“Your boss probably doesn’t care if you don’t fit into your 40 regular suit,” continued Mr. Whalen. “Where the girls—and even guys—have to fit into certain clothes, and if they gain weight or lose weight, it messes with their emotions and their self-esteem and who they are and their identity.”
Mr. Whalen said the group, which meets every Tuesday for prayer and discussion groups, is not intended as a place for people looking to find work or meet dates. Those people usually stick out; Mr. Whalen calls them “byproducts.”
“For us as Paradoxans,” said Mr. Whalen, “as Christians in the industry, we want be a light to the world and salt of the earth. And God’s called us to be that, all of us, and go to all the places of the world and every aspect and be the light, to allow Christ to live through us in His holy spirit, live through us and show that you can love everybody and anybody. It doesn’t mean that you agree with what they do, but you still love them. You’ve gotta look at it like a father and his son, a father and his children.”
Mr. Whalen, who has done work for Hugo Boss on the runway and has a Fila campaign coming out, took the stage to give a prayer for the victims of 9/11. Before doing so he asked everyone to put their phones on vibrate. After the prayer, he handed the stage over to his wife, who told about the upcoming curriculum: September would be dedicated to fashion industry pitfalls. In October, the group will focus on heaven and “all that we have to look forward to.”
“Some of the topics we’re going to learn about are, what happens when you die, what happens to your body, what happens in the afterlife. And we’re going to talk about final judgment, sort of a scary topic, but it’s actually not,” said Mrs. Whalen.
Marriage is on the docket for November.
The monthly dinner meeting always includes an interview with someone from the fashion industry for whom Christ has played a role. That night’s special guest was fashion photographer Brad Guice, who would be interviewed by Parker Young, an aspiring photographer and a Paradox member.
Mr. Guice, who arrived in New York in the early 80’s, had early success but became addicted to crack. He was hearing weird voices and seeing demon faces in the bricks in his apartment. Mr. Guice, who resembles Harlequin heartthrob Fabio in hair and bone structure, tried everything—in-patient, out-patient, what-have-you—to kick drugs. After many, many horrible things happened to him, he had lost hope. Then someone named Maria, who was affiliated with Models for Christ, told him about Jesus. What happened to Mr. Guice next can only be described as a miracle; he said God visited him in his apartment.
“I was standing there going, ‘Oh my gosh, now I’m insane,’” said Mr. Guice. “I was seeing God outside my bedroom, and I’m going, ‘This is going, this is crazy. I see God outside my bedroom.’”
“It’s so unreal that God showed himself to you, that all those times you tried to get clean, through different means, that the only thing that could break that bondage and for everybody …” said Parker Young. “We all have our different struggles, and only with Christ is there true freedom. And that’s what we’ve come to know, and that’s what’s brought us together, is the realness of God, and the realness of His freedom and the light that He gives and unites us as brothers and … Wow.”
At around 9:30, the meeting ended. On the elevator ride down, Carlye Naber—26, brunette, big lips, wearing a black blazer and black leggings—said that Mr. Guice’s talk had been a little too “Lifetime Movie Channelish.” She said that when she originally heard about Paradox, she had made fun of it, but that since attending a meeting five months ago, the group had become an important part of her life.
“There’s the hand-raisers and the criers, and I’m definitely not that. But there are still people I can relate to,” she said.