Sports Illustrated model Yumi Nu reveals how she was 'indoctrinated' into Christianity
Plus-size model Yumi Nu, 25, who is the granddaughter of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki and the niece of famed DJ Steve Aoki, detailed how she gave her "life to Christ" and later escaped her stringent religious beliefs in an essay published by The Cut. Yumi was recently in the news when Dr Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, and YouTuber, shared his views on her 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit' cover. Peterson was brutally criticized online for his views.
Yumi, who is of Japanese and Dutch descent, explained that she had a non-religious upbringing and attended public school for the majority of her life until she and her family moved from Maryland to Newport Beach, California when she was 14 years old.
"In the years since, I've learned to navigate the world on my own, figuring out what felt empowering to me and what didn't. I've had to strengthen my inner compass in order to find my way without the outside pressures I used to rely on," stated Nu.
The model revealed that she joined a school affiliated with an Evangelical church as her grandmother was "deeply involved" with the church.
"From the moment I stepped onto the school grounds, things were crystal clear: Christian beliefs were interwoven within our curriculum, our textbooks, and our classes. It wasn’t something anyone could tune out. In retrospect, I was the perfect candidate to be converted in a space like this because everyone followed an identical belief system on the daily, and no one — especially not myself — wanted to be the only outlier," she said.
She revealed that one day, the teacher at her new school presented a fictitious adoption scenario, asking students whether a baby would be better off with two gay fathers, who would provide a happy life, or with heterosexual parents in a Christian home, who would guarantee the child a bad life. Most of her classmates sided with the Christian parents, arguing that it was preferable to be abused while we "still hear about christ". "When you’re young and impressionable, you believe your textbooks as factual and what’s taught by your teachers as gospel — sometimes literally. These learning years are critical to who you become," she said.
"That was the last time I felt my gut truly say, There is something wrong here," she said of her Christian beliefs. "Slowly but surely, I accepted my indoctrination."
As religion consumed Yumi and her sister, she began to fear for everyone she knew "who didn't believe in Jesus," including her agnostic father Brent. She explained that her father is a "big believer in science" and would constantly challenge their "newly adopted beliefs." "I talked endlessly about how Jesus changed me and saved me from my potential damnation and how he could save them too — if they just believed," Nu said. "As the weeks drew on, some of my close friends from Maryland claimed they couldn’t recognize me anymore. We lost touch," the model added.
Yumi described how the numerous purity conferences and "women's studies" sessions she attended during puberty skewed her views on sex. She was taught that any sexual desire was implanted in her mind by Satan and that it was "the woman's responsibility to ensure that men did not fall into sexual temptation."
According to the model, the church instilled homophobia by teaching that God's creation of sex should only be shared in marriage by a man and a woman. Marriages between same-sex people were deemed "unholy and sinful."
As a Christian YouTuber, Yumi shared her beliefs and grew a small following of around 20,000 subscribers. She went on to make friends with a gay Christian man named Owin through her YouTube channel. She was no longer a scared adolescent at 21, and after hearing his story, she told him he had her support.
As her beliefs began to shift, Yumi relocated to Los Angeles and began writing songs. She collaborated with artists she would have previously deemed "unholy or unworthy of Heaven." She recalled how, despite her convictions, gay friends came out to her, but she was "too afraid of [her] own damnation" at the time to assist them in their fight for acceptance.
The model stated that her suffocating views on what constitutes a "good Christian" began to unravel in 2017 when she spent the summer in New York City. She recalled attending a dinner party with "city Christians" who drank and casually discussed hookups. She revealed that she was "appalled" at first, but then she noticed that when they discussed that week's Sunday service, "their faces glowed with the same radiance" she saw in members of her Orange County Christian community.
In 2021, Yumi made her 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit' debut, wearing bikinis that accentuated her famous curves. She graces the cover of the iconic magazine this year. The recording artist also recently released her debut EP 'Hajime', which includes the song titled 'Sin', which she describes as her "breakup song to the church."
"Fourteen-year-old Yumi would not approach modern-day Yumi with a ten-foot pole," Yumi wrote in her essay. "She would look at me with dismay and shame because I had abandoned God." "She would, however, pray for me, believing in her heart that I am a lost sheep in need of finding my way home. She would believe that any happiness or healthy love I have in my life will be short-lived because it is now tainted by sin," she added.
Yumi said she is still haunted by all the ways her religious beliefs "potentially harmed" others, and she is in therapy to reconcile who she is today versus who she used to be.
Nu states, "At 25, I struggle to find compassion for my 14-year-old self. She explained, "There is a tension that lives between us, like two old friends who had a bad fallout. I can’t believe I was ever close with someone like her, and I’m sure she feels the same way about me. After some separation, I’m exploring my new relationship with God and what feels right for me this time around because, just like this permanent connection with my youth, I need to find where and how we go from here."