Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shannon Stewart — God's Next Top Model

By Theresa Shadrix
The Anniston Star
04-22-2007

Matt Ratliff and Shannon Stewart
Shannon Stewart is on a mission from God.
The blond, 5'11” Ohio native is not a missionary in a foreign land, but rather a professional model and former reality TV show contestant.
The 22-year-old beauty also is unashamedly a virgin and does not smoke or drink. She takes no credit for her good looks — “I owe it all to God,” she jokes — and is the type of girl every Mom wishes her son would marry.
But, she is taken and the lucky guy is model Matthew Ratliff. “Our relationship is totally because of Jesus Christ,” she said. “He is my best friend.”
Girded with their Christian faith, Stewart said she and Matthew just want to be a light in a business known for darkness.
They share experiences in the modeling world, like to hang out together and enjoy speaking as a team about their faith, when their modeling schedules permit.
In a telephone call from Chicago, she told me, “This is a tough business. Sometimes, I hate it. But, if no one shares the Good News, how will they know about Jesus Christ?”
It was this type of thinking that led Stewart to try out for season one of America's Next Top Model, the reality TV show created by Tyra Banks.
First aired in 2003, the season featured 10 contestants who lived together in a New York loft. Each week they were judged on various photo shoots, like one in swimwear and one in which the girls were wrapped in a huge snake. At the end of each episode, one girl was eliminated.
As in all reality shows, drama and conflict are the ingredients that create a spicy TV dish. For Stewart and fellow contestant Robin Manning from Memphis, Tenn., the openness about their Christian beliefs at times created tension.
Stewart and Manning were in the final four when the contestants were asked to pose nude in a photo shoot for diamond jewelry. They refused because of morality issues. Robin was the one eliminated at the end of that episode.
Stewart went on finish the season in second place to Adrianne Curry, who, since winning America's Next Top Model, has admitted to past drug use and bi-sexuality, posed nude for Playboy and married Christopher Knight, aka Peter Brady from the classic TV hit show, The Brady Bunch.
Stewart said she has found success in the modeling world, but it has taken her longer to achieve it because of her stand for righteous living.
Signed with Elite Model Management, she said, “It has taken me longer in this business because I won't go to parties or do certain things.” But, she has no regrets and hears from people who commend her stand for clean living.
“I can't recall any negativity about not posing nude,” she said about the TV show episode. “I do hear from people who thank me for standing up for something, which included Muslims and atheists.
Stewart does not focus on what the future holds, but rather what exciting journey God has in store for her.
“I would love to host a Christian TV show with Matthew for teens.”
For the moment, Stewart is happy being God's Top Model.

Web Resourses:
Shannon Stewart's MySpace page
Matthew Ratliff's MySpace page
Models For Christ
Americas Next Top-model

Monday, April 09, 2007

Poverty is never fashionable

By Theresa Shadrix
The Anniston Star
04-08-2007

There is nothing fashionable about poverty. Poverty doesn't look good on anyone and is never in style.

Seriously, I have never heard a financially challenged individual, the monetarily disenfranchised or a plain ol' poor person say, “Wow, I am so glad that being poor is All the Rage this year, cause, ya know, being able to pay my bills and buy groceries is so yesterday.”

The Bible tells us the poor will be with us always.

But, how do we know who they are and what do poor folks look like?

Most people, when asked, will probably tell you the face of the poor is a welfare mama with several kids by different daddies who sits around at home watching Maury on TV, being supported with money from hard-working taxpayers.

The Alabama poverty Project disagrees with this myth by providing numbers that encourage us not to be so quick to judge.

Among their statistics, poverty in Calhoun County is children zero to 17, female-headed households and those too old or too young to work. I guess you could say the faces of poverty in our community are young'uns, old folks and single moms.

So, what does one do to help?

How about when you clean out your closet, don't give away the T-shirt you spilled coffee on three years ago or the pants you ripped when you ate too much Sunday casserole.

If it's something you wouldn't wear, then why do you think someone else will want it?

It is not like poor folks really love wearing hand-me-downs so much that they will say things like, “Man, that coffee stain on that T-shirt is gonna bring out the brown in my eyes.”

Jim Davis, the Baptist Service Center director for the Calhoun Baptist Association, told me volunteers waste many hours sorting through the good and bad stuff that is donated. And I know it is the truth because Jim took my former position at the CBA.

For six years, I smiled and thanked people when they donated clothes and goods from their home, then smiled again when I gave them a receipt. Then, volunteers sighed and shook their heads when they threw out old diapers (no kidding), soiled clothes, old underwear and such.

In our community, there are five organizations that provide clothing for free to those in need. The people are screened through Family Services and referred to them.

If you have clothing that is not suitable for wear, you can donate it to the Salvation Army for recycling. Just make sure to let them know your donation is not for the thrift store.

So, when you are spring-cleaning and you want to donate items to the less-fortunate in our community, just be respectful.

Where you can go to donate:

All Saints Interfaith Center of Concern
1029 W. 15th St., Anniston
Director: Sister Mary Roy
Phone: 236-7793
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Monday-Friday

Baptist Service Center South
806 Stewart St., Oxford
Director: Jim Davis
Phone: 831-4691
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday-Friday

Baptist Service Center Northwest
259 Halls Chapel Road, Alexandria
Director: Jim Davis
Phone: 846-3525
Hours of operation: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Community Enabler Developer
1411 Gurnee Ave., Anniston
Director: Maudine Holloway
Phone: 237-6144
Hours of operation: 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday

Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center
206 Francis St. W., Jacksonville
Directors: Mary Agnes Hester and Chalcy Evans
Phone: 435-1891
Hours of operation: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

Salvation Army — Recycled Clothes
420 Noble St., Anniston
Phone: 236-5764

If you are in an individual or family in need of clothes, then you must be screened through Family Services Center of Calhoun County, 15 E. 11th St., Anniston. Call 231-2240 for intake hours and more information.

Visit the Alabama Poverty Project online at www.alabamapoverty.org.