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Tracy Trinita on the cover of Her World Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

Fame and fortune. A jet-setting lifestyle. Global ad campaigns. Celebrity friends. Strutting the catwalk for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gautier, Kenzo. 

Tracy Trinita had been there, done that – before she even turned 20.

Never in her wildest dreams, growing up in a sleepy little Balinese village, did she imagine she would become Indonesia’s first supermodel.

Yet when she did, the happiness she thought would naturally come with riches and recognition was missing.

“There was an emptiness in my heart,” revealed Tracy.

A photo collage showing Tracy on the runway. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

She turned to her friends, in the hopes they’d have an answer. They proposed everything from partying to drug use and one, half in jest, even suggested suicide.

The only thing she was open to trying then, was partying. “But in the midst of the crowd and the loud music, I felt so alone.”

Finding fame

Tracy had shot to fame in Indonesia after winning a string of modelling competitions. The shy girl who used to get teased in school for her height and unusual looks – she is of Brazilian and Indonesian descent – suddenly went from nobody to somebody. 

14-year-old Tracy (second from right) after her win at the Elite Model Look International Competition in Seoul, Korea. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

But that euphoria did not last long. The 15-year-old’s youthful spirit was crushed as she trudged from audition to audition in New York, struggling to understand why she failed to land jobs. She was, after all, the first Indonesian model to win the prestigious Elite Model Look International competition in 1995.

In the fashion capital of the world, the face that every Indonesian recognised became just another face in the crowd.

With perseverence, she eventually made a name for herself.

True happiness, however, remained elusive.

The hustle and bustle of living in New York City, work distractions, material possessions and partying all failed to satisfy. Tracy started to wonder if it was God who was missing in her life.

Crying herself to sleep one night at the meaninglessness of it all, she prayed for God to reveal Himself to her if He was listening.

Soon after, she moved to Paris for a job assignment, where she got to know a fellow Indonesian through mutual acquaintances. They became fast friends and hung out often as they lived just five minutes apart.

“I was in church, not as a believer, but as someone who was trying to please her grandma.”

A question surfaced frequently when they were out together: “Would you come to church with me?” This girlfriend didn’t let up. Soon, it wore Tracy down and she agreed to visit.

Going to church was not a new thing to Tracy. She had attended Sunday school while growing up, as her maternal grandmother was a devoted Christian. But she admitted that the Word never took root.

“I was a bit annoyed because I would rather have been watching cartoons on Sunday mornings than go to church. I was there but none of the words stuck. I was in church, not as a believer, but as someone who was trying to please her grandma.”

This time in Paris, she noticed something different – there was a radiant joy on the faces of those she met in church, a joy that she longed for but had not been able to find.

The sceptic within her refused to simply believe. She decided to look deeper into the belief systems that she knew – a process complicated by the fact that she grew up in a multi-faith household: Her maternal grandfather was Muslim, her dad a Catholic and they carried out Hindu ceremonies at home.

Tracy (far left) and her family. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

What Tracy read in the Bible surprised her: “The most beautiful answer I’ve ever found was Jesus Christ – how God loves us and how He sent His only begotten Son to die for us.”

Salvation is a gift, its price paid for by Jesus and given freely to all. (John 3:16)

It is an achingly simple concept she found hard to grasp as she was accustomed to receiving something only in return for giving something.

Yet, the more she dug into Scriptures, the more she was convicted of her sins and her need for a Saviour. She finally gave her life to Christ in 2002.

True beauty

“I remember the moment I became a believer. There was such a relief because I didn’t have to pretend anymore. He knows me so well, He is at work in transforming my life and I will never be the same again.”

“Even when you struggle, He will never give up on you, unlike any other human being.”

Knowing that God has forgiven her sins, redeemed her and set aside a place for her in eternity changed the way she lived, how she treated others and handled her wealth. She no longer viewed other models as competitors but just people doing their job, as she was doing hers.

But God continued to shine the spotlight on areas of her life that were not pleasing to Him. As uncomfortable as that was, He gave her the grace she needed as He transformed her more into His likeness. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“Even when you struggle, He will never give up on you, unlike any other human being. You will be changed into the most beautiful version of you under the hand of God,” said Tracy.

Living a life set apart for God – for instance, turning down jobs that were not in line with her faith – was not easy as it drew mockery from her peers in the industry. But this was the very thing that intrigued them, opening doors for her to share her testimony.

Tracy sharing her testimony. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

Oxford calling

In 2006, Tracy had a chance to share her testimony in her maternal grandmother’s hometown of Manado, Indonesia. By this time, she had moved back to Indonesia and had become an actor, magazine writer, concert promotor and boutique owner in Bali.

Little did she know that someone had translated her testimony for Michael Ramsden, international director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), who was the main speaker at the same event.

“If God calls you, He will equip you.”

When she was done with her sharing, she was handed a note from Ramsden that read: “’Congratulations! You have just been accepted to study at the Oxford Christian Centre for Apologetics (OCCA). Speak to me later.”

The then 25-year-old Tracy broke down in disbelief as she had given up hope of furthering her education, which she had sacrificed in pursuit of her modelling career.

“It’s Oxford. I don’t speak English and it’s to study apologetics and theology!” she cried, listing the reasons why she shouldn’t take up the scholarship to her maternal grandmother. Her grandmother countered: “If God calls you, He will equip you.”

Tracy celebrating her maternal grandmother’s 86th birthday earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

Her grandmother’s words sealed her decision.

“Everything that you put in the hand of Jesus, they become precious.”

Within weeks, she was in Oxford with two suitcases, leaving everything else behind in Indonesia. 

School was a struggle for Tracy, who spent many nights in the library trying to catch up on what was taught. She recounted an incident when a lecturer talked about “parish”. “I told my classmate that I used to live there. And she replied, ‘Tracy, that’s not Paris, the city. That’s parish, a church.’ I kept making silly remarks because the words meant different things to me!”

The year-long programme at OCCA fuelled such a thirst to learn more that she extended her studies by another two years to obtain the Oxford Diploma of Ministry.

Turning stone to diamond

Tracy is now an itinerant speaker and apologist for RZIM, travelling the world to share about God. She also hosts a radio show in Indonesia, fielding questions listeners may have about faith.

“God has a bigger dream for me than I do,” she admits.

Tracy hosting her radio show. Photo courtesy of Tracy Trinita.

“He doesn’t just leave your past behind. He restores all the brokenness in the past – everything that you put in the hand of Jesus, they become precious.

“I’ve experienced many dark hours. I experienced my first doubt towards God last year when I had a health condition. And yet, you are never far from the loving hand of God. He is always there with you, faithful even when you’re not faithful to Him. This God that we worship is a living God, who acts to transform our lives.

“In the hands of Jesus, He can turn a stone into a diamond. He will cut every side; it is painful and it hurts. But when it is done, He will give you back a diamond.”

About the author

Geraldine Tan

Geraldine is a former news journalist, public relations practitioner and research editor with a penchant for puns, punctuation and a positive attitude. She is always up for the next new adventure and is on a quest to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Geraldine is now Assistant Editor at Salt&Light.