When Nicole Weider made her way to Los Angeles as a teenager, she was excited to dive into the professional modeling world, but what she observed during her subsequent years in Hollywood left her depressed and disenchanted — and it changed the trajectory of her life entirely.
Weider, 29, a former model who founded teen website Project Inspired and recently released her book “Project Inspired: Tips and Tricks for Staying True to Who You Are,” told The Church Boys podcast about her journey to Hollywood and her eventual decision to leave it all behind.
After finding success during her teen years as a model in Portland, Oregon, she convinced her family to move to Hollywood when she was just 16 years old, where she began to pursue a more serious effort to land entertainment gigs.
“I wasn’t ready for how competitive it really was,” she said, admitting that trying to make it big in Hollywood was a difficult task. “I had moved and uprooted my family … and so I wasn’t sure how to make it work.”
After she turned 18 and left high school, she said that she found herself in a desperate situation and in need of making some cash. Weider was so set on finding success in Hollywood that she didn’t have a backup plan, and didn’t pursue college or any other career goals.
Listen to Weider explain her journey below (interview starts at the 55:00 mark):
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She was in a tough spot after graduation, so she started booking some lingerie modeling jobs and even appeared in Maxim — but working as a model came with a variety of challenges.
“It made me feel really embarrassed being on set wearing just a bra and underwear, and I thought that it would be some glamorous event,” she said. “And I just felt really degraded.”
Weider said that she also found it entirely unprofessional and troubling to experience well-known photographers hit on her after photo shoots, asking her to go out for drinks with them.
“It was just so gross,” she recalled.
The model also ended up getting a firsthand look at Hollywood culture, explaining that what she saw was initially alluring, but eventually led her to be entirely turned off by the party scene.
“I saw up close and personal celebrities doing drugs and doing cocaine,” she said. “I wasn’t perfect. I definitely made a lot of mistakes and I was partying right there with them.”
Weider continued, “It seemed glamorous at the time and I did make a lot of mistakes and I thought that partying and getting to know these celebrities would help my own name.”
But she said that the lifestyle quickly becomes an “unhealthy cycle” and, though Hollywood might seem glamorous, Weider said that a lot of celebrities are miserable, alone and surrounded by “yes” men.
There were two key events that she said led her to abandon her professional pursuits.
Weider recalled working as a body double at a Victoria’s Secret shoot one day when a photographer invited her over to see some of the pictures. She was shocked to observe just how much even the most georgeous supermodels posing for the company were being Photoshopped.
“That kind of was a wake-up call,” she said.
Then there was the aforementioned Maxim job, which also showed her that the entertainment industry wasn’t for her.
“I was in the magazine and I had the pictures come out on the Internet. I was so exposed and I wasn’t ready for how exposed I was,” Weider said. “They wanted you to be sexier and sexier, and when I saw the pictures I didn’t want to show my mom and family.”
When Weider later became a Christian, she said that she knew that she needed to change her life. Six years later, she’s running Project Inspired, a faith and pop-culture themed lifestyle website for young girls that encourages them to embrace their natural beauty.
She launched Project Inspired in an effort to share her love for God and her testimony about how her life was “transformed … for the better.”
“I wanted to warn girls about being disillusioned with how glamorous the Hollywood lifestyle may seem,” Weider said.
She also offered her own theory about why entertainment seems to be becoming “more and more provocative.”
“I feel like because of the advent of social media they’re always trying to outdo one another,” Weider said. “They’re just pushing the envelope as much as possible, because people have done that. … with social media they really want to get as much attention as possible and by doing all of these negative things they’re able to get more people to look at them.”
As for her own decision to leave it all behind, she has no regrets.
“My life is way better than I ever could have imagined,” Weider — now a married mother of one — told The Church Boys. “If I stayed in Hollywood I wouldn’t be as blessed as I am today.”
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