As an actress, Tracy Lindsey Melchior has had roles in soap operas such as "The Bold and the Beautiful," and "One Life to Live," appeared in "Beverly Hills Cop II," and done commercials for Nike and Coca-Cola. Several years ago, she became a Christian, a transformation that gave her a new sense of purpose. Along the way, Tracy realized she'd broken all 10 commandments in her life, literally. (Asked most often about "Thou shalt not kill," the answer is: She had an abortion, which she sees as murder.) Through her new book "Breaking the Perfect 10" and speaking gigs, Tracy hopes to advise young women on avoiding promiscuity and making moral choices. She spoke with Beliefnet by phone from her home outside of Los Angeles, as her son played in the background.
Breaking all 10 commandments doesn't sound easy.
It wasn't exactly a list of things to do. It was one of those things I hadn't even realized I'd done. It's scary that other people may fit that mold and not realize it as well. It's not that hard to do, actually. As I look back, it's not that I was what people would describe as a "terrible person." But in our society it really isn't that difficult to do because so much is permissible in our society. You can justify so much in our culture. Most people are surprised about the killing--abortion, the taking of a human life--and that one is done on a daily basis in our society. So it may surprise some people that they may have broken all 10, if they really went through it and were real honest with themselves.
At what point did you realize you'd broken "the perfect 10"?
I came up with the book's title before I knew what I was going to do with the book. I got an opportunity to write the book, and I knew my passion was that line between being a believer and being in Hollywood and trying to find the balance so you can serve both. And the Ten Commandments came to mind. As I was continuing to brainstorm, I thought I could talk about how I broke each commandment, and I'd thought I came to an obstacle with Number Six. I was like, "I've never killed anyone, so I couldn't do that part of the book." And all of a sudden a wave of sadness came over me when I realized that in fact I had. And that was when I knew I needed to write that.
How did you go from someone who broke commandments to one who follows them as a Christian?
You can only go so long thinking you can be self-reliant and self-serving and still make yourself happy. When I realized that everything I was doing was bringing me the opposite of what I wanted, I got to a dead-end street. Sometimes when you've got nowhere to go, it's a good place to be, then you're forced to face your demons and look yourself in the mirror. You've lost everything, you've been stripped of everything. And when I got to that point, I knew I needed to do something different.
So did you go religion shopping?
I didn't explore a lot of them real deeply. But I did ask questions of friends of mine who were Jewish and friends of mine who had more of a New Age philosophy, and [explored] a little bit about Buddha. There was an enormous amount of people surrounding me at that time who were Christian, and it made sense to me, the more I learned about it. I felt peaceful the more I learned about it. Religion isn't just about whether it works for you, but to me, it was the one that gave me the most peace and made the most sense. There were things in Christianity that I discovered were innately in me already but I didn't have anything to base them on. Christianity and the Bible gave me a basis for things I was already feeling.
When you first started having this realization that Christianity is the one, what did you do?
It took me a while to fully commit. And quite honestly, I feel like I am always committing further. I'm becoming more and more mature in my faith all the time. What I started doing was going to church, first of all, and that's what really changed me--finding a pastor who spoke to my heart in a vernacular that I understood and was deeply moved by. The other thing was listening to Christian music. That was huge for me. Music has always been very powerful for me, and it really was instrumental in opening up my soul.
What did you listen to?
Mostly just church music--worship songs we sung in church. "Ocean Floor" [by Christian rock band Audio Adrenaline] was one of my huge favorites. I love Jeremy Camp and Steven Curtis Chapman. I love it all.
How did this transformation in your life affect your career?
I was in a place where I was ready to give up my career. Not just ready, but willing to. My feet were starting to be pointing more toward serving God, serving others, than serving myself. Acting felt too much like serving myself. But I didn't call my agent and say, "Don't send me out ever again."
My pastor said in church one time, "If you're not sure what you're doing with your life, just pray to God. Say, 'I'm your loyal servant, please use me.'" I started praying that prayer all the time. I knew I was passionate about teenage girls and how lack of parenting can lead to a promiscuous lifestyle. I kept praying to God to use me to help other girls. And shortly after that, I got booked on the Aaron Spelling soap opera "Sunset Beach." Which was ironic, because it was the biggest job I ever had. As soon as I was ready to give up acting, I hired God as my agent, and I started working more than I ever had.
The biggest demo for that show was 18-24-year-old girls. The show gave me a platform to reach them. It gave me the credibility that comes with being on television. It exposed me to those girls and gave me access to them [to speak to them outside of the show]. If you've been on television--it's sad but true--it gives you instant credibility. God didn't put me on a soap opera or give me a certain amount of celebrity for my own ego. I know I have to use it to serve Him.
You mentioned trying to serve your faith and being in Hollywood. How did you manage that?
I encourage people who want to live a morally elevated life and want a career in show business [not to abandon Hollywood]. It would behoove the world if we did have people out there who were brave enough to stand up to offensive material. Because our society was built on Christian values, and I feel like a lot of time, when you have Christians on television or in movies, it's in a negative light. It's getting better, but it would be great to have more believers in Hollywood who are saying, "That's offensive. That's blasphemy."
I've been very lucky as far as being on soap operas. As for love scenes, God has protected me. I've not had love scenes. I've had to kiss other men. I've had many conversations and tried to find out how God would view that. It's not erotic to me, it's not a turn-on, and it's not a betrayal. But I won't do love scenes. I'll change words that I feel are inappropriate, like "G-D." I won't give God a last name, I won't give Jesus a middle name.
Have you found a community of Christians in Hollywood or do you feel alone in that way?
I have been impressed with how many people are Christian. When "The Passion of the Christ" was released, I was at an audition with about 10 other girls, who all looked just like me, of course. The auditions were running about an hour behind, and one of the girls looked at her watch and said, "Shoot, I was going to go to see 'The Passion of the Christ' tonight, and I am going to miss it." That started a whole dialogue, and out of 10 of us, four of us were believers, versus the six that weren't. And I thought, it's almost an even split. I was encouraged by that.
People look at Hollywood as a sort of den of sin. Do you see it that way, or as more of a balanced place?
That's not completely out of line for people to see it like that. You take wealthy men, with usually lustful minds, who have most of the power in Hollywood, and then you take every young girl who is starving for attention and affection--and usually male attention specifically--and that's Satan's playground. That's the perfect formula for everything we hear that goes on.
But at the same time, once you actually get in there and you start knowing the people and the faith, they're no different than anyone else. They're no different than the pilot and the flight attendant who are having an affair. You just hear about it more because it's Hollywood.