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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 12:15 GMT
Swapping glamour for the gospels
The Rev Shannon Ledbetter
Dr Ledbetter says she wanted to contribute to society
Rubbing shoulders with Hollywood stars, expensive designer clothes and showbiz parties is a lifestyle most would give anything for.

But for one woman who once made a living appearing on film sets and in magazine shoots her present job is a world away from such glamour.

Reverend Dr Shannon Ledbetter, curate of St Marys, in Knowsley Village, Liverpool, has travelled an unlikely path to her current calling.

She is known for wearing a 250,000 PVC dress in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Although a little bashful about the attention she recognises her new found fame has helped her bring the church to a wider audience.

BBC News Online spoke to Dr Ledbetter, 39, about her journey between the exclusive memberships of screen star and the priesthood.

"All my modelling friends in the 1980s knew I was interested in the church and the joke was that I was part of the 'God Squad'.

Shannon Ledbetter on a modelling assignment
Dr Ledbetter used to counsel friends during her modelling days

"I never pushed it but they always knew it was something that meant the most to me, they knew where my heart was even though I was off doing other things."

Born in Germany - her father was in the US Army - Dr Ledbetter studied history at university before making her first trip to England.

A model scout spotted her waiting for a bus in London, aged 21, and she began to adorn the covers of magazines from J17 to Good Housekeeping.

But it was the chance to share the camera with heartthrob Pierce Brosnan in 1997 which she remembers most fondly.

"A costume director friend who knew about my background called me and said she had this particular outfit to wear," she said.

What kept me from feeling totally dejected or much more important than other people was my faith and my community of the church
Dr Shannon Ledbetter

"It was certainly a high point, exciting and fun.

"I got quite lucky, the director put me in position for one of the shots and you actually got to see me for a few seconds."

She said she enjoyed the experience but was glad to escape what she admits can be a shallow industry.

"What kept me from feeling totally dejected or much more important than other people was my faith and my community of the church, that kept me grounded."

After leaving modelling Dr Ledbetter spent some time working for the British Tourist Authority in New York but still felt unsettled in her career.

She said: "Again I got a bit bored and thought is this really what I'm meant to be doing, is this how I can contribute to my society in the best possible way?"

She studied Anglican theology in Virginia, in the United States, and Liverpool, where she completed her PhD.

Her ordination as deacon in Liverpool earlier this year brought her back into the limelight as news of her unusual background spread.

Shannon working on Habitat for Humanity project
Community work appeals most to Dr Ledbetter now

"The other day I got into a taxi and I had my dog collar on. The driver said 'I recognise you, congratulations that's really good'.

"It isn't all 60-year-old grey haired old men, there is a wider diversity of clergy around and the test for the church is to get them to come into it.

"It is nice I haven't had anybody say 'Oh no not another clergy person'. I don't need to hit them round the head with a bible but it shows they have had to think about it."

Dr Ledbetter says she now feels personally more satisfied and hopes to use her ministry to work in the community.

She has already started the newest branch of international housing project Habitat for Humanity, building 32 homes in Granby Toxteth, and is also working with five of Liverpool's diverse faiths to organise a regular walk around the city's places of worship.

So does the former Bond Girl ever see herself returning to the big screen?

"If there was the right offer I might consider it, just like the film, never say never," she said.

Bond Girl vicar struts her stuff
24 Sep 03  |  Merseyside
Former Bond girl fronts church show
09 Sep 03  |  Merseyside

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