When Marlies Smedinga isn’t gracing the catwalks of Europe or shooting the latest fashion in Australia, you could find her at her local Salvation Army church in the Netherlands playing trombone in the brass band.
When other models, or people in the industry, ask about my faith and about The Salvation Army, I‘m happy to tell them,” Marlies Smedinga told Warcry when she was recently modelling in Sydney.
A member of The Salvation Army in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Marlies, 19, was working in Australia for six weeks. Having travelled all over Europe for castings and assignments in the past, she was delighted to get work in Australia.
“I do love my work. I’ve done video campaigns, magazines and shows and I love the variety of it, and the opportunity of meeting so many different people. The modelling industry is a lot healthier in Australia than in many other places,” Marlies said.
“So many people want the girls to be so skinny, and some of them don’t do that in a healthy way. I make sure I keep myself healthy, and my family makes sure I eat well, so that’s not an issue for me. Being healthy and enjoying my work are the main things for me.”
Although being part of the industry for only two years, Marlies, who was discovered by talent scouts in Sweden, has had to work through some serious issues.
“Everyone always has an opinion about how you look, and [they] feel free to share their opinions,” she said. “It’s a hard world, and I often took their comments personally, but now I can let most things go.
“I remember being really shocked at being told I had ugly eyebrows. People just don’t realise the impact their words can have on young girls. Now I am mostly very confident in who I am and what I look like, and people can take it or leave it. Most people though, are nice—they see you as a real person and treat you like one.”
The most important thing though for me, is to stay grounded in my faith and to be myself.
Marlies grew up in The Salvation Army playing cornet in the youth band, and then trombone in the senior church band. While she is away on assignment she really misses playing in the band next to her boyfriend and her 85-year-old grandfather, and she only gets to play with them now on her occasional trips home.
During her stay in Sydney, Marlies appreciated the friendliness of the Australian people. “I like their laidback approach to life, the relaxed attitudes, and the beautiful weather. I’m trying to convince my family that we should move here together!” she said.
It is not an understatement to say that working in the cutthroat business of international fashion is extremely challenging for the young people involved. Like many of her workmates and friends in the modelling business, Marlies is on a spiritual journey.
“There aren’t many Christian girls in modelling, but a lot of the young people do think about spirituality and don’t know what is out there. They might be inspired,” says Marlies.
Lieut-Colonel Donna Evans of The Salvation Army in Australia was appointed to the Netherlands for two years and while there became a good friend and supporter of Marlies. “Marlies is beautiful inside and out—she is open and searching in her journey with God. It has been my absolute privilege to journey with her,” she says.
“We have kept in contact via social media. We often have spiritual conversations. Marlies asked once how she could reach others with her faith. I said, ‘Pray and God will open up a door.’ She did this and the next day one of the other models asked her about the Bible and her faith. She was so excited!”
Marlies finds that her Christian faith gives her a foundation for living and a certain wisdom that helps her steadily negotiate the fast-paced and high-pressured world of the catwalk.
Marlies’ dream job would be to “walk the Chanel show, or do a makeup campaign with L’Oréal”.
“The most important thing though for me, is to stay grounded in my faith and to be myself,” she said.
After she left Australia, Marlies spent a short time at home with her family before heading off to London, Berlin or Barcelona for fashion weeks.
Amongst the glitter, the glam, the spotlights and the flashlights, Marlies is shining her own light with her faith in God.