Confidence in Christ
Model Leah Bradley Sets a New Trend
By Sarah Komisky
Covergirl of teen magazines, extra in Taylor Swift’s music video, Brand Ambassador, and leading lady of the recent Aeropostale ad campaign, Leah Bradley is not your typical model. Far from catty, this down to earth bohemian beauty is a girl that goes the extra mile to be a friend, quick to admit her failures, and totally grounded in who she is. While the fashion industry has built its empire upon confidence in self, Bradley is stirring things up with a new trend – confidence not in self but in Christ.
The daughter of Worship Generation pastor and professional surfer, Joey Buran, and her mother, Jennifer Buran, Bradley has prepped for the industry from an early age starting when she made a decision to take a stand for Christ at the age of seven. Inspired by her father to not limit ministry to church, the call to model began when she was contacted by agencies in high school.
“My mom and dad always thought it would be better for me to wait until after high school because they wanted me to find that it was something I really wanted to do,” says Bradley. “They didn’t want to push it because a lot of times you’re kind of pushed into that industry and they wanted to see me mature before I stepped into it because it is a dark industry so you want to be solid.”
At the age of 19, the young adult was signed by her first agency with a deep desire to set an example for Christ confessing, “I saw, in a magazine, so many people doing it and saw that they had such a good platform. So many girls look up to that and that’s what they aspire to do and I saw it as a such a good platform to use for the Lord.”
Dodging drama and competitive spirits, Bradley made a point to make friends with girls in the industry and win them over through her example in conduct. Curious by her ability to not cuss or talk negatively about someone on set, models began to approach Bradley and she began talking with them and eventually took time to meet up with them. She began to discover that these girls who despite having everything the world could offer struggled intensely with drug use to cope with identity issues and insecurities.
“It’s cool when you come in and you’re just so solid and you’re not phased by people telling you ‘oh, you don’t look good like this’ and you’re just like, ‘okay, that’s fine.’ Then, I think, your confidence is in Christ and you’re able to share that with girls,” Bradley notes. “My mom always says in some of the shoots when I’ll be with other models, ‘there’s something in their eyes – like they’re dead inside. They just look lost almost.’ So it’s cool when you can have that close contact with them where you get that chance to share why you do have the light in you.”
Yet the road as a model has not been an easy one. As a Christian, Bradley has remained firm in her faith and turned down offers when it would put her in a compromising position with God and with her husband and photographer, Jakeh Bradley.
“There is something about your posing in a sensual kind of way that I especially, as a married person, have no desire to do. Sometimes you lose a job over it but to me it’s like I would rather keep my integrity and honor the Lord,” Bradley shares. “At the end of the day, I don’t want to go to sleep knowing raunchy pictures of me are out there.” If asked to pose seductively or expose herself, Bradley simply responds, “There’s a million other girls that are totally willing to do that.” Bradley has chosen, instead, to participate in photography that reflects her fun, bright, and carefree personality.
Being able to meet “cool people” in the industry that she admires Bradley confesses her disappointment at their unkind attitude and standoffish personality. This prompted the twenty-two-year-old to always be kind to those who look up to her. “I want to make sure to never be like that. Even if you’re grumpy that day, be nice, because girls are looking up to you. You’re always on stage so you have to be careful what you are doing and saying and wearing.”
Like every young woman, Bradley is not exempt from disliking something she sees with herself but has chosen to openly shares her insecurities like her height (five feet seven inches) and shoulders that she feels are “too broad.” But instead of going with those insecurities, Bradley has learned to embrace her imperfections commenting, “Every single person, no matter how thin or how big, there’s always something you’re not going to like about yourself. So I think, in those imperfections, you lean on the Lord and say, ‘you know what? You made me so use me how you want.’ You find who you are.”
Labeled as a “fashionista” at first glance, Bradley has been asked what’s trending by many only to find a surprising answer, “Whatever you like, that’s trending. There’s no right or wrong way to dress. God created you how you are so just be you. Honestly, I don’t look at anything. I really try to stay clear of looking at what other people are wearing because it’s like ‘oh, should I not be wearing those prints?’ or whatever and I could care less about that.”
Encouraging others to be unique and find their own God honoring style, Bradley also encourages others not to believe the myth that models are perfect. Confessing she sometimes does shoots without makeup, Bradley also shares the realities of the industry where pictures might be touched up due to harsh lighting and models wrestle with bad skin due to “caked” makeup put on during shoots. Bradley sheds light on subject of perfection.
“All of us have flaws and in real life you see we all have pores, we all have acne and not the flattest stomach, and everyone has something,” Bradley states. “Nobody’s perfect. If that’s what you’re setting out to do, you’re never going to be happy because you’re never going to wake up and be like, ‘I am perfect.’ So find your identity in Christ and then you start feeling fulfilled in all those areas that you’re feeling like you’re ‘not right’ in.”
All in all, when Leah reflects over the experience, she credits it as a work of the Lord stating, “Door after door has opened and its been the Lord. You go to castings where there are a million people that look just like you yet you get the job because you know the Lord opened that door.”
Together, Bradley serves with her husband, Jakeh, using their gifts in the fashion industry as well as ministering abroad in Chile alongside her dad. The young couple embraces opportunities to share Christ with teenagers wherever God leads them.