Supermodel-turned-business-mogul Kathy Ireland would be the first to tell you that the beginning of her modeling career in Paris is more glamorous sounding than it actually was. But out of that lonely, uncomfortable time, her life changed forever because she found a new best friend: Jesus Christ.
Inhabiting what her housemates referred to as "the dungeon" – the room at the end of a long, dark hallway – the then 18-year-old Ireland discovered that her newly Christian mother had secretly planted a Bible in her suitcase. Overcome by jet lag, loneliness and boredom during her first days in Paris, Ireland read the Bible her mother packed in her bag.
"I picked it up and randomly opened up to the Gospel of Matthew. And as I read, my life was forever changed," recalled Ireland in a new "I Am Second" video. "I was a rebellious teenager. I was questioning authority – who really knows the truth? Who really knows what is right and what is wrong, who's to say? And I knew that what I was holding in my hands was the truth."
Ireland, now CEO of the $1.4 billion empire Kathy Ireland Worldwide, shared that as a child she went to a church where the pastor yelled a lot and she didn't feel God's love. But when she read the Bible for the first time at aged 18, she was surprised that Jesus wasn't anything like she had imagined.
"He (Jesus) wasn't condemning, he wasn't yelling. He was loving and leading," she said in the video. "And particularly as a young woman out in the world for the first time, in a world where it often felt like it was dominated by men of questionable character, it gave me such comfort to know that Jesus loves women and honors them. And Jesus Christ became my Lord, my Savior, my best friend."
Although Ireland continued to read the Bible and Jesus remained a part of her life thereafter, she admitted regrettably that she remained a "baby Christian" for a long time. She read passages she liked repeatedly, while choosing to dismiss ones that she didn't like as typos or not applying to her.
"Yeah, if you asked me I was a Christian. He was in my life. I loved him. I had him. But I was trying to mold God into what I wanted Him to be, rather than allowing Him to mold me into the person He made me to be," she said.
Even after she allowed God to mold her as He sees fit, she struggled with being too self-reliant and being a "control freak." Several years ago at a women's retreat, Ireland felt God convict her while she was praying: "You say I am your first priority, but I'm not." She acknowledged that she would say her faith was her first priority, then her family. But in reality, her kids were the top priority.
"And anything that comes before God is an idol, even if it's something good," said the devoted mother and wife.
At that moment she prayed to God about her difficulties, "With three kids, different ages, different needs, the business, I just felt so pulled in every direction. And I said, 'I don't know how.' And He said, 'Trust me in this. Put me first and I'll give you more time with your kids. I'll give you better time with your kids.'
"And He is so faithful. He's just so faithful. For me, I just started getting up earlier and spending time with Him. And it would start out gradually and now I can't get enough."
The supermodel who became an evangelical Christian at aged 18 concluded, "When people ask me what are your goals, my goal in life is to grow closer to Jesus each day. To follow His lead for me. To stay on His path. To be obedient. And it's just day by day."
Ireland is the latest celebrity to share her faith story on I Am Second, a website that includes film testimonies of celebrities and everyday people. Other celebrities that have shared their testimony include Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, former Korn band member Brian "Head" Welch, famed surfer Bethany Hamilton, and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, among others.
The website has garnered nearly 8 million visitors from 219 countries/regions since it launched in December 2008.