The messages that girls receive from teen magazines are often discouraging and degrading to their sense of self-worth, because very few teens feel as thin, pretty or savvy as cover girl models appear to be. That is why Acquire the Fire is teaming up with Virtuous Teen magazine to help spread the word to teenage girls that God loves them just as they are.
Virtuous Teen is a combination of both faith and fashion, and will be made available, at no charge, to as many as 100,000 young people at over 20 upcoming ATF events this spring. ATF youth events are a part of Teen Mania Ministries, one of the nation's largest Christian youth organizations.
The magazine was founded by Carli Jean Miller in 2009, when she was just a 16-year-old high school student. She, too, had felt the impact of the media on her own self-image, telling The Christian Post on Wednesday that she once felt she had to be "perfect."
"I felt as if I could never live up to the standard ... that they set of being skinny, being basically perfect and then being able to judge people by their looks and not by what's in their heart," said Miller. As a "teenager standing for purity," she was also upset at how casually some teen magazines could discuss sex as if every teenage girl was doing it.
But she knew she wasn't alone. She began speaking to girls at other churches, telling them that "the Lord loves them the way they are," and that they should be more concerned with how God wants them to grow and change. That is the message she continues to share today through Virtuous Teen.
"Bottom line, the magazine, I just want it to encourage girls just to be themselves but to have fun and not to think that being a Christian is something they should be looked down [on] for or be ashamed of," she said.
Her magazine is clearly geared toward teenagers, with content that includes budget-friendly fashion ideas, reasonable exercise and nutrition suggestions, as well as dating advice. Unlike other magazines, however, she does a minimal amount of editing to a model's features once their photograph has been taken.
"What they see in those magazines is just not real. It's not, because 99.9 percent of images in those magazines are Photoshopped, and ... I know the desire of God's heart is for these girls to see the cover girl how they truly are," said Miller. She says she will only touch-up a photo if the model has acne, which she says can be embarrassing to them.
The magazine has only published four issues so far, one per year since it was founded, and Miller is currently in the process of raising money through advertisers to produce 100,000 new issues for the ATF events this spring.
Although she doesn't have much money, and her only co-workers have been a staff of volunteers, Miller says she has sold a few magazines internationally through the Internet and has even been contacted by a former "America's Next Top Model" contestant about working with her.
Although she has a lot of work ahead of her to prepare for the ATF events, Miller believes her magazine is the "Lord's work" and says that "even though we are small ... He's not small. So I'm not scared about that at all, it's just according to His timing and His planning."
Kemtal Glasgow, director of Acquire the Fire, told CP that it is okay if Miller can't produce all 100,000 copies of the magazine, and that they will take as many as she can produce. He is simply glad that someone so young – she is only 19 years old – is living out her faith and trying to make a difference.
"One of the things for us is we want to appreciate and celebrate the fact that we've got a young person who has taken the initiative to make an impact in her generation while she's young," said Glasgow. "That is, in large part, the message of Acquire the Fire, that you can make an impact while you're young."