"What is beauty? Am I beautiful?"
Emily Hyland Dean attended SHINE and won Overall Teen Fashion Petite Model and Overall Teen Fashion Petite Actor. Since SHINE, Emily has worked in all areas of entertainment as a dancer, singer, model, actress and CEO of her company, Verity Vareé. Emily inspires women of every age to recognize and delight in their own unique beauty.
We would love to know your story! How did you initially get involved in entertainment?
My mom and I were both praying hard about whether or not I should go into the entertainment industry. I had always told her that I was going to be an actress and a singer, and she blew it off as "little kid dreams." I started telling her that the urge was there. I was attending the Royal Academy Of Dance, and was working hard to be the best I could be. The grading process was difficult, but I was getting really good grades. Then I quit dance so I could act, and I think that’s when Mom realized how much I actually meant it when I said I wanted to act, sing and dance professionally.
She heard about AMTC on the radio, and she said she would talk to my dad and pray about it. We decided that, even if I didn’t get in, at least it was an opportunity to act. Every audition is an opportunity to perform, which is what I loved doing! Then when I did get a callback and we went back, we talked with Adam She. He was extremely encouraging, and said “We really mean it, you need to be here. You need to go through this conference. We believe that the Lord is calling you strongly to this.” We prayed, and just knew that God would supply the funding if this was something I was supposed to do. He did!
Emily, you have accomplished so much since SHINE. Tell us about what you have been up to!
Well, I attended the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, and that was intense. I was there on scholarship, which was a blessing. I had talked with them at AMTC, so I knew some of the people already. Sort of the same experience as AMTC: being dropped into this whole new world, and having to figure it out, but also being professional at the same time. That was my first big, big experience with New York. I was there for a month, ran all over the city, had scene study classes, and made good friends with teachers and professors. That was my first structured tap into film—to be able to learn what a film actress should be doing. That prepped me to come home and do a lot of independent work.
I also signed with a couple of different modeling agencies. At the time that I signed, I wavered between commercial and fashion modeling. My body was changing, and that created a lot of emotional turmoil. I was wondering if I should be working harder to fit the measurements, or if God was saying, “No, your body is not supposed to fit in that small of a size.” I was so confused! Really made me seek Christ and ask Him, “What is beauty? Am I beautiful?”
Soon after I started asking those questions, I met my husband, we formed a band and started playing gigs in Washington DC. Now, we are working on an EP that should be coming out at the end of this summer.
I also did the “Release Your Wild” commercial. That was awesome, because I have never done archery before!
Tell us about the band. How did you turn that dream into a reality?
Ethan and I both loved to sing, play, and perform, but I was a solo artist at the time, working with a branch of Capitol Records. I didn’t know how to mesh our sounds and neither did he. So, I stopped doing solo work and started experimenting with him. I’ll be honest, we were dating at the time, so we spent more time talking, dreaming, and booking shows than we did practicing. But, about the time that we were getting married we both got serious about working together and perfecting our sound. Hard work and lots of coffee! It took a lot of humbling on both our parts, especially since we are both quirky and have a strong sense of style. We are learning to become one in perhaps the most vulnerable part of both our lives, our art. It is a beautiful, hard thing to do, but we did/are doing it! We learn so much form one another. Any opportunity to play is glorious. We just really enjoy making good music!
What has been your most favorite job opportunity?
Through thinking and studying about true beauty, and the pressure of not meeting certain measurements in the modeling industry, came the idea of my company, Verity Vareé. Even though the industry did not hand it to me, being in the industry was the catalyst for that company.
How did you get the dream for Verity Vareé?
I had a pretty bad eating disorder during the time I was in New York, and it wasn’t something I really recognized. Even the women who didn’t have an eating disorder had misconceptions of beauty and what they should look like. I felt like any other woman who wanted to change something about herself and didn’t recognize the severity of my thinking. I began to wonder if that was how any of us were supposed to live, with this constant try-hard, “be better, I’m not pretty enough, or this enough, or that enough” attitude. I didn’t think so.
Two years after I had left AMTC, I stepped back from the industry for a bit. I asked the Lord, “What do you want for me to do with all of these talents and opportunities?” I had been able to participate in so many different facets of the industry. Through a lot of training and connections, I had gathered all of these skills! And I knew it was His grace in my life. I started thinking about my own struggles with believing that I was beautiful, and putting my self worth in production and activity. We all struggle to put our worth in a place that does not fill it. I started to diligently seek out the question, what is true beauty? And how can I cultivate that in my life?
I started to realize that every woman has been given the gift of beauty, but what she does with it is her responsibility. Few women look at it that way, because our culture sets an ever-changing standard for what women should live up to. Even the high-fashion models who are at the top of the charts deal with their own insecurities. Every one does. So, that was the catalyst for Verity Vareé.
Along with acting, modeling and singing professionally, I wanted to be doing something that drew other people in, as well. Something more than just pursuing my dreams, but encouraging others to do so and to recognize the gifts they’ve been given.
What is Verity Vareé exactly? How can people get involved?
It is a photo shoot and interview process that tells a woman’s story. I meet them somewhere, my home, a coffee shop, etc., and do an interview with them where they tell their story, their life, their dreams. Then we take them out and get natural shots of them—no makeup, no hair styling, wearing exactly what they came in. After those, we have the team of stylists, makeup and hair artists come and do the styled shoot. We then put everything in a package for them and post their Reveal to our website.
Anyone can get involved. They can pay to go through the “Reveal” Process no matter what age, financial situation, or ethnicity. We will work with anyone so that they can go through the process! It is our joy to tell their story!
Congratulations on marriage and your first baby! How do you keep your marriage grounded while being immersed in the entertainment world?
We make every decision together. When I have a job opportunity, I tell Ethan about the opportunity and we pray about it together. I am blessed to have a very supportive husband who is incredibly encouraging of me and my dreams. We are also proponents of each other’s dreams. Any opportunity we have to act, or sing together, we take that. We recognize that we have to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders, because if we are not someone else will. There is constant temptation everywhere, especially in the entertainment industry to put your self-worth in your work. So, we try to be as involved in the other person’s dream as possible. We also recognize that our work is a response of joy to the Lord, not a measuring stick for how well we are living this life. All is grace. That’s a huge way our marriage stays strong. We are a triangle, with God at the top. The closer we are to Him, the closer we are to one another. All of his music, I am a part of. We have a band together, so that helps a lot. He is always helping with Verity Vareé as well!
What were AMTC and SHINE like for you?
Every single person I talked to was uplifting and encouraging, and carried with it strong direction and purpose from the Lord. I could tell they weren’t mincing words when the spoke with me or the other performers. Everything they said was authentic, on point, and encouraging.
AMTC was intense! It wasn’t a walk in the park, but it was exciting. Every day, we were meeting new people. Among the SHINE performers and industry professionals, we felt so welcomed into this community of extremely talented and focused people.
Part of what I learned was to stay diligent and on your game at all times, because everyone was. It was also evident that everyone who was going forward had a very “others-focused” attitude. The majority of people who were walking into success had a very genuine love for God and for one another. You can’t fake authenticity, so that example left a strong impact on me.
It was so exciting. Every day, my mom and I would grab coffee (we went to the same café so much that we made friends with the barista!), pray, practice, run into other people and pray with them, then go to the showcases. It was fast-paced, exciting and exhilarating. I did well, which was exciting. It was intense to try to figure out who to talk to, but we prayed and asked God to lead us to who we were supposed to meet. It was inspiring and challenging.
What are some suggestions you would give to young women in modeling, acting or music that may be struggling with self-worth issues?
I would first say to bring all of your concerns before the Lord, and be very honest and open with Him about what you desire. He says to bring everything before Him openly. So I would do that, then ask God to give you His eyes when you look in the mirror. To look at your body and face as the crown of the Lord. Isaiah 62 talks about how we are His crown of beauty. If you go back to the literal translation, He is talking about an actual badge-like crown. In Bible-times, people wore these badges, or crowns to pronounce something significant of a King or Queen. Women are the pronouncements of the Glory and Beauty of what God has made. We reflect His glory and beauty.
Women want to be beautiful, because they are beautiful. They desire to be beautiful, because God made them the most beautiful creatures on earth! Each woman has been given a specific, unique beauty. Just like the flowers of the field, they are completely different. No one walks into a flower garden and gets upset because they all look different. But our culture holds up one flower, a daisy for example, and says that all other flowers should look that way. If you are a Chrysanthemum, that’s going to be an uphill battle your whole life.
Women should look at themselves in the mirror, and thank God for what He has given them. Ask Him to show you how He has made you uniquely beautiful. And ask Him to give you wisdom to take care of that, and stay healthy, strong, and take care of this gift you have been given just like you would a car, garden, home, etc. You are a steward of this gift you’ve been given, the gift of beauty. And you are beautiful.