Ever since she was five years old, Nicole Weider wanted to be a model. Her dreams became reality at age 16 when she moved to Hollywood, got an agent, and subsequently, a high-profile gig with Victoria’s Secret.
Meanwhile, Victoria Hearst, the granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, had found what she thought was love in a string of bad relationships. She pursued the entertainment business too, realizing her lifelong dream of a career in acting, singing and dancing. She even had a stint on “General Hospital.”
Nicole and Victoria were two young women with big dreams. But when their dreams came true, they each realized that life in the spotlight wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
“At first, it was really fun and glamorous,” shares Nicole. “Here I was on set with some of the top supermodels in the world, but I felt really objectified; I just felt like a piece of meat.”
Nicole’s rising career soon led to an opportunity to shoot for Maxim magazine. “It was really embarrassing,” Nicole confides of the resulting photos. “Instead of being happy, I felt ashamed. The pictures were on the website... for years. I realized how negative it is to be sexualized in pictures and that it really doesn’t bring fulfillment.”
After becoming a Christian, Nicole decided to use her past as a catalyst for the future. “I want to use some of my experience, what I went through, and how it made me feel, to help girls not make the same mistakes,” she says.
Victoria had the same desire, but it wasn’t until she ended a bad relationship that she was free to pursue what she felt was God's calling.
“I tell women I got saved because of a bad boyfriend,” she confesses. “I was living with a guy, thinking it was fine... thinking a lot of things the world said were fine. My boyfriend made me so miserable that I got saved. As I like to say, ‘A bad man will drive you to Jesus faster than just about anything else.’”
Two Women On a Mission
Having tasted the counterfeit satisfaction of Hollywood and coming out stronger on the other side, Victoria and Nicole had a lot in common. But their paths didn't intersect until Victoria stumbled across an interview on the “700 Club” with a beautiful young model questioning the content of one of the Hearst family’s magazines – Cosmopolitan.
Disturbed by the adult content Cosmo is marketing to young girls, Nicole started an online anti-Cosmo petition in an effort to spur the FTC to take action against the Hearst Corporation. The campaign to put the magazine in non-transparent wrappers and stop selling it to minors quickly caught the attention of media, which gave her a platform to share her story with the likes of CNN, Fox News and others.
Nicole's bravery inspired Victoria, who despite her family connection, had tried without success to challenge Cosmo’s content in the past. With the FTC involved her passion was renewed; she contacted Nicole to see how they could band together. “I am fully on board with her,” Victoria affirms. “I am a member of this family, and I am offended and disgusted. We’re hurting women. That’s my name on that magazine, and God has brought this issue to be dealt with.”
Ironically, Cosmopolitan began as a family magazine when it was first published in 1886. It then became a literary magazine and eventually a women’s magazine in the late ’60s. “It was still [a magazine about] fashion, parties and city life. It was classy,” Victoria explains. “But its sales were dropping off, and unfortunately, the Hearst Corporation thought it would be a great idea to revitalize the magazine. [They] took a women’s magazine that was perfectly fine and turned it into a sex rag.”
Today, Cosmo is read by an estimated five million girls under the age of 18. With recent use of brighter colors, less text on a page, and with much younger celebrities such as Dakota Fanning and The Disney Channel's Selena Gomez gracing the cover, it would appear Cosmo is attempting to grow that number.
Instead of rallying to shut the magazine down, Nicole and Victoria are joining forces to keep it aimed at a more mature demographic and away from impressionable teens. “We’re not telling you to stop writing what you’re writing,” clarifies Victoria. “What we’re asking you to do is have a moral compass, put it in a plastic wrapper and make sure it is only sold to people 18 or older.”
The Road Ahead
Although Nicole has already obtained more than 34,000 signatures, she says it will take more than a lot of names on a petition to evoke change. “It’s a grassroots movement,” she explains. “We have to start at local stores. In a perfect world, the FTC would be like, ‘We’re putting a bag on it right away.’ But I have a feeling the power will be in the numbers, and it will be a movement happening in different stores.”
Nicole and Victoria will continue vying for the FTC to take action. Meanwhile, in today’s media-hungry world where size zero is queen, showing skin is encouraged, and eating disorders are just another form of weight loss, Cosmo isn’t the only purveyor of damaging messages.
“We’re all very impressionable, especially young girls. If you’re not pretty, if you’re not thin, if you’re not having sex, if you don’t have a boyfriend, then you’re nothing. And that is such a lie,” Victoria emphasizes.
Nicole adds that the same messages found in the pages of Cosmo fill modern movies, sitcoms and music. “Satan is the prince of this world, and he works through songs,” she says. “It’s creepy [what] so many artists talk about... It’s gross. Music is so powerful, and it’s being used for negativity, and it’s just really sad.”
The two ladies encourage influential people in the lives of young women to set strong examples and clear boundaries for girls at an early age – especially parents. “Parents are the ones who can mold their child’s self-image. Let girls know the reason you don’t dress like that or the reason you don’t act like this is that it harms you,” Victoria says. “They don’t realize how other people are looking at [them] or perceiving [them].”
Project Inspired Offers Positive Outlet
Nicole says girls desperately need to hear positive messages in relation to the things that define them, adding there really isn’t a positive alternative to publications like Cosmo. “According to Folio, the average advertising company pays $250,000 to place an ad in a magazine. So, it’s obvious all magazines are doing is marketing products and shoving stuff in our faces,” she says. In addition to the ongoing petition against Cosmo, Nicole is connecting directly with the girls she's working to protect via projectinspired.com where she gives relationship advice, fashion tips, and guidance from a Biblical perspective.
“One of my main missions on Project Inspired is to tell girls how beautiful and precious they are without caring what they look like or what the media is trying to tell them to do,” Nicole says. One section of the site is devoted to sharing pictures of herself and her readers without makeup to show how shrewd magazines are at airbrushing. “I always try to tell [girls] they’re beautiful the way they are. It’s so important that they hear it over and over and over,” she says.
Victoria asserts it’s also important for young girls to not only disregard negative messages but to choose their friends wisely. “Love yourself the way Jesus loves you, and be very careful who you choose to be around – especially what males you choose to be around,” she advises. Victoria is doing her part to provide a positive alternative as well. She founded Praise Him Ministries in 2001 and hosts a Sunday morning radio show. She also has a passion for ministering to inmates at local prisons.
Together, they are asking consumers to get behind their cause by not only signing their petition but also taking a moral stand against the negative media influences bombarding young girls today. “We can’t do it by ourselves,” says Victoria. “We need people signing petitions, coming alongside us, and helping us do this.”
Nicole has been on the frontlines of this fight since January of 2011, but her resolve is unwavering and her focus is crystal clear because she believes young girls are worth it: “I’m never going to give up. Never.”
To sign the change.org petition, click here.
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