seem to have too much time for it. Between chasing around my little boys and cleaning, I get enough. (laughs) Hallelujah Acres: (laughs) You brought up another good question: What made you decide to start eating more raw foods and drinking more smoothies? What was the impetus behind that? Rachel: Well, I’m always searching for ways to better myself and my health and I noticed that after my 30’s, I wasn’t as healthy. I was more lethargic and drinking coffee all day long. I was drinking sodas and eating meats and, I just didn’t feel good. During that time, some good friends said, “You have to come with us to Hallelujah Acres!” So, we went, my husband and I, and we were really blown away. We felt challenged to make some major dietary changes and, while we didn’t jump on all at once, the first decision we made was to stop eating meat. And, I can’t tell you how much of a difference that made in how I feel. And my skin looked a lot better too! So, we stopped eating meat and we also got rid of the soft drinks and that was, well that was major – I’ll NEVER go back! So, now I drink a lot of water and I’ve started learning more about healthy foods and learning about raw foods and the role that they play in your life, in your skin, in your health, your hair, your nails… everything. So we jumped on board and, slowly but surely, we are tackling it. Hallelujah Acres: It’s great to hear you say that — a lot of people come here and think, “oh, it’s either all or nothing,” but what we encourage is, “fit the diet into your lifestyle — don’t wrap the lifestyle around your diet.” We don’t want people thinking that food is the only thing that can consume their day. Speaking of which, you have had some problems with proper eating in the past. How has your platform today and your past experience worked together so that you can help other women who are struggling with their identity and their weight? Rachel: Well, when I first moved to New York City as a professional model, I was 18. So, when all of my peers were going away to college, I was living in Manhattan. And, low and behold, that freshman 15 set in on me. Even though I wasn’t in college, your body begins to change about that time and I began to put on weight. Well, my agency basically told me, “under any means necessary, lose the weight.” So I started working out – a LOT – and I began to build up muscle. Since I didn’t know anything about how to eat healthy, I just started cutting calories. Then, when I started seeing results, I cut major calories – I would eat as few as 500 calories a day and then I would work out enough to burn 700 calories. Well, of course, my body began to hold onto that weight and because I wasn’t getting the nutrition that I needed, my skin began to break out, too. So, suddenly, I’m too heavy for the fashion industry and my skin’s breaking out as well, so I’m on the verge of being dropped by my agency. This is where “by any means necessary” came into play. And I turned to bulimia. At first, I thought it was something I would just try; but I noticed that, very quickly, it became an addiction. I remember that, after a few weeks of doing it, that I sat down in my floor of my bathroom and I began to cry — to cry out to God — and I said, “what have I done, what am I doing? Help me.” And it was a real struggle to break those chains. And so, I understand the hold that it has on people, but God definitely broke those chains in my life. And I think one of the reasons that God allowed me to go through that is so that, when I talk to people, I can say, “I’ve been there and I know the claws that it can have on your soul. But you know, our identity is so much more, it’s so much deeper. And my identity is not found in the mirror. It’s found in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Hallelujah Acres: That is the key because for so many ladies, especially young girls, their identity is in the size that they wear, the fashion brands they have on, and how their peers see them. So, what advice can you give to ladies, of any age, who are struggling with that identity? Rachel: There’s an adage in the fashion industry that says, “the average secretary has more self esteem than the average model.” And I think that’s because we’re constantly being torn down — we’re not good enough, we’re not pretty enough, not tall enough, short enough, or thin enough — it’s something all the time. When I first started modeling my agent said, here’s what you need to understand, you’re just a coat hanger — you’re a hanger and you put on the clothes for the clients. And it took me a long time to look back and say, “Wait, I’m not a coat hanger.” So, something I learned in the fashion industry is, I’m not a coat hanger. I’m so much more than that. And, many women may not refer to themselves in that way, but they might say, “well, I’m just a mom,” or, “I’m just a coworker,” or, “I’m just a teacher,” or, whatever it may be - but we are so much more than that. And we really need to investigate the Scriptures to find out, what does God say about me? And God says, I’m a masterpiece… A masterpiece. When I think about that, I imagine God painting us and creating us into existence. I imagine HIM dreaming up what we will become and the colors that he’ll use and the talents that he’ll give us. I mean, he took such great care in fashioning us the way that he did and, when we begin to look at ourselves through that lens, we can really begin to appreciate who our identity really is. And, it’s not what the world says about us or even what I say about myself; it’s what the one who created me says about me. Hallelujah Acres: That’s a very powerful statement. Is there anything else that you would like to share today? Rachel: Well thank you. I’m just so passionate about being able to equip women to navigate through this world and, regarding teen girls, I’m passionate about instilling modesty. I know firsthand that we can still be fashionable and trendy, while maintaining some integrity with the way that we’re dressed. And in regard to discovering our identity, it’s something every woman battles, including me. And I think when we begin to understand who we truly are in Him (the Lord), that’s when life is really able to be lived.