“When I lived for others’ approval, my heart always ached for something more – to be thinner, more beautiful, or more loved. God helped me see that the only thing I needed to find joy, affirmation and value was an abiding relationship with Christ. I used to think that the Miss Texas crown gave me status and purpose. Now that I am the daughter of the King, I’ve received a gift of grace that is so much more beautiful and eternally valuable than I could have imagined.” – Leslie Amos
“Endless public appearances, countless photo shoots, and a pageant crown on my head, I was portrayed as someone every young girl dreamed to be,” said Leslie Amos. “During my reign as Miss Texas in 2011, I struggled with an eating disorder and could hardly look in the mirror because I hated myself so much. Depressed and isolated, my self-worth was gone.
“Early on I learned the never-ending game of perfectionism. I became whatever would allow me to fit in, even if it meant hiding who I really was. My life was not grounded in the truth of the gospel, so I looked for approval in relationships and in my performance at school.
“My junior year of college, I was accepted into the medical radiation therapy program at Texas State University. I also started competing in pageants. I won Miss Houston 2011 and was later crowned Miss Texas. The expectations that were placed on me left me knee-deep in an eating disorder that had taken control of my life. Clearly unhealthy, I weighed less than 100 pounds, but I was praised for how I looked.
I tried self-help and other steps to fix my eating disorder, but I plateaued every time.
“After I finished school I took a job at an oncology center in Plano. I knew nobody in the Dallas area, so I drowned myself in work to stay busy. One weekend when an old college roommate and I were out for dinner, some people asked if we had heard about The Porch (a gathering of young adults at Watermark). I wanted nothing to do with it.
“The next week, a new patient came in for her cancer treatment plan. She asked questions about my life – where I lived, where I went to church. She invited me to a Watermark Bible study and said it was a great place to meet new friends. I declined. What was up with these Watermark people? It seemed like they were everywhere.
“She mentioned the Bible study again at her next oncology appointment, and I finally decided to sign up, if only to meet a few friends. I chickened out on going to the first meeting. When she asked me about it the next day, I thought about attending but didn’t think church was for me. She replied, ‘Okay well I don’t think I will get treated today.’ I was shocked and told her firmly that this was her life we were talking about. She had cancer! She replied, ‘No Leslie, this is your life we are talking about.’
“I attended the next Women’s Bible Study, hoping that nobody would call on me. Most of the ladies in my small group weren’t my age and seemed able to reference many things in the Bible. I was so confused that I broke down crying. At that moment, these women I didn’t really know wrapped their arms around me and showed me so much grace. Their love drew me back every week.
“I was not a believer at the time, and the ladies welcomed my questions. As I read through the Gospels, I desired more knowledge about Jesus. I was teetering on the edge of trusting Christ, but feared what I might have to give up if I followed Him.
“One night at The Porch something just came over me, and I prayed to trust Christ. I was so excited that I emailed my entire Bible Study group when I got home. I decided to be baptized two weeks later, and some of those same women brought their families and supported me as I publicly expressed my faith in Christ.
“My life has changed radically since then. I jumped head-first into knowing more about God and building community with other believers. Through my community group and re:generation (Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry) God showed me more patterns that were keeping me from full devotion to Him. I now serve at The Porch, where I met my fiancé, Kenny. By God’s grace, we are getting married in March! God brought me a man who loves the Lord first and loves me unconditionally.
“As struggles with insecurity and body image come up, I cling to Romans 12:1. I also remind myself that a pageant’s standard of beauty might look pretty on the outside, but it’s an unattainable ideal of perfection and not God’s standard for how I should live. I look to God’s Word for my affirmation now, replacing my negative, unhealthy thinking with the Truth of Scripture. I want other women who are living like I once did to know that God does not expect us to earn anybody’s acceptance. Rather, He has fully accepted us as we are in Christ.
“When I lived for others’ approval, my heart always ached for something more – to be thinner, more beautiful, or more loved. God helped me see that the only thing I needed to find joy, affirmation and value was an abiding relationship with Christ. I used to think that the Miss Texas crown gave me status and purpose. Now that I am the daughter of the King, I’ve received a gift of grace that is so much more beautiful and eternally valuable than I could have ever imagined.”
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)