Lingeriemodel

Kylie Bisutti beat out 10,000 other women to win the Victoria’s Secret Model Search. Then, in a surprising turn, she told the company to take their lingerie and shove it. Why? Because she feels that parading her exceptionally fit, gorgeous body in lingerie (which shows about as much skin as wearing a bikini) is something that she should only do for her husband based on her Christian faith.

“Victoria’s Secret was my absolute biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise. I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast. But the more I was modeling lingerie, and lingerie isn’t clothing, I just started becoming more uncomfortable with it,” Bisutti told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I’m Christian, and reading the Bible more, I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.”

Let me begin by saying that I respect her choice because she’s placing her personal convictions above fame and wealth, although this whole thing smells a bit like a publicity stunt. Before this story broke, I had no idea who Kylie Bisutti was.

Lingerie modeling is not for everyone, which is why models are generally paid a higher rate to do it. I’m sure being the new poster girl for the Christian right can lead to some gigs, but Carrie Prejean has quietly vanished from the public eye. If Bisutti wants to be known as something other than a lingerie model, more power to her. I wish her well.

What offends my sensibilities is the subtext of judgment and the “holier than thou” message regarding what’s “okay” for a woman to wear. Shouldn’t that be each person’s individual choice once they are adults capable of making their own decisions? Isn’t appropriateness dictated by the setting, the context and each person’s own individual moral code? I would have had much more respect for Bisutti if she had included a disclaimer that it was the right decision for HER but might not be for others.

Bisutti suggesting that being seen in lingerie is somehow immoral — after doing so put her on the map of elite models — is a bit of an insult to women who are proud of their bodies rather than ashamed of them. I take her comments to mean that wearing outfits that show off the body around anyone other than one’s husband is incompatible with being a good Christian worthy of God’s grace. I guess that means all those women who posed for boudoir photo shoots or went tanning at the beach are going to Hell?

Bikinivslingerie

That sort of anguished thinking has afflicted more than one person I’ve worked with here in the Bible Belt.

These young women see the glamorous supermodels in magazines and TV commercials looking amazing, and they want to be the ones walking down the runway, so they attempt modeling. Then, after catching grief — real or imagined — from a parent or boyfriend or husband, they freak out and feel ashamed for having pursued that dream in the first place. They fear being judged for some imagined lack of character, even though their photos may be relatively modest.

It’s an unfortunate desire/guilt cycle of repression. It is the reason why I only photograph models who are over 18. If I’m shooting any looks that might be perceived as provocative or racy, I take a moment to explain the ramifications of signing a legally-binding model release and posting their images on the Internet. I typically recommend models use an alias. A fun photo shoot at age 21 can become a hassle at age 25 when a girl tries to find work as a schoolteacher and a simple Google Images search turns up sultry photos during a background check.

There have been many other times when models have come to me wanting to look beautiful and sexy, yet drawing very clear lines in the sand about capturing their likeness in lingerie or implying nudity. I’ve always respected their comfort level, the same as I respect Biscutti’s right to set boundaries for what she won’t do going forward.

Biscutti is indeed welcome to have her personal values, but her kind of thinking is what makes it so hard on people like herself who have the body, beauty, charisma, and talent to shine. If you take Bisutti’s thinking as a “role model” a few more steps, you get laws like the ones requiring the burqa, a garment worn by women in Islamic countries to cover their faces and bodies in public places. Some consider the garment, which reveals only the eyes, and laws about public modesty to be tools of religious oppression used to keep women from becoming independent from men.

We are all born naked. The human body is a beautiful thing. Shame is a human construct that causes moral judgments. It is possible to subjectively look at a photo or a painting or a sculpture of the human body and feel more aesthetic appreciation than arousal. To suggest that Victoria’s Secret models equate to prostitutes exploiting their bodies for financial gain is sexual McCarthyism.

I judge people based on their actions, not how much or how little they are wearing. Modesty and appropriateness DO matter, but again, context is everything, and I personally see nothing wrong with a woman letting the world see the results of her hard work at the gym and the discipline it takes to stay fit. Some men are possessive and consider their girlfriend or wife to be their property to control. Some guys can’t help but feel insecure and jealous when other men admire their lady as a sex symbol. I get it.

I’m less offended by seeing Bisutti’s bare tummy than by her lack of professionalism in quitting after being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent a company that sells over $5 billion in apparel each year and sets the benchmark for the world’s top fashion models.

Where were her strong moral convictions when she deprived 9,999 other women the chance to fulfill their dream? Oh well, it’s not as if I’ve never chased after something and then not wanted it once I caught it. I can’t judge Biscutti too harshly since so few people get a chance to walk in her footsteps. It just seems like a shame that she felt shame.

I want to know what you guys think. Sound off and let me know what you think…