The Anniston Star
|Matt Ratliff and Shannon Stewart|
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.
Connect with Shannon Stewart Ratliff on Facebook.