Hi Tracy! You became the first Indonesian supermodel and eventually became an international model. How did you get into the modelling world?
I grew up as a girl who had very low self-esteem. I’m quite tall for an Indonesian and I was nicknamed ‘giraffe’, ‘coconut tree’, and ‘giant’ by the people in my village. My mum thought that if I joined modelling, it would increase my self-confidence. The thing is though, I come from a village in Bali in the middle of a rice field and went to a village school. All of a sudden, I won a modelling competition in Jakarta and became ‘Cover Girl Of The Year’ for Mode magazine, Indonesia! That same year, I became the first Indonesian model to win the prestigious Elite Model Look International competition in 1995. My world changed drastically. At 14 years old, I moved to New York to become an international model. That was the beginning of my modelling career.
Many girls dream about appearing on the cover of magazines. What was that like?
The first time I appeared on a magazine cover back in 1995, I remember exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, there’s so many of me!” I was so shy, yet happy at the same time. But now that I am a Christian, I look back and think, “That was great but what did that mean?” I would rather be recognised for my faith in Christ than just a model on a magazine cover.
Besides, models really don’t look the way they look on magazines! Even models wish that they look like models. Funny story: once I saw a model on Elle Magazine with super nice hair and I desired to buy all the hair products she was endorsing. It took me three good looks at the model before realising that … it was actually me! I couldn’t even recognise myself — my hair was thicker and longer, and my face was slimmer. and I was like, “No! I don’t look like this, this is not my hair.” I was fooled by my own photo.
So every time someone tells me “Oh I want to be a model, I want to look like a model” I just tell them, “That’s not real!” And through Instagram, all of us can experience what modelling is like. How many of us use filters? How many of us use all sorts of different apps to edit our photos? How many of us take 30 photos just to upload one perfect photo? It is us, but it’s a perfect photo with the right angles and lighting, but in real life, it’s still just us. We get a glimpse of what the modelling world is like because now we actually become the models on our own page on social media.
You went from being a supermodel to an apologist. How did that happen?
Before I was a model, I was a nobody — my school friends made fun of me, and my teacher was hard on me because I had learning difficulties. However, when I became a model, I went from a ‘nobody’ to a ‘somebody’ overnight. The attention made me think: in order to be somebody, I have to be a model. So I pushed on in modelling, trying to gain more fame and more wealth in order to be happier. I thought that my family would care more about me, that my teachers would be like, super nice to me.
But when I started to work as an international model in New York and Paris, I started to think, “There should be more than this in life.” I just felt emptiness in my heart. It seemed like there was no purpose and no meaning to what I was doing.
I started to discover the Christian faith, and the more I learnt, the more I felt like, “This makes so much sense.” The gospel was shared to me in the simplest language, and it made sense. It was logical, and it patched my heart at the same time. I am in debt to the kindness of all the people who took time to answer my silly, silliest, and stupid questions. And I thought, “You know what, I may not be smart and I may not know much, but with whatever I know, I would like to share that with people too.” And that’s how I got into apologetics!
Was it difficult to leave your career to become an apologist?
It was a tough choice between earning so much money as a model and businesswoman and pursuing apologetics, but when I received a scholarship to study apologetics at the University of Oxford, I knew that it wasn’t by my own strength! I was reminded of Matthew 4 where Jesus gave a call to the fishermen to follow Him and become fishers of men. Immediately, they left their nets to follow Jesus. This scene replayed in my head and I told myself that I wanted to follow Jesus. My decision was reaffirmed when my Visa application got approved in two days when it usually takes three! I knew that I had to let go of what was comfortable to follow the will of God for my life.
Finally, what is your heart for the girls of this generation?
Girls struggle with a great deal of insecurities — I used to have constant thoughts that I was ugly, fat, and not good enough. However, always remember that gratitude brings beauty. Girls, do not waste time dwelling on all your self-conceived curses and insecurities. Instead, open up your mouths to praise God for what you have! Ask the Lord to cleanse your vision of the way you perceive yourself and teach you how to filter the things you see or hear.
Girls have so much power to make an impact in this world with the light we carry within us. My desire is for girls to reveal Christ by loving their neighbours as themselves. Also, instead of spending time dwelling on our insecurities, learn much and share much! Our social media platforms are tools that we can use to post healthy and encouraging words and be a powerful influence to girls who might be struggling in their daily lives. Always remember that everything we do ought to be in the light of Christ and eternity. This life is not our own, but His.