Clarkston, Michigan -- Teresa Tomeo is determined to spread
the message that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
these makeover shows (on TV) only deal with externals: the
home, the wardrobe, the scale and piles and piles of
junk,” she writes in a recent article in the National Catholic Register. “I have yet to see even one
episode of any of these programs address what’s on the
On October 6, 2011, the Catholic radio and television
host and author paid a visit to Everest Collegiate
High School in Clarkston, Michigan to talk to the students
there. A Michigan native herself, Tomeo said she is an
“east-sider” from the Detroit-metro area, having attended St. Joan of
Arc school in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.
Choices Today Affect Tomorrow
talked about her own high school experience, warning the students
that the choices they make now will affect them in
their later lives.
“God has given me an interesting perspective
to talk about choices and challenges of today’s culture,” she
In a moment of great candor, Tomeo shared with
her listeners the mistakes she made during her young life.
She said that -- knowing she wanted to be in
the communications field and active in her school plays and
productions -- she became obsessed with her appearance. “I thought
I had to look a certain way,” she said.
the Partridge Family. I wanted to look like Susan Dey,”
she said, commenting that during the 1970s when she grew
up she wasn’t even exposed to “1/10th” of the media
messages kids are today.
Tomeo’s “obsession” would soon lead her
to become one of the first diagnosed cases of Anorexia
Nervosa. “I went down to 89 pounds,” she said. “I
was so obsessed that I look like someone else, that
I almost killed myself.”
Today she has recovered from the disorder,
but says it has been a constant struggle.
days I still obsess about it,” she said. And there
are also the physical “scars.”
“Now I am not able
to have children, and this (disorder) could have been one
of the reasons,” she said. (She also blames her infertility
on the fact that she did not always follow the
teachings of the Catholic Church and used contraception.)
that during her teenage years she received little support trying
to make the right choices. She remembers the day she
confronted her two best friends who she learned were dabbling
in drugs and alcohol.
|Teresa Tomeo opens a gift presented to her on behalf of the school from Everest Assistant Principal Greg Reichert.|
“I asked them about it, and they
called me a ‘goody-two-shoes,’” she remembers. When she reminded her
“friends” that she had just gotten over an eating disorder
and was trying to get healthy, they responded by emptying
her locker’s contents onto the school hallway floor. Tomeo remembers,
as the bell rang for the change of classes, she
was nearly trampled as she tried to retrieve her things.
“It was one of the most humiliating times during my
life in high school,” she said. But she is proud
that she stayed strong and resisted temptation.
Satan Hates Women
feels quite strongly about sending positive messages to young people,
especially girls. “I have a great deal of respect for
young people, especially those trying to live their faith. It
is not easy.”
She is convinced that the treatment of women
by today’s media is much more “diabolical” than most realize.
“It goes back to Genesis,” she said, recalling how Satan
targeted Eve in the garden. “Satan hates women,” she said.
Blessed John Paul II refers to a satanic “attack” on
women in his document On the Dignity of Women, recalling
in a meditation on Ephesians 5 how women, in their
femininity, are symbolic of the Church. He writes that women
bring life into the world and that they are symbolic
of all humanity (see Mulieris Dignitatem, specifically #25).
these ideas in her new book “Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed
by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.” She also has
available a book series called “All Things Girl” which addresses
the challenges that young women face in the world and
how to combat these challenges. (For information, go to www.teresatomeo.com.)
Her “Extreme Makeover” book is recommended by Archbishop Charles J.
Chaput of Philadelphia, who Tomeo says is one of her
personal “rock stars.”
“He gets it,” she said simply. Chaput
responded to Tomeo’s request to review her book the same
day she asked. He writes “(Teresa) Tomeo knows the pressures
and dishonesties facing women in modern American culture from firsthand
experience, and she leads women to Jesus Christ with compelling
personal testimonies and uncommon persuasive skill. For any woman who
seeks the true foundation of her dignity, this is the
book to read and to share.”
God “Pulling Me Out”
not the only audience for Tomeo’s work. Her first book
in 2007 – NOISE: How Our Media Saturated Culture Dominates
Lives and Dismantles Families” was a Catholic bestseller. In it
she chronicles how she decided to leave the secular media
to work in Catholic communications.
“When I was in
the secular media, it very difficult,” she said. “I realized
I could no longer justify living this way.”
She talks about
once covering a story about the death of a young
girl killed by a drunk driver. “She was a good
kid, a good student. Her father gave me a great
interview,” Tomeo said. But when she called in the story,
the assignment editor told her to take the man to
the scene of the accident and get him to cry.
another incidence, while covering a train accident where 3 to
4 teenagers had been killed trying to beat a train,
she and her coworker were waiting in their car, not
wanting to bother the family members. But the families assumed
otherwise. “One of them ran out and screamed and cried
at us in our car.” She remembers vividly the pain
in that man’s face.
During this time, she said she felt
“God pulling me out.”
“I now know I want to use
my gifts and talents for God,” she said. “I left
journalism in year 2000 to start Teresa Tomeo Communications.
Now I work in the Catholic media and I am
free to speak my faith.”
She is not shy about discussing
her conversion experience, after a young life of what she
calls radical feminism and being pro-choice. During this time when
she said she “strayed from God” she found that “when
I did it my way, I was miserable.”
Tomeo now fits motivational speaking into her busy schedule, talking
to audiences of parents and young people about the wisdom
of following God’s law and his Church.
She said defending the
teachings of the Catholic Church is actually easy. “Just look
at what is happening in the world. The research is
She puts up a visual for the students to
compare worldly wisdom to God’s wisdom. Among her observations:
• The World
says: premarital sex is OK. Jesus says: It is a
sacred gift for husband and wife.
• The World says: women
and girls are objects. Jesus says: women have dignity.
world says violence is an easy answer. Jesus says: those
who live by the sword die by it.
• The world
says: appearance is everything. Jesus says: God looks at the
She suggested her audience do some soul searching and consider
if their media habits are leading to bad choices. “Ask
yourself: are my choices making me more selfish? Leading to
vanity? Immodesty? Immoral behavior? Poor self esteem? Relationship problems? Eating
She quotes Pope Benedict XVI from one of his addresses
in 2006. “The Church is not a series of ‘nos,’
but a big ‘Yes’ to God!” Then she gave her
high school listeners a list “Dos”:
• Do recognize yourself as a
child of God – you are unique and spiritual.
receive the sacrament of the Eucharist as often as possible.
• Do realize God’s mercy is new every morning and practice
the sacrament of confession.
• Do take an honest look at
your media usage and take control! Silence the noise in
• Do look for wholesome role models.
• Do keep
the 10 Commandments, which are a big “Yes” to love
• Do honor your father and mother (“And listen
to them,” she said. “My Italian mother would tell me
as I went out on a date, ‘The Blessed Mother
is watching you!’”)
• Do practice chastity and modesty. (“There is
a proper way to dress in public,” she said.)
use everything in moderation.
She suggests the students consider the amount
of time they spend with social media, and to discern
whether or not they use it wisely. She warns that
once something is online, “You cannot get it back…. and
colleges look at what you put on Facebook,” she said.
reminded her young audience that there is “no better place
for a person then to be in a relationship with
And she encouraged them to go out there
and “make a difference!” Catholics can change the culture through
their actions, she says giving the example of the recent
cancellation of the program “The Playboy Club” by NBC, which
some in the media blamed on the “Catholics.” News reports
suggested that the network and Chrysler, one of the program’s
major sponsors, “had been deluged with complaints about the show’s
theme and sexually suggestive content.”
“NBC offended too many people with
a show that degraded women and attempted to bring porn
even more into the mainstream,” Tomeo said in a press
release from the Maximus Group. “People spoke up, and
their voices were heard.”
To obtain information about Tomeo’s books,
or to find out about upcoming events, such as the
mother-daughter pilgrimage to Rome entitled “Feminine Beauty in the Arts”
with Tomeo and Brenda Sharman of Pure Fashion, go
to Tomeo’s website at www.teresatomeo.com. For the trip information,