Victoria's Secret model leaves the runway, counsels young women about Christian values
By Scott Stump, TODAY
(NBC) -- When she strode down the runway as a Victoria's Secret model in 2009, Kylie Bisutti, 23, achieved a lifelong dream. But she's given it all up because she felt the modeling industry ran counter to her Christian values.
In her new book, "I'm No Angel,'' Bisutti describes her disenchantment with the modeling industry and the unhealthy practices she claimed were part of the job. Bisutti now lives in Big Fork, Mont., with her husband, and counsels young women about Christian values while hoping to shed light on what she feels is the dark side of the modeling industry.
"I believe that the modeling industry as a whole really exploits young girls,'' Bisutti told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday. "I'm just thankful that God changed my heart earlier on rather than being five or 10 years down the road runway modeling or lingerie modeling.''
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Bisutti was 19 when she beat out 10,000 contestants in an online contest voted on by the public to walk the runway at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 2009. She had been modeling for several years and had seemingly attained her dream, only to walk away because she felt she was being exploited and sexualized.
"It was my lifelong dream,'' she told Guthrie. "(Deciding to leave modeling) was a slow, gradual process over time, but it really revolved around modeling lingerie. That was the pinnacle of my decision, being seen by other men in lingerie when I have a precious husband at home who should be the only one to see me that way.''
"She came to her convictions going, ‘I don't want to go down that road any more. I don't feel comfortable dressing half naked to sell clothing,''' her husband, Mike Bisutti, told TODAY.
Victoria's Secret claims that Bisutti is overstating her relationship to the company in her book.
"Ms. Bisutti has made numerous fabrications and misstatements of fact regarding her brief association with Victoria's Secret,'' the company said in a statement to TODAY. "In 2009, Ms. Bisutti won an online amateur modeling competition and hasn't worked for us since that year. The prize for the winning contestant was the unique opportunity to a one-time walk in the 2009 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
"Ms. Bisutti also participated in a swim photo shoot in 2009. That was the extent of Ms. Bisutti's involvement with Victoria's Secret. She was never a Victoria's Secret ‘Angel' as defined by the terms of our Angel model contract. And contrary to Ms. Bisutti's claims, she was never offered any subsequent modeling contracts or opportunities with Victoria's Secret despite her multiple appeals for further work. She has repeatedly fabricated her work experience with Victoria's Secret – including a relationship that simply did not exist."
"My response is, all the truth is in the book,'' Bisutti told Guthrie Tuesday. "My book is really not about Victoria's Secret. It's about the modeling industry as a whole and about helping girls with self-body image issues, eating disorders and really exposing the entire industry for what it is. It's not targeting their brand.''
Bisutti's book also details her ordeals in trying to maintain her appearance to continue to get work in the industry.
"There was intense pressure on me and I know on many models around me to be incredibly thin,'' she said. "I went as far as doing crazy crash diets to drop the weight after my agency had called me fat and told me that I needed to lose weight off of my thighs and hips, and I did very unhealthy things to lose the weight, but I was told if I didn't do it, I wouldn't book jobs and become successful."
Bisutti said her hope was that the diets would pay off with a successful career at the top of the industry, but she claims those issues never went away.
"The whole time through my career, I always thought, 'One day this is all going to pay off, one day it's going to change for me.' But I realized it never really changed the way I thought it would,'' she told Guthrie. "As I saw more and more girls collapsing after runway shows, (and) hospitalized because of eating disorders, I realized it wasn't just my experience. It was everyone in the entire industry."
"It's really the story of someone who is pursuing fame and success and money realizing along the way that those things are not going to bring her the kind of satisfaction that she was hoping for,'' her pastor, Chris Miller of Grace Church, told TODAY.
Bisutti has not looked back since leaving the spotlight and a potentially lucrative modeling career.
"The amazing thing is, I felt total peace about my decision, and now I'm the happiest I've ever been in my entire life,'' she said. "I don't regret any decisions. I'm just so happy now.''