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Thursday, January 20, 2011

From America's Top Model to Role Model For Chastity...

Few things concern me more as a father than the external influences my children will have to deal with while growing up. Despite the moral values and standards that I hope to instill in them, society and the culture will many times draw them away (or at least tempt them) from what they learn at home.

So, when I read stories of young people who transcend the influences of today's world, albeit after experiencing its seduction firsthand, it gives me hope for my children's future.

That is the case of Leah Darrow. Darrow could have continued her rising high fashion modeling career in New York City. However, after living the fast paced lifestyle, including a stint as a finalist on America's Next Top Model, Darrow decided that the cost of success in the industry was just too high.

She was immersed in a world that was very different from her upbringing; an Oklahoma farm girl from a devout Catholic family of six children that went to Mass on Sundays and prayed the Rosary daily. The family moved to St. Louis, and Darrow began modeling in college.

She was drawn by the glamour and limelight. However, soon after moving to New York City, she started being disenchanted with the business, which she describes as dehumanizing at times.

Although Darrow says not all modeling is bad, in her case, it came to the point where she felt she was losing her soul.

Darrow's story was recently told on National Catholic Register.  In it, she describes the moment of lucidity that made her realize the high fashion modeling industry was not where she wanted to be.

She met with the photographer and was given a particularly skimpy outfit to wear. She was embarrassed to put it on, but went ahead, telling herself it was just a job and she had to do it.

As the shoot was nearly complete, she had a mystical experience of sorts, which she called a moment of grace. She pictured herself before God after her death and had nothing to show for her life.

“I knew that the way I was living, I wasn’t being authentic to my faith,” she said.

She quit on the spot and went home crying.

“I called my dad and said, ‘If you don’t come and get me, I’m going to lose my soul,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘Sure, baby’ and drove all the way from St. Louis to New York City to get me.”

Since returning to St. Louis, Darrow has become a full-time speaker, delivering as many as eight talks each month. She addresses all age groups, but most presentations are before high-school and college audiences. Modesty has become a favorite topic.

For Darrow, modesty includes not gossiping or saying bad things about others. It includes chaste dating relationships with men, which has made dating for her much easier. In fact, for her personally, she has resolved that the only romantic kiss she will share with a man will be with her future husband.
Not easy standards to live by, especially in a society that rejects chastity as a viable option.  However, I have to admire any young person that tries to swim against the tide and refuses to submit to the pressures of the culture.  I can only pray my own children grow up with the same independence, strength of mind and resolve.

Darrow is currently working on a Master of Arts degree in pastoral theology from Ave Maria University.

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