By: The Daily Universe, BYU
Provo, Utah USA

Natasha Rivas was successful in one of the most difficult industries in the nation less than a year into her modeling career in New York City.

She worked for a fashion label, booked her own agent, and acted in both commercials and TV shows before turning 21. But for Natasha, the most meaningful experience in the city was being baptized into the LDS church.

“New York was great. I did fun things. I got to model a bunch, which was so fun,” Natasha said. “But honestly, the best part was being baptized.”

Natasha waited six years to be baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In New York, she finally achieved that dream. However, baptism wasn’t the end of her struggles. Natasha developed optimism, courage and faith as she followed an unexpected path that eventually led her to BYU.

​Natasha first became acquainted with the church in eighth grade. She struggled with feelings of depression at the time and found strength through attending church. However, her parents were not excited about their daughter’s interest in the church and didn’t want her to attend church services.

“I have to hand it to her for not just giving up and spiraling down — for turning to something that I think that helped her to get through,” said Natasha’s father, Jaime Rivas. “I can talk about it now. At the time I didn’t quite get it, but now it’s very clear to me, and her dedication to her faith is something that impresses me.”

he struggle with her parents’ disapproval continued throughout her high school years.

“I think that may have been one of the hardest things she’s ever faced: the conflict between church and family,” said Natasha’s hometown friend and mentor, Allie Chapman.

Instead of attending church services, Natasha often conducted her own spiritual sessions where she just sat outside of her home and read talks from church leaders or the scriptures.

“Those times were the most tender,” Natasha said. “All of the things that strengthened my testimony the most were the moments when it was personal with Heavenly Father.”

​Natasha dealt with other challenges as well during high school. She was a strong competitor in both cross-country and soccer before she found out that she had labral tears in her hips that caused her to tire easily. The condition pushed Natasha to focus more on music and theater instead of sports.

This new emphasis in her life led Natasha to apply to the Boston Conservatory, a competitive performing arts school. Around 2,000 students audition each year to get into the music, theater and dance programs. Only 10 percent are accepted each year, and Natasha was one of those students.

After a year of school in Boston, Natasha had an idea: At age 19, she would go on her own to New York and try out her acting and theater skills. There was just one problem: she had to convince her parents.

“It worried me, but if anyone could do it she could,” said Natasha’s mother, Donna Rivas.

Read the rest of the story: The Daily Universe
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