School was a torment. It seemed like no one in my school would call me by my real name, Tracy. Instead I became Trah-see, which means smelly fish. Or Giraffe, because I was the tallest in class. I just could not fit in. I struggled to be accepted and loved. I was a mix-up kid in more ways than one.
My Brazilian father and an Indonesian mother had me when they were very young themselves so I was raised by my grandparents until I was seven. My grandmother was a professing Christian and my grandfather, Muslim. Then there was my looks. Though I was born Indonesian, I don’t look like most of the other kids. I was neither fully Asian nor fully Western. Who am I?
Then things took a sudden and dramatic change. I turned 14 and my mother sent my photo to the top three local magazines in Indonesia, which hosted modelling competitions. One magazine chose me as one of their three finalists, and at the last competition I became the first place winner. I became a celebrity. When I returned home to Bali after my win, it was as if people there suddenly discovered who I was. I was Tracy to my classmates and to everyone who met me.
My mother next entered me in an international modelling competition, held annually by Elite Models Management. I flew to Jakarta to compete and won, then flew to Seoul, Korea to represent Indonesia. I competed against 77 contestants from 65 countries and won: US$50, 000 and a 2-year contract with Elite Models in New York City. My supportive mother suddenly became wary of letting me go, but I fought hard to convince her to let me go. Never before had I felt so much acceptance and love, I could not be happier. There and then I committed myself to pursue this fame and fortune for I reasoned that’s where happiness can be found.
Arriving in New York City, unaccompanied and excited, this young island girl found herself in a new kind of paradise. As the modeling agency forget to pick me up at the airport, I ended up staying at a posh hotel suite, with room service on demand and money to spend. I was awestruck by the glitter and the glamour.
But it did not take long for my old insecurities to return. Life as a model meant endless auditions. Out of every 100 auditions, you can expect maybe ten jobs. Like every model, I was scrutinised. The comments were cruel. “Too skinny, too ugly, weird hair, not the right skin tone...” The same loss of confidence and self-doubt were common among my modelling peers. I expected glamour and fame but I found myself discontented and lonely. When I would call home and speak to my friends and family, they would fawn over how amazing and exciting my lavish life of travel and meeting celebrities must have been. I found myself unable to tell them how I was really feeling. After each day, I would lie on my bed, stare at the ceiling, and cry myself to sleep. Nothing in the glamour and name recognition and adoring fans could fill that void. I wondered if what was missing in my life was God. Growing up I was never taught anything about any faith. So one night in my room, I cried out to any god who might be listening, to please reveal himself/herself to me.
Not long after, my agent called and asked if I would like to move to Paris. I jumped at the opportunity, thinking that maybe my unhappiness would abate for a while if I had a change of scenery. In Paris, I met a fellow Indonesian friend who, after a while, invited me to come to church with her. I knew that my friend would never give up until I agreed, so I gave in. Having never been to church before, everything seemed strange. No one wore glamourous clothes, no one wore much makeup yet everyone’s face seemed to be glowing with happiness. I was piqued.
Soon, I met many friends at the church and was eager to continue attending. My friends invited me to join a Bible study they were starting, to be led by a pastor who was known for being able to answer tough questions. Right away I dived in and began asking all the things I had been wondering about, as well as any difficult questions I could think of. The pastor was able to answer those questions and taught about the gospel and Jesus. Simultaneously, I was asking these questions of my friends who were very familiar with other religions. After comparing the answers, I found that only Jesus seemed to offer words that touched the mind and also the heart. After taking time to consider many things about faith, I turned to Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.
In my desire to continue learning, I attended the Oxford program of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) for one year and became a pastor at my church in Bali. Following this, I became a member of the RZIM Asia speaking team.
Indonesia’s first supermodel, Tracy Trinita is now a highly sought-after evangelist and speaker around the world.