What Six Models Taught Me

This is a story about how six models taught me more in one day than the last six sermons I've heard.

Today is the day we launched our Summer Collection which has been five months in the making - The Salt + Light Collection.

It started in January with a simple conversation between Brooke and I.  I asked her what she thought of the idea of shooting our summer collection in California.  Her eyes lit up and as soon as I said it and I realized there was no going back.

Where Brooke saw sunshine and beautiful photos, I saw logistics and deadlines.  I don’t say that with any negative connotation, that’s just how my brain works. And it’s a good thing because it means that Brooke and I work really good together.  She creates and I plan.

So the planning started!

Actually, first we ordered a giant white board from the internet and got some coffee…..then we started planning!

We barfed out all sorts of ideas on the board. Some good, some bad.  Sayings, verses, ideas, locations, etc.

And as we were talking, Brooke mentioned that she really liked the phrase “Salt + Light” which we had printed on a shirt five years earlier.

And then it hit me, with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit.

I started to think about how I feel when I stand on the edge of the beach and look out into the ocean.  It’s breathtaking, beautiful and overwhelming to think how far it goes on.  Then I started to think about how I like to get into the water at the beach.  I don’t take my time at all.  I have to run and jump right in.  I run as fast as I can until I can’t run anymore and jump into the salty mess of water and suds.  It’s such an awesome feeling.  I think following God is a lot like that.  Your first attraction to Him is basically standing in awe.  How can such a vast, never ending God love me?  Sometimes this happens all at once and sometimes it takes years. And after seeing the vastness and awesomeness of God and His love, all you want to do is run full speed and dive right in to following Him.

I wondered out loud to the team if there was a way that we could capture that feeling in a collection.  While it’s hard to transfer something like that to a physical product we decided that we would give it our best effort.  We contacted one of our favorite artists, Chris Ballasiotes, with the basic ideas, our vision and the phrases we wanted.

We told him to make it feel like a California summer and when he sent us his initial mock-ups we were in love with everything!


While Chris was designing, I was planning.  My sister Samantha, who lives in Southern California, said that we could stay with her, so I picked a few dates in late April and booked the flights for Brooke, June and I. Once the flights were booked, I contacted a model, Hunter Clowdus, who I had met through Instagram.  I asked him if he wanted to be in the photos for the collection and if he knew any others that might want to join us as well.

He recommended his girlfriend Jessi, a friend of his Andrew, and Andrew’s girlfriend Rachael.  Rachael brought her friend Sloane.  A few days before we left, Brooke found another model on Instagram, Melissa, and asked her to be in the campaign as well. They all said yes! And so our six models were set.

It would be these six models/actors that would teach me more about the idea of “salt” and “light”.

We started our shoot in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.  We didn’t have much time due to park hours, so as soon as everyone showed up we started passing out tees and tanks and shooting almost immediately.  I was feeling really nervous the day before about meeting all these new people. I was nervous because Brooke and I had never worked with professional models and I was afraid that they might judge the way we shoot, or the fact that we didn’t have fancy equipment or a elaborate snack table.  To add to the nervous feelings, I accidentally sent them the wrong starting address and had to correct my mistake only minutes before we were set to start shooting.

Once we started to see cars pull up and I have no idea what to expect.  Are they going to be divas? Are they going to like us? Are they going to like the shirts?  Do they even know the name of our company?  Is this beneath them?  Does my hair look okay?  Did I remember everything? Do I even remember how to have conversation?  Is this how I normally stand? How do I normally stand?!?!?!

I am normally a pretty confident person, but I guess I was just feeling a little insecure and a little weird since this was the first time we ever did something so professional and big for the small company I started in my parents basement 10 years ago.

And as these beautiful people started getting out of their cars they started teaching me things.  First they all stepped out with huge smiles, hugs and excitement.  They were ready to go and ready to have a good time.  They were normal people and I don’t know why I was expecting anything different.  I am a little embarrassed by that now.

We shot in the desert for about 20 minutes since the park was going to close and we had a late start from my address mistake.  We walked and shot along the trails and they were AMAZING!  I am usually not one to use all capitals to emphasize a point, but that’s how good they were at what they do.  Modeling is totally a skill set that I did not fully appreciate until that moment.  They were so comfortable in front of the camera and just really came to life when we asked them to do something.  It was so encouraging and exciting.  One of the first photos Brooke took was of them all in a line and I remember having this overwhelming feeling of happiness.  To see exactly what we had envisioned during the bitter winter in Manheim, PA, now on the side of a mountain in California was amazing.

As we shot in the park I asked the group tons of questions about their lives as actors and models.  I was so fascinated by the risk that they all took, and continue to take, to achieve their dreams.  As we were shooting, I overheard Hunter and Andrew talking.  Andrew said something that was so inspiring and I don’t even think he knew I heard it.

He said, “I definitely feel like I can reach more people as an actor than I ever could if I was a pastor.  I love being able to be on set and invite people to a church like Hillsong LA.  They check it out to see what it’s like and then 6 months later they’ve accepted Christ. It’s awesome!”


That is Salt & Light.

Then we headed to the beach.  The sun was still a little high so we decided to get coffee at Starbucks first.  As we were standing in line, Melissa casually says, “I was just in a commercial for Starbucks Happy Hour.”  She didn’t make a big deal about it, she said it humbly and matter of factly.  If I was in a commercial for Starbucks I feel like I would tell everyone in every Starbucks I ever went to.  But she was humble and I had to coerce her into showing me the commercial on YouTube.


That is Salt & Light.

After coffee we made our way to our first spot on the beach.  As we were walking I overheard Hunter talking about what he does to stay in shape.  Now Hunter isn’t in normal person shape, he is in  “I was literally a Spartan solider in the Movie 300” shape.  That kind of shape.  The extreme dedication type of shape.  I overheard him tell Andrew about how most of the guys in that movie use some sort of steroid to get that jacked and he does it the all natural way.

Integrity and hard work.

That is Salt & Light.

We shot on the beach for about two of the most fun hours I have ever had while working.  It was just so much fun.  I mostly just held bags while Brooke and the models worked their magic.  Sometimes the best thing you can do as a leader is serve the people you believe in and I found myself doing that while on location shooting the most exciting thing we’ve ever done at walk in love.

After we were done with photos, I offered to buy dinner for everyone at a local pizza shop and everyone stuck around to eat.  As we sat at the dinner table, I asked everyone to share their dreams.

Andrew shared how he wants to be happily married, a light in the acting world and to be the star in a       romantic comedy.

Rachael shared how she wanted to be married to love of her life (who I think is Andrew… and I hope I get invited to the wedding..) and travel around the world just making people happy and eating lots of food.

Sloane shared how she wanted to be a role model to young girls who want to become models and actresses. She wants to show them that they don’t have to sacrifice their beliefs to make it in the industry.

Jessi shared how she wants to get married (to Hunter, obviously), become a mom and raise her kids to love and follow Jesus.  She is from Alabama, so she said it with a southern accent which made it sound so much more amazing than reading it does.

Hunter shared that he wants to continue to grow as a Christian and an actor.  He eventual wants to be a motivational speaker and inspire people to live life to the fullest.

Melissa shared that she wants to continue to write (see her blog here) and tell women both in the modeling industry and out that they are enough.  She eventually wants to write a book and start a clothing line with the same ideals behind it.

So Brooke and I sat, ate pizza, and listened as these six models, who I was originally nervous about working with, spoke of big dreams.  Both that night and type this right now I get goosebumps because I am so inspired by what they said.

God had brought our collection full circle.  We started out hoping to create a collection that reminded people to jump in, follow God and be the light of the world.  And as I sat around the table I heard six people all doing just that and with big dreams to do even more!  The thing that was so impressive about the six of them was that they are on the front lines while living for Jesus.  They aren’t just doing it in church, at a christian college or at home.  They are doing it in Hollywood, California!  They are being a light in a place that can be the darkest and they were all really excited about it.

I never thought that this collection would have such an impact on my life.  I started by just thinking of the planning and logistics of it all and ended up finding the heart of it.

We are called to be the Salt and Light of the world.  We are called - whether we are a garbage man in the middle of Oklahoma or an actor in Hollywood.  We are called - whether we sell t-shirts in Pennsylvania or scarves in Alaska.

And so, to my six new friends - I want to thank you for being such an unexpected inspiration in my life.  I feel re-focused and re-energized to be exactly what this collection is inspired by.  To be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

If you are reading this I hope you can be inspired by new friends too, and be salt and light wherever you are.

1 comment

  • Samantha Burns

    This is awesome TJ!

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