Friday, April 2, 2004

Model finalist also a role model for teens

By Lindsay Whitehurst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Model and writer Shannon Stewart (right) and her mother, Mary Ann, share a light moment while editing Shannon's book. She is writing about her experiences as a runner-up in a reality show and about keeping her Christian perspective.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MICHAEL SNYDER
FRANKLIN TWP. - Shannon Stewart didn't quite make it to be America's Next Top Model. But she did emerge from the reality TV series as a strong role model.

Mary Ann Stewart recalls that she never wanted her daughter to get into modeling because she worried about how it would affect her character.

But she didn't need to worry, even as Shannon has pursued a dream that began at age 4 when she wanted to be in Maybelline commercials.

Last year, at age 19, she finished runner-up among 12 contestants as the "next top model," after risking disqualification in one episode by refusing to model nearly nude. Stewart says she refused to compromise her morals for her dream.

"All this sensuality stuff is not the path I want to take," she says. "My body is a temple. You can still be sexy wearing clothes."

Convinced that there were too few young role models with such a message, she's writing a book with the theme, "How far will you go? If your dreams are staring you right in the face, what would you do?"

She's always expressed herself through writing, and says her Christian-based message was central.

"(When I was writing), I would just lose track of time. It sounds crazy, but the Holy Spirit would just be pouring out of me. You just lose yourself," she says.

She wrote the 100-page book in about two months, beginning in mid-January.

"If I could just touch one soul, keep one person from doing something, that's what I want," she says.

Her mother, who's helping edit, is proud of her for "maintaining who she was before she got famous. She's grown in a deeper understanding of who she is and what she values."

She's also a source of pride to Franklin High School, where she graduated in 2002.

"She had her thoughts and principles. Some of the kids would go out and party, but she would refrain from doing that," says principal Dave Gregory.

Secretary Sheryle Moore recalls a "strong, genuine" girl who experienced bouts of insecurity like any teenager. A high school basketball player, Stewart worried about how she looked in the uniform.

Shannon, who has modeled for Teen Vogue and worked as a host at the U.S. Open, is searching for a Christian books publisher. After that, she plans to return to modeling, perhaps traveling to Hawaii or Australia.

"You definitely haven't seen the last of me."


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