(Photo by Natalie Baugh)
By Johnny Reed
As it is my first time writing for Marked Ministry, I would first like to start off by introducing myself. My name is Johnny Reed, and I am a professional male model for Wilhelmina Worldwide. I am currently contracted in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and London. I have been a full-time male model for the past three and a half years, and continually count my blessings for all that I have been given.
In the modeling industry, it is not surprising that I encounter many different situations where my faith is constantly being put to the test. I would be lying if I said that being a Christian in a secular modeling industry is easy. The modeling industry is rooted in vanity, lust and greed. However, even in the darkest of environments such as the Entertainment Industry, I believe God is at work. I have experienced firsthand how God moves in situations and through people in miraculous ways. I believe that God has had His hand on me and worked through me throughout my entire modeling career, and thus I have been able to be His witness in such a dark environment.
I have had the blessing of shooting for clothing lines such as Forever 21, Champion, Russel Westbrook and ASOS. I have had the opportunity to meet famous creatives in high positions through such jobs. While on set, I continually witness Christ opening doors for me to witness to others. This gives me the opportunity to witness to models that only have been looked at and judged superficially for so long. I am able to communicate with them the worth and esteem Christ sees in them. In this industry, you are judged by how you look before you can even utter a word. In fact, your whole income and livelihood banks on how your appearance is, how others perceive you and how many followers you have on Instagram. This creates the need for models to feel accepted and wanted. It puts even more pressure on their appearance than the already enormous pressure a regular young 20-some year old has. They develop a never-ending desire to want to please whoever has the authority.
I find this one of the most saddening traits about the career of a professional model. However, even the need the models feel to please people in authority creates great opportunities for me to share with them. I have the opportunity to share that the One who holds all authority does not only accept them for their appearance, but uniquely and meticulously created each part of them individually. There have been countless models I have encountered whom seemed to be at the top of their careers but were still so incredibly empty. Due to the self-focused aspect of modeling, at the end of the day, the model is left feeling unfulfilled.
I believe God put a passion for fashion in myself, to guide me in to the world of modeling. There have been instances where I have had to reject job opportunities because I did not want to represent what the product was selling. I have had agents and other models look at me astounded and question, “Why would you give up a job opportunity?!?” Yet, I wholeheartedly think this is the way God has used me to witness.
One time, specifically, I was on the job and the company wanted me to wear a shirt that said a name of a drug on it. In those instances, I can feel the tension rise because the owner of the brand is standing there and clearly has authority (over whether or not I will get paid that day, what remarks will be sent back to my agents, whether or not they will book me again in the future, etc.). Of course, I, as the model, do not want to displease the client (owner), but I stood by my conviction of not wanting to promote that product and the photographer recognized that conviction I had. The photographer and I became friends and he later came to church with me.
I love the industry I have been placed in. The harvest is so great, but the reapers are certainly few. Models are constantly thrown temptation left and right. Whether it be going to the best clubs of Hollywood, or getting to meet famous people, the life they think they want is constantly presented at their feet. Many of such models I call my friends. However, in the end, if they choose to go down that path, it only leads to brokenness and desperation for something more. I was once in that very place. As someone who experienced such emptiness firsthand, I know how hard and lonely it can be. The modeling world leaves the people in it surrounded by a deep fog of fake love. The chance to get to witness to those people as someone who has escaped out of it is a wonderful blessing. Models are often stigmatized, especially by their Instagram followers, to having the “perfect” life, be very happy and live their best life. Yet, at the end of the day, they are unfulfilled, lonely and in need of Christ.
The model industry may seem very dark, but I think those in it are the best type of soil. They are soil that has experienced all the “world” has to offer and are still not satisfied. I have no doubt that God is using me for His kingdom to be a witness to such lost souls and offer the joy of fulfillment that only Christ can give. To go and make disciples in such an industry may seem impossible. However, I am a direct witness and can say without a doubt that, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”