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A ‘prodigal daughter’ returns

Christopher Stefanick

Leah Darrow never thought she was all that pretty, never had many friends, and wasn’t one of the popular kids in school.  Like many young, insecure girls, she looked for love, affirmation and security in the arms of a boy.  She lost her virginity at age 15.

Leah experienced the emotional turmoil that follows for many after what they think will be an elating experience.  Sexually active high school girls are three-times more likely to be depressed, with the 12- to 16-year-olds being six-times more likely to attempt suicide.  Leah didn’t find the security she was looking for from the short-lived relationship, but instead a sense that she had been invaded, a deflated self-image, bewilderment and depression.

This started a cycle for Leah that lasted through her college years.

I knew I couldn’t get my virginity back, so what was the point of stopping?” she thought, all the while looking for a love and security that she never found through relationships. 

After watching “America’s Next Top Model,” Leah decided to audition.  She was amazed when she became one of the 14 who got on the show.  But what followed was only more confusion. 

“There’s nothing ‘real’ about ‘reality TV,’”  she said.  “They edit the reality out of reality TV and present viewers with a fantasy.  It was a constant stream of anxiety, wondering: When’s the shoot?  When will I be eliminated?  

“Always thinking: My lips aren’t big enough.  I’m not thin enough.  I’m not good just the way I am.  No one will love me the way I am.” 

For many, that’s the world of modeling—not to mention it’s the world for so many teenage girls. 

After being eliminated from the show, Leah packed her bags and moved to Manhattan to start a modeling career.  On one photo shoot, she remembers that extremely immodest, small clothing was wheeled out. 

“I thought: I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to show my body like this. 

“And then I snapped out of it because I’m a professional.

It’ll be over soon, I told myself.” 

What happened next Leah never could have imagined. 

Despite the oils that make models look golden-tan, the photographers saw her face turn pale white and lose all expression. Leah was seeing a vision. 

“I was in this white space in the outfit that I was wearing.  I had a knowledge that I had died.  I knew that I was in front of God.  I lifted up my hands toward him and I saw the shadow of his head slowly bow as if in disappointment.  I looked at my hands and I realized that they’re empty.  I was offering God my entire life and all I had done to love and serve him, and it was empty because I had wasted it all on me.”

“Leah, Leah, snap out of it!” she heard.  “She’s all white.  Put more lotion on her.” 

She came to and was being pushed and pulled like a puppet as she was slathered with more tanning lotion. 

“I can’t do this anymore.  I’m done,” she said. 

She went home and looked at a $16,000 modeling check and tore it up. 

“I thought: Well, Satan, that’s what you think I’m worth.  That’s your paycheck to me, and if I cash it, I’m your employee.”

Leah wanted to start over, but kept thinking to herself, You’ve gone past a point where God can help you. 

In her despair she called home.  She told her dad, “If you don’t come and get me I’m going to lose my soul.”

When her dad arrived after a long drive from Missouri, he was beaming.  He told her that before they left town and headed for home they had to go to confession.  “You called and said you want to go home, and church is home.”

She walked into the confessional, not expecting anyone to be there midday, but the priest was waiting.  “I gave him a decade of sins and he gave me peace and mercy.” 

“I am the poster child for the ‘prodigal daughter’ … I’ve been there, done that and am not going back.”

Leah is now speaking around the country about chastity, modesty, and women’s issues.  For more information, visit www.leahdarrow.com.

Leah Darrow will begin writing for Catholic Womanhood next month.

Topics: Culture , Personal Growth , Young Women

Speaker and author Christopher Stefanick is director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Denver Archdiocese. Visit chris-stefanick.com.

View all articles by Christopher Stefanick

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