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DEFIANCE — The Rev. Billie Blair, who was one of the top fashion models of the 1970s and '80s, will speak about her faith and her career at a worship service tomorrow morning at the Fulton County Fair near Wauseon.
“I modeled professionally for about 20 years,” said Ms. Blair, 64, whose sentences brim with enthusiasm, during an interview this week.
Now an ordained minister, she moved to Defiance five years ago. When she first began strutting the runway in the 1970s, she said nontraditional models had more openings. “You didn't have to be skinny. You didn't have to be tall. You could be petite. You didn't have to wear makeup.”
She spent years circling the globe as one of the leading models of the era, showcasing designs by such fashion icons as Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, and Calvin Klein.
As an African-American model, she helped open the door for such supermodels as Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Tyra Banks.
A native of Flint, Mich., she said her first big career break came as a model at Detroit auto shows.
Those jobs led to an assignment in New York City, where she was photographed in Central Park. That three-day assignment opened the door for a two-decade career that took her to such fashion capitals as Paris, London, Brazil, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Japan.
Ms. Blair, who described herself as “5-foot-10 in my stocking feet but with very, very, very long arms and legs,” said growing up in the Midwest, she felt awkward.
But once she became a star and was earning $375 an hour, her self-esteem grew and she became comfortable with the jet-set life.
Ms. Blair said she was a Christian during those days, but did not have deep convictions.
“I said The Lord's Prayer every morning and every night before I went to bed. I said the 23rd Psalm. I'd go to church every Sunday. Morally, basically, I was a good person,” she said. “As I was traveling all over the world, I would say I was a ‘Christianette,' because I did say my prayers. …”
One evening — Oct. 7, 1987, to be exact — she had a vision while at a full gospel church. “My eyes were closed, my hands were lifted, and I was standing on my two feet asking God every question that troubled me,” she said. “And I asked God, ‘All I want is the true … God,' and between ‘true' and ‘God,' God gave me a vision of Jesus.”
It was a silhouette of Jesus' head and shoulders, she said. “There was a crown. The light that came out from this vision was like star lights, like streaks or beams of light,” she said.
Five months later, she said she was “baptized of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.”
Ms. Blair graduated from Faith Tech Ministries Bible School in 1992, and she was ordained by the Bible school as a minister in 1995.
She is still seeking to learn more about God and religion, recently enrolling at Defiance College.
“I want to dig a little deeper into the Old Testament,” she said.
Billie Blair will speak at the worship service at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Gospel Tent at the Fulton County Fair, 8514 State Rt. 108, near Wauseon.