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Kathy Ireland was ‘rebellious teenager’ before finding faith: ‘Jesus was nothing like I thought’

Former model and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland says she grew up “with really no faith” before a fateful late-night encounter with the Bible that her mother had tucked in her suitcase.

“It was during a really lonely time in Paris, jet lag and loneliness, middle of the night that I opened up that Bible,” Ireland – whose latest endeavor is joining forces with Zoom Casa Powered By Kathy Ireland Worldwide – told Fox News Digital. 

“I didn’t know how to read it. And I was a rebellious teenager questioning who really knows the truth, who really knows what’s right or wrong. And as I read, I just knew that what I was holding in my hands was the truth and my life forever changed.”

The chance to discover her relationship with God on her own was a powerful experience.

Close up of Kathy Ireland

Kathy Ireland told Fox News Digital she was a “rebellious teenager questioning who really knows the truth” before she found her faith. (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

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“Jesus was nothing like I thought. I was listening to other people’s soundbites about who He was and what the Bible said,” Ireland explained.

“I was alone in that room, so nobody was telling me, be this denomination or that denomination. It was just, I want to follow Him. And that changed everything for me because at that moment, Jesus became my lord and savior. And I knew if He’s with me, who could be against me?”

Understanding her relationship with God took “a very long time,” and she admits to having been “arrogant” in her initial reading of the Bible.

WATCH: KATHY IRELAND WAS A ‘REBELLIOUS TEENAGER’ BEFORE FINDING HER FAITH

Kathy Ireland was a 'rebellious teenager' before finding her faith Video

“I was picking and choosing, and I was trying to mold God into what I wanted him to be rather than surrendering and allowing Him to mold me into the person He made me to be,” she said.

“I love the scripture that says the one who is forgiven much, loves much. So, I love a whole bunch, and I’m so grateful. I’m a slow learner, and I’m just so grateful He’s so patient,” she added.

Kathy Ireland smiling on red carpet

Irelands says she had been “arrogant” upon her initial reading of the Bible. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

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Ireland’s faith also plays a key role in her 35-year marriage to Greg Olsen, an ER doctor and entrepreneur as well, with whom she has three children and fondly calls “a great guy.”

“Marriage is not a contract. It’s not a piece of paper. It’s not a contract with the government. It’s a covenant with God,” she said.

“So, on those days when we might not feel like loving each other very well, we also made a promise to God. So2, that really helps us.”

Ireland says her faith helped her as model, too, saying, “It gave me the courage to walk off jobs. I didn’t care what people thought about me.”

Kathy Ireland and Greg Olsen on their wedding day

Kathy Ireland and her husband, Dr. Greg Olsen, married in 1988. (John G. Zimmerman /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

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The California-born Ireland began modeling at 16 and was soon gracing magazine covers like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as the 1989 Sports Illustrated swimsuit 50th anniversary event cover.

She spun her modeling fame into one of the most successful business empires in the world when she founded Kathy Ireland Worldwide in 1993.

As she began embarking on business ventures, she took a key lesson from modeling.

“Something that I learned from that long-ago modeling career, I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but wow, what a gift when it comes to business. And that’s all the rejection. Because when we started in business and people laughed and slammed doors in our faces, it didn’t stop me. It didn’t bother me. No means, ‘Now we’re talking.’”

Ireland recalls starting her business “with a single pair of socks” and being “an aging pregnant model at my kitchen table.”

Thirty years later, Kathy Ireland Worldwide is valued at over $500 million dollars.

Kathy Ireland speaking at a podium

Since starting Kathy Ireland Worldwide in 1993, the model-turned-entrepreneur has turned her company into a $500 million business. (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

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But the mother of three is no mercenary businesswoman. The people she worked with when starting the sock line, John and Marilyn Moretz, “continue to be cherished partners in our company,” and Ireland maintains “some of the strictest human rights contracts,” to her knowledge.

“We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in these because ‘the how’ is so important. Every sector that our products touch, we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect the people who are bringing them to market,” she said.

Her latest endeavor, joining forces with Zoom Casa for Zoom Casa Powered By Kathy Ireland Worldwide, fits perfectly in that ideal.

“Our brand is all about solutions. That’s our mission. And our vision is to teach, inspire, empower, make our world better. So, we seek to work with people who really honor that and fulfill it. And so in meeting Zoom Casa, our company started the process of working with them, and we found that this is a powerful solution, especially in today’s market,” Ireland said.

WATCH: KATHY IRELAND ON HER NEW BUSINESS VENTURE FOR HOMEOWNERS

Ireland on her new business venture for homeowners Video

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Zoom Casa Powered by Kathy Ireland helps homeowners sell their homes and maximize the equity they receive (up to 70%, per Ireland), as well as teams people with experts to help prepare the home for sale if they desire and allows sellers to purchase a new home with the contingency of selling their original home.

“This is a win-win win for realtors, they get an extra bonus, and that as well, it helps the sellers, it helps the buyers, and it really makes it possible for people who otherwise might have a difficulty either getting into the home-purchasing arena, it helps them to get into the market, and it also helps people who are seeking to sell their home and get the best value for it,” Ireland explained. 

The partnership also helps veterans and military families.

“We’re working on a specific program for military veterans and their families and really working to help the entry-level homebuyer [and] first-time homebuyers and really seeking to give them the most opportunity, the most benefits,” the 60-year-old said.

Kathy Ireland smiling and wearing a pink suit

Ireland is happy her new business partnership with Zoom Casa can help military veterans and their families with entry-level home purchases. (Arun Nevader/Getty Images)

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She added that “there are not enough words to adequately thank our men and women who fight for our freedoms every day. We do not take that for granted.”

Since becoming an incredibly successful mogul, Ireland has provided guidance in the business world. 

As for modeling industry advice, she said, “Run!” before quickly adding with a laugh, “No, I’m kidding.”

She continued, offering practical suggestions like, “Be alert. Be very mindful.”

WATCH: KATHY IRELAND PRAISES THE CHANGES SHE’S SEEN IN THE MODELING INDUSTRY

Ireland praises changes she’s seen in modeling industry Video

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“I met some amazing people in that industry, also some very unsavory people. So be alert, protect yourself, know your values,” she said. “Put boundaries in place to protect them because they will be challenged. And also when there is a rejection, don’t let that stop you because rejection is a gift.”

Over the years, Ireland has seen some significant and positive changes in the industry.

Kathy Ireland smiling in three quarter pose on the red carpet

Ireland joked that her advice for someone considering modeling is to “Run!” (Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

“Back in the ’80s, when I started in the modeling industry. It was a lot of sameness. And girlfriends used to give me a hard time saying, ‘I’m not going to spend money on magazines to buy to look at pictures of skinny retouched women wearing clothes I can’t afford,'” she said.

“And I am seeing today a lot more diversity. Women of every age, shape, color and size. And I think that’s beautiful, and I love that.”

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