Last week, roughly 80 fashion industry types gathered on the seventh floor of a midtown office building for their monthly dinner. Before digging in, they bowed their heads and closed their eyes.
âFather, we come to you right now, and we thank you for this wonderful time, this food that was wonderfully prepared,â said Seth Whalen, a model. âBless the hands that have prepared it, and bless the food to our bodies, strengthen us and enrich us and allow your word to just speak to us tonight, in your most precious name Lord Jesus, Amen.â
From a small stage, Mr. Whalenâ26, baby-faced with a goatee, his full hair pulled back under a ball capâexplained the purpose of the group to any newcomers. âWeâre a bunch of people from New York Cityâs fashion industry, here to seek in our God, in this crazy, crazy industry. God in fashion is a paradox in itself. So thatâs what we do, and thatâs who we are.â
Mr. Whalen is a âcore leaderâ of the group, which calls itself Paradox and is the New York hub of Models for Christ, founded in 1982 by Jeff Calenberg. Only a few months into his modeling career, adrift in the debauched world of Milanâs fashion world, Mr. Calenbergâblond, fair, piercing blue eyesâsaid he knew that the he would wind up in the Valley of Darkness without some Christian amigos to help keep him righteous. According to the Models for Christ materials, while in Milan, Mr. Calenberg âdesigned and distributed a small pamphlet that presented the prestige and struggles of the fashion industry and how Jesus Christ can provide true fulfillment. Since then, Models for Christ has grown and expanded from models to photographers, agents, fashion designers â¦â
Mr. Calenberg said the group started with about five members and now includes more than 1,000, with regular meetings in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. He intimated that a number of famous people have come to the meetings; model and actress Rene Russo was the only one he felt comfortable revealing. About five years ago, the New York group renamed itself Paradox to appeal to a broader audience. Models for Christ has spawned other groups such as Haven, a group for Christian actors founded by Arrested Development sitcom star Tony Hale.