At age 16, Rosie Card seemed to be living the dream: she was a runway model traveling the world. The experience has given her unique perspective into how women view their bodies and how Satan uses our bodies to distract us from our abilities to gain skills and be creators. Now, Rosie is focusing her efforts on a new line of temple dresses that she hopes will allow women to focus on what’s most important in the temple.
You started working as a runway model when you were 16. You were traveling the world, living a pretty different lifestyle from the typical teenage girl. How did those experiences affect you at the time?
It made me grow up really fast. You are a kid, but you’re working in an adult industry, and you’re working predominantly with all adults. All of the models are kids, but your agent, your client, the photographer, everyone’s an adult, so you have to grow up and to figure out how to live that kind of adult life kind of quickly.
How did you live with the often conflicting messages of womanhood, sexuality, and beauty within the church and then on the runway? Was it hard to navigate both worlds at the same time?
I feel like I was your pretty standard insecure 16-year-old. Then I started modeling, and my body went from being the most embarrassing thing about me, because I was taller than everyone in high school, to this incredible thing. People were saying, “You won the genetic lottery,” and I didn’t feel like I won the genetic lottery. Suddenly, I had what the world says should make you happy. It’s one thing to be prom queen at your high school and everyone thinks you’re cool, but then to suddenly be on covers of magazines… It should be the ultimate thing, you should be extremely happy. I had that, and for a while I was thinking, “I should be happy, why am I not happy?” It really started my life mission in learning what makes people, women especially, happy. Because I had what the world and what Satan tell the majority of women should makes them happy, and it didn’t change much for me.
When I was a freshman in high school I had braces, and I thought, “All of the boys will like me and I will have friends as soon as I get my braces off.” And I got them off and nothing happened. No one noticed, and it was disappointing. When I started modeling I thought, “All of the boys are going to like me and I’m going to have so many friends because I’m a model,” and nothing changed. And I thought, “What do you want from me, world?” For a long time it left a big question mark in my life, and I thought it was really weird that it didn’t click. I think it took going to college and focusing on school, and then going on a mission and focusing on teaching and learning how to help people, and then I started to feel this happiness and I think it’s really because for the first time in my adult life, my mind wasn’t focused on how I looked.
In high school, my whole world was whether people thought I was cool or the boys thought I was cute. In modeling, my whole world was how I looked: whether I could pay my rent was determined on how I looked, how I could feed myself was determined on how I looked. Finally, once I went to college and went on a mission, I could focus on other things since there were bigger issues at hand. Of course I still was concerned about whether I would go on dates, and I wanted to present myself well, but it just wasn’t my number one focus. I started to be happy.
I’m just a really big believer – and I will preach to the end of this world – that Satan’s number one way to get at women and to immobilize them is distracting them with physical appearance. I think the number one way to fight that, kind of like fighting fire with fire, is just distracting young girls away from their appearance: help them learn skills and give them hobbies and give them things to work on, because you’re never going to feel satisfied by how many likes you get on a selfie. But when you accomplish something, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh I made that,” like if you made something that didn’t exist before, whether it’s a video or a piece of art or if you solved a really hard math equation or you coded or created a website. Whatever it is, I think creating is the greatest distraction and that’s where our self worth comes from. It obviously goes back to who we are as daughters of the Creator. Creating is what we are meant to do.
You’re talking about how being taller than everybody, or being tall and thin, was what made you feel awkward early on, and you see so many people who dream of that. No matter what you get, somebody else wants it.
Exactly. My point is we sometimes think Satan lets certain people off the hook. He doesn’t. He’s jealous of all us because we have bodies, and we are his greatest enemies since we give new spirits these bodies, something that he can never have. Christ died for our bodies, they are the ultimate gift, and what a sick trick, if he can make us hate the very thing that Christ died for us to have. Our bodies are the tools that enable the plan of salvation to actually happen.
He attacks women by making them hate their bodies, but he doesn’t let the girls that are tall and skinny slide under the radar, telling them, “You can like your bodies.” All the girls I was modeling with for magazines and had the “ideal”, had just as many body issues, if not more, as the girls that were struggling with weight at East High School in Salt Lake – everyone was the same. All this stuff about “Show us ‘real women’, or ‘real beauty’”, bugs me because we’re all women. Let’s not try to pit one another against each other.
I know you’ve said the sexualization of women’s and girls’ bodies was one of the reasons you left the business. That was when you were 18?
Yes, I left the industry right after my last trip was to Tokyo, right after I turned 18. When I was a kid and they asked me to do something like take my clothes off or do lingerie, I could say, “Dude I’m 16, you creep,” but once I turned 18 I was a legal adult on contract. Honestly, I tell people that I was an awful model: I don’t have the heart for it, I don’t even really like having my picture taken, so it didn’t really make sense. So after my Tokyo trip which was really extreme because that was the first time that I was an adult, I just said, “I’m going to take a break and go to college.” My agency said that it wasn’t working, you’re not willing to do what we need, and we’re not giving you what you need to be happy, it just isn’t working. We just kind of called it quits and moved on.
Were the issues surrounding the sexualization of women’s and girls’ bodies clear to you at the time, or was it only in hindsight that you began to see those messages?
Totally in hindsight. There were things that I thought, “Something about this doesn’t seem right.” I didn’t really get it, nor did I think that I really could question it because everyone else was going along with it. I’d think, “This seems weird that I’m in like a fancy corset and they’re asking me to sit with my legs spread apart.” I honestly didn’t get all of the sexual connotations of it, but it felt kind of sexy and I was 16 and a MiaMaid and I didn’t think I was supposed to feel sexy!
Things changed when my mom and I were talking one day and she referenced “that prostitute shoot that you did…” and I was like “What? When did I do a prostitute shoot? What are you talking about?” And she started talking about a specific shoot that I could remember, and she said, “You were a prostitute in that, that scenario was prostitution, that’s why you were laying on a bed like that, that’s why you’re wearing a corset, that’s why you were in a motel that you rent by a half an hour, it’s prostitution.” It didn’t occur to me as a 16 year old, I didn’t get it. When I remembered that shoot, it really bothered me, I felt that I had been taken advantage of and I felt a lot of anger towards all of the adults that had been in the room. They knew what was happening, and they knew what they were representing and no one paused for a second to say, “Wait a minute, are we really glamorizing child prostitution? That’s what we’re trying to say is beautiful? Let’s think about that.” So that really bugged me and that’s where I really started to think about the industry and the situations that girls are put in. I put a lot of thought into experiences that I had, realizing, “Whoa, that was a really risky situation that I was exposed to,” with no second thought by my agent, and I loved my agents, but they’re not my parents and it’s not their responsibility to parent me.
Your capstone project in college was a documentary on the fashion world. What is wrong with how the world, the media (although we usually unfairly blame just the media), how we portray women’s bodies today, and what needs to change?
I think the ultimate problem or one of the many problems is simply the idea that the greatest thing a woman can achieve is beauty. A lot of people say, “Why did you leave modeling?” And I’ll answer kind of tongue in cheek, “Because I realized I was capable of more than looking beautiful and walking in a straight line in stilettos, there is more that I can contribute to this world.” Honestly, it’s bewildering to a lot of people, like “You left modeling?!” as if I walked away from the ultimate achievement for a woman.
I do think it’s the media but I also see, now that I’m a photographer, the women that will bash the media for giving us this hyper sexualized, idealized beauty image, are the same women that are requesting their family photographers to take 15 pounds off them and to remove the bags under their eyes and perfect them. Wait a minute! I think one of the greatest things would be if female photographers and family photographers started being gate keepers and saying, “No, I’m not going to do that, you’re beautiful the way you are.” In all my contracts, it says that I won’t liquefy your body and I won’t remove pounds because I think you’re awesome the way you are and I don’t want to contribute to any of that in this world. I think you can never achieve ultimate perfection and beauty, because there’s no such thing.
If the world or Satan can get women to just focus on that ever-elusive goal, there are so many things they won’t do. If I spent the time that I used trying to figure out make up in high school or how to wave my hair with a three barrel curling iron, if I instead was learning how to code with all of that time, nothing could stop me, I would have this massive career at my fingertips, but instead I can curl my hair.
And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying taking care of oneself either.
No, for sure! I’m definitely one to believe that you should dress well, do your hair, makeup, all of those things. But I do feel that it comes at a cost. Those things take time and we have a limited amount of time. If you add that to social media and magazines, we just spend a lot of time focused on those things, and we can’t spend that time elsewhere.
Flash forward to today; you are launching a new line of temple dresses, which I think are absolutely beautiful by the way. From the catwalk to the celestial room, seems like an unlikely leap. Is there any specific doctrine regarding womanhood or our bodies that particularly motivated you or inspired you in this?
I’ve been working on Q.NOOR for a year, and it was initially an idea that I got while I was at the temple, because I was observing women’s dresses. As I kept working on it, it’s something that has gained more meaning and I’ve gained new insights to why it’s so meaningful to me. It goes back to that idea of distraction. I think if a young girl is nervous about how she looks in the temple because she’s wearing a temple dress that looks like a pioneer costume, if she’s a typical teenager and is concerned about how she looks, that can be distracting. We all know that the temple is not a runway, it’s not about looking like a babe. But I do think it’s important for people to be comfortable, so my goal is to help these young girls feel beautiful and feel comfortable so that they can forget about what they’re wearing and focus on the temple.
I also feel like temple work is part of the most important work that we can partake of in this earth. I always felt a little weird going to the temple in my temple dress because it was not as nice as anything that I would wear to church. It was this weird skirt and this poor quality lace that would ball up and cling to itself, and I thought it was so weird that I dress up more for a party essentially than I do to go to the house of the Lord. I wanted something where I felt like my ultimate best. I wanted something that said, “Here I am, doing the most important thing, and I’m dressing accordingly.” I couldn’t find anything that felt that way, and that was also comfortable and me, and I think it’s important for us to maintain who we are in our personal styles – kind of like when sister missionaries go on missions and they kind of turn into robots, “the perfect Mormon woman missionary.” I want to push against that, because Heavenly Father called you, and your style and your quirks and your personality, and we should maintain that. I felt like I was putting on the temple costume that everyone wore and I didn’t like it at all and it didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t feel right, and I felt that someone needed to offer something that’s more me and girls like me, so that we can feel comfortable and we can feel like we’re wearing what we would want to in order to go and do the most important thing.
I think about what Esther went through… I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it was a long period of purification, and beautifying, essentially, before she approached her husband about protecting her people. I’m sure that there was more to it than a pageant – I don’t think Esther is Esther because she was the ultimate babe out of all of the other girls, and maybe that’s why the king picked her because she was the babe – but we know because she saved all of the Jews that there was more to her than that. She had substance to her, she was kind of brave! I think that Esther dressed the best she could for that event because it was a big event, and it took time. I don’t think there’s any problem with us wanting to do the same, wanting to represent ourselves as well as possible.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My ultimate goal with Q Noor sis that it be successful enough that I am able to hire young girls. I think one of the greatest blessings in my life was a woman named Alison Dayton, a young mom, who owned a jewelry company who hired me to work for her as a 12-year-old, and that gave me an opportunity to learn a skill. I learned about business and I had a job. A lot of self worth came from it. So I really look forward to the day that I can do that for another girl. I can’t wait to pass on that favor and offer a job and skills and training opportunities.
At A Glance
Name: Rosie Card
Location: Salt Lake City
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Photographer/Small Business Owner
Schools Attended: Dixie State and BYU
On the Web: http://www.qnoor.com/
Interview produced by Lydia DeFranchi