- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

A new era may be dawning for glamour queens.

To work in Hollywood or in other facets of the entertainment business once meant smiling, having pretty hair and mostly keeping silent on issues. Not anymore: Beauty and beliefs — including political and religious beliefs — can coexist surprisingly well, said Michelle Borquez, founder of Shine Magazine, a publication promoting “inner and outer beauty” in a woman’s life.

Take former supermodel Kathy Ireland, who is now the chief executive officer of a $1.4 billion company. She unabashedly says her faith guides her in everything she does and that it’s possible to be for women’s rights and also be pro-life.

Carrie Prejean, the former Miss California and Miss USA contestant who spoke out against gay marriage, says her future includes “me speaking out and taking a stand for what I believe in.”

Elisabeth Hasselbeck does just that five days a week on ABC’s “The View,” where talk on hot topics such as abortion, gun control and the war in Iraq can turn contentious as she responds to her more liberal co-hosts.

“I love the fact we are seeing glamorous women who have some moral absolutes and have families,” Ms. Borquez says. She cites the 2004 release of “The Passion of the Christ” as the turning point. Director Mel Gibson did not back down from his conservative Christian views, which paved the way for other high-profile people to do the same, she says.

“Before that, you might have been blackballed or known as being uptight,” she says.

Also helping conservative women speak their minds, even if they are not on the political stage, is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Mrs. Palin, who was runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, says she competed for the chance at scholarship money. Still, 25 years later, she is posing in Vogue and, like her or loathe her, she is “the sexiest and riskiest GOP brand,” according to Vanity Fair.

Mrs. Palin “is by far the best-looking woman ever to rise to such heights in national politics, the first indisputably fertile female to dare to dance with the big dogs,” Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum writes in the August issue. “This phenomenal reality has been a blessing and a curse. It has captivated people who would never have given someone with Palin’s record a second glance if Palin had looked like Susan Boyle. And it has made others reluctant to give her a second chance because she looks like a beauty queen.”

Miss Ireland is most famous for modeling for Sports Ilustrated’s swimsuit issue 13 times, including three covers in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, she is the mother of three and CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a home-furnishings company. In her new book, “Real Solutions for Busy Moms: Your Guide to Success and Serenity,” she writes of the centrality of faith in her life.

“I would be a complete disaster without it,” she says. “For me, it is everything. Life and motherhood are challenging and sometimes scary. As moms, our responsibility to our families is to feel our fear, walk through it and do our best.”

She writes in the book about how she became a Christian when she was 18 and on a modeling assignment in France. Recalling how she picked up a Bible “out of boredom, jet lag and loneliness,” Miss Ireland says, “It really transformed my life. I knew I was holding the truth in my hands. A living faith in God is more than believing in him and going to church. It is an ongoing relationship that takes time.”

Miss Ireland, who lends her name to several causes, acknowledges that she may not have sent the right message in her modeling heyday. “I regret that a few times in my modeling career, I may have contributed to … messages [parents find objectionable],” she writes. “Today, as an older and wiser mom, there are a few photo shoots I wish I’d passed on. When you know better, you do better.”

Miss Ireland helps promote Tangle.com, a faith-based social-networking site where children and teens can post blogs, view videos and communicate in an environment that contains appropriate material. She also supports the Virginia-based Safe Surfin’ Foundation, which provides awareness and education about Internet predators.

“We live in an age of technology,” Miss Ireland says. “You can do every safety precaution in your home, but kids are going to be in other homes. We’ve got to educate and do everything in our power to keep them safe.”

Miss Ireland credits education for another recent change in her life. She says she has always been a passionate supporter of women’s rights, but she recently changed her views on abortion.

“I was pro-choice,” she says. “It wasn’t something I would ever choose for myself, but I felt, ‘Who am I to tell a woman what to do with her body?’ ” Miss Ireland says her revised approach is based on science, not faith.

“You can be an atheist and know it is not OK to take a life,” she says. “I dove into the medical books. I said, ‘Please show me some evidence that an unborn baby is not a human being.’ But there wasn’t any. I read everything I could get my hands on. I called Planned Parenthood. I talked to my pro-choice friends. Nothing. The moment life begins, there is a blueprint for DNA.

“Some people assume because I am pro-life I am anti-woman, but that could not be further from the truth,” she says.

Sarah Anne Sumpleoc of Fredericksburg, Va., who writes the blog Girls, God and the Good Life, says she thinks the culture may be heading to a time when conservative role models may not be such a rarity. She tries to write about role models on the blog often “because girls are looking for it.”

“Whether you are 13 or 30, we all look for role models,” she says. “We want to say, ‘I want to be like that.’ There are a whole lot of women doing amazing things, living what they believe and not afraid to show it.”

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