In 2009 19-year-old Kylie Bisutti won the Victoria's Secret Model Search competition and walked the runway in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. She had reached the height of her modeling career, and she was ecstatic. She had been modeling for years already, at first for a mall in Las Vegas as a 13-year-old and later in New York as a 16-year-old. She was a natural with a reportedly amazing runway walk. Bisutti's excitement over modeling turned sour fast when stylists and managers started using adjectives like "big" and "cow" to describe her. To anyone on the outside Bisutti appeared super-thin and gorgeous, but to the modeling industry her measurements were outside the optimal range.
Bisutti dropped out of the modeling scene for a little while when she met her now husband at the age of 18 in 2008. They married the next year, and, according to Bisutti, modeling was the furthest thing from her mind as she settled into married life. It wasn't until her mother-in-law handed her a flyer for the Victoria's Secret Model Search that her old yearning revived. She loved walking the runway, exhibiting fashionable styles and "working" the crowd. She had watched the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for as long as she could remember, practicing the famous Angels' walks and admiring their curvy figures. Since she had already been called too big for the usual modeling gigs, wouldn't she be the perfect type to model Victoria's Secret merchandise? A few short months later, Bisutti was voted winner, and all her modeling dreams had come true.
Obviously that isn't the end of the story, or there would be no book titled I'm No Angel: From Victoria's Secret Model to Role Model.** I had seen Bisutti on The Today Show, oh, probably in 2011 shortly after she tweeted, "I quit being a VS model to be a Proverbs 31 wife." I was intrigued. I had never heard of her before, as my relationship with Victoria's Secret is completely non-existent. When I'm at the mall I avoid the store like the Bubonic plague. I have zero desire to glance at large posters of underwear-clad women while shopping for unmentionables that will hopefully, if the company's done their marketing right, make me think I look like those women. Besides that, I'm not one of those women who desires to carry her pink-striped VS shopping bag around the mall like a badge of honor. I don't want people to know what brand or type of underwear I'm wearing. Soapbox aside, I gathered from Bisutti's story that she had modeled, won the VS competition, become a Christian, then quit modeling, in that order.
I was wrong. (Not the first time, shockingly.) According to Bisutti, she became a Christian around the age of 14 or 15, just before she set off for New York solo to really start her modeling career. At first I thought, Good, this is the right example of coming to Christ. God doesn't ask us to change ourselves and then come to Him, but come to Him and let Him change us. Bisutti didn't once think modeling and Christianity clashed. She did feel that becoming a Christian helped her see herself as beautiful regardless of what others said, but that feeling wavered considerably when she was called fat and found herself on a fruit cleanse one holiday in order to lose a considerable amount of weight for Fashion Week.
Honestly, she was set up to fail. Her faith in Christ was so new that jetting off to New York at the age of 16 and immersing herself in the modeling industry did not provide the spiritually enriching environment she needed. Instead, she ignored countless red flags and continually gave in, starving herself, losing weight, and participating in photo shoots she once considered (and still considered, to a certain degree) inappropriate. She was fueled by a lustful desire to be the best and to make it to the top of the modeling ladder; she would do anything to get there.
It started getting a little fuzzy for me after Bisutti married, and, according to her, really dug into God's Word and sought His will for her life. When the Victoria's Secret flyer landed in her hands, she thought this could be God's will for her. What?! I guess I have a hard time understanding Bisutti's naivete. Did she really think strutting down a runway in lingerie was God-honoring? I realize she hadn't been raised to consider modesty, but she presumably wasn't stupid. You might say she was "only" 19, but the girl writing this post is "only" 20 and can use the common sense God gave her. Bisutti mentions that she didn't realize how that type of clothing affected men. Seriously? Previous experiences she wrote about would suggest otherwise. She knew she was beautiful, and she knew she affected at least the men around her in an often negative way. She knew how to walk a runway and work a crowd, popping her hips and blowing kisses. She wanted to be sensuous and sexy. So how does that fit in with her proclaimed desire to live for God in every way? I just don't know. I can't explain it. Was she just that naive and clueless, or did she simply allow her over-powering desire to be the best cloud her judgment?
Bisutti also suggests, several times, that her husband didn't know anything about modeling, and that he didn't realize what entering the Victoria's Secret competition meant. Really? I feel like you would have to be living under a rock to not know about Victoria's Secret. Even if he didn't, did he not think it odd when his wife showed off the new bathing suit she would be wearing at the casting call? While reading the last half of this book, I repeatedly muttered to myself, People can't be this naive. I don't know, maybe they can. It is odd to me that Bisutti thought it okay to parade around in barely there lingerie but became physically ill in the presence of nude dancers. It is odd to me that Bisutti thought it okay to participate in photo shoots for magazines targeting men but became irate when some of her pictures turned up on inappropriate websites. It is odd to me that Bisutti didn't mind showing her "stuff" and working the crowd but would never accept alcohol offered to her because she was underage. There is a huge disconnect from reality somewhere in here.
Add to that the statement Victoria's Secret made after Bisuitti shared her story. They say she was never a Victoria's Secret "Angel" and that she never had a modeling contract with them. However, they do say she requested a contract from them multiple times. To them, it is incorrect for Bisutti to refer to herself as a former Victoria's Secret model, because they never gave her that title. True, this could amount to no more than a he said she said argument, but I thought it worth mentioning. Make of it what you will.
I truly hope that the change in Bisutti is a product of her growing relationship with God. I pray that she can influence young girls in a positive way. I'm No Angel was interesting to read, with (thankfully!) very good writing for a memoir type book. I didn't find any tiring sections or places where I wished the editor had given more than a once over. I'm No Angel gave me a lot to think about concerning modeling, beauty, and God's will for our lives. I learned more about the behind the scenes of modeling than I ever wanted to know. (I won't say I was surprised, though.) I am happy that Bisutti is using her past to tell others about Jesus. I pray that with the upcoming publication of her devotional book, many young girls will see themselves in a new Light. I also pray that God will bless Bisutti's future endeavors with a touch more common sense than her last ones.
** I decided not to link to anything but the book itself because most webpages referring to Mrs. Bisutti include her more revealing modeling images, and, as you'll read in one of the quotes below, Bisutti prefers those didn't exist.
Adults don't always realize the profound effect their words can have on young kids--girls in particular. These people mean well, of course. What harm could possibly come from telling a little girl she's pretty? Technically, none--unless that's the only affirmation she ever hears. Unless that's the only reason she gets attention.
I'd been treating God like a genie in a lamp, making childish wishes and then waiting for Him to deliver. But God didn't send His Son to die on the cross so that one day I could become a famous fashion model.
And thanks to the Internet, there will always be dozens of images of me out there I wish didn't exist. They stand as a sobering reminder of where I've been--but also as tangible proof of how far God has brought me since then. While those images may never go away, I can assure you the girl in them no longer exists.
Author: Kylie Bisutti
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.