Photo courtesy of The Grable Group
Back when I was in high school, I used to be obsessed with America’s Next Top Model. I got into it when I found out that one of the contestants, Heather Kuzmich, had Asperger’s Syndrome. Little did I know that I would later learn of another contestant who left the modeling lifestyle and became a well known Catholic speaker. When I first heard of Leah Darrow, I knew her as a speaker, not as a reality show contestant. Later on, I watched her when she gave her conversion story on The Journey Home and found myself fascinated.
After watching her testimony on The Journey Home, I found a video clip of her elimination from America’s Next Top Model. I watched in awe as the judges said that her outfit was more suited for a “secretary contest,” telling her to take off her jacket since she was wearing a tube top underneath. In my honest opinion, she was definitely less “soccer mom” than Tyra Banks declared her to be.
With beauty queens these days showing themselves to be less-than-stellar when it comes to world matters, Leah Darrow stands out as a woman who wears a better crown on her head: the crown that God gives to all of his daughters. And the fact that I first knew her as a speaker rather than a reality show contestant tells me that she’s come a very long way.
What did your time on America’s Next Top Model teach you about being on TV and the “glamorous” lifestyle?
My time on ANTM taught me that there is no such thing as the “glamorous lifestyle” – that’s only something that Fergie and Beyonce sing about. The lifestyle perpetuated by fashion, music, and movies is one focused on instant gratification and constant conformation to a ridiculous standard of beauty and entertainment that one has no control over.
Tell me how you met your husband and how things are for you and your family now.
We were introduced by friends. When we met in 2008, Ricky had just returned from his first deployment to Iraq (he’s a US Army Special Forces Green Beret) and was prepping for his second deployment, so, a “relationship” was a bit out of the question. We started and maintained a friendship, and for the next four years and really got to know each other. In 2011, we just happened to be in the same place, at the same time — and that’s when Ricky knew I was the love of his life and he couldn’t live without me…that’s at least my version of the story.
What advice would you give about relationships?
We are obsessed with relationships today and define ourselves by them. Sadly, we have forgotten the art of friendship. We end up dating strangers and attempt the friendship while we navigate the dating process. Try friendship out first before you go and date a stranger. People who have a strong relationship with Jesus tend not to jump into relationships too quickly because they have a stronger sense of self, worth, and dignity. When we allow our identify to be defined by HIM, we don’t seek it in the world or in others.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty should inspire and empower love. Beauty should not reduce a person to a collection of parts or use. True beauty is rooted in service to another – “The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face” Ven. Fulton Sheen.
What is your favorite go-to outfit for a typical day? How would you describe your style?
My favorite go-to outfit for a typical day is something that snot, markers, and banana can be washed out of quickly – my fashion choices are now inspired my daughter, Agnes. However, I’ve always leaned toward classic pieces that stand the test of time. I update them with accessories (jewelry, scarves, jackets, shoes) but rarely go with “trends”. Instead, I stick with what works for my figure and budget.
Who are your go-to saints?
I like St. Theresa of Avila because she’s feisty and she ‘gets’ my lack of patience that I am forever trying to quell, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen because he is a pro when it comes to evangelization with a microphone, and St. John Paul II because, well, he’s John Paul II.
What would you say to girls who want to audition for reality TV shows or pursue a career in fashion/acting?
Don’t audition for reality TV shows. It’s not worth your time and people rarely take you seriously afterward. Just take a look at all the reality TV contestants out there today and their lives – for most of us, it didn’t exactly help our situation in life.
Acting and designing are both amazing creative arts that require God-given talent, time and practice. In either one of those fields, a strong faith community is a must for accountability and support.