Kate Stoltz did not have a typical upbringing. Born on January 1, 1991, she was raised by a strict and religious family who lived the Amish lifestyle. Up until she was 20 years old, she lived in an Amish community in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, where there were heavy limitations on the use of electricity, telephones, cars and clothing.
Like other women in her town, Stoltz would wear a smock, a bonnet and dresses that went down to her ankles. Every morning before school, she would feed the cows. After school, she’d spend up to six hours in the fields pitching hay along with cooking and cleaning for her family. She was the middle child of seven and has over 300 cousins and step-cousins spread out all over the U.S.
Because electronics were forbidden in the Amish community, Stoltz had a hidden radio growing up and would listen to Eminem all the time. Stoltz recalls:
“I first listened to music when I was about 13 or 14, but I was listening to music that was from the 1990s because I would listen to my older brothers and sisters music. They were a little older than me and I didn’t really understand pop culture until I left. I’m still catching up to music, movies and TV.”
Stoltz is best known as the star of “Breaking Amish,” a show that launched in 2012 that focuses on Amish young adults who leave their homes to pursue their dreams. She explains:
“I always knew that there was a culture outside the one that I grew up in. It just slowly seeped into my life. We would go shopping for groceries at the same supermarkets that everybody else did. I would see people driving cars, dressing differently. We saw the people that weren’t in the community as worldly and living a lifestyle that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s kind of like brainwashing. We didn’t really understand that there’s nothing wrong with driving a car, listening to the radio, or living somewhere else from where you grew up in. We lived in a very warped and different community than everyone else does.”
Although Stolz never pictured herself as someone who’d appear on TV, she chose to do it because she had always wanted to experience going to New York City to pursue a career in modeling.
“Going to New York to become a model, at the end of the day, that was the reason why I even did the show. The week before I left for New York I started doubting myself asked myself if this is what I really want to do. I never pictured myself as someone that would go on TV. I never wanted to be a part of that world. I thought I’ve always wanted to experience New York City and this is my chance to do it.”
Stoltz aspired to be a model because of her passion for making clothes when she was young. She learned how to sew at 9 and would regularly make clothes for her family and charity.
Out of all the cast members for the first season, Stoltz was the only one that chose not to go back to her community and instead moved to New York when she turned 21.
Since then, Stoltz has had a successful modeling career, including posing in lingerie for Maxim magazine and walking the runway at New York Fashion week for designer Cesar Galdino. Unfortunately, her parents have not been supportive of her career choice.
In a 2014 interview with the Daily Mail, she said: “If I were to even show my father face to face a lingerie picture that I took he would probably burn it and tell me that I’m going to hell […] the Amish think that modeling is one of the worst things a woman can do, they see it as flaunting your body and being vain.”
Although the Amish culture doesn’t approve of women baring skin publicly, Stoltz tells NextShark they have nothing against wearing lingerie:
“So my mother and her sisters, we usually have this thing called ‘Sisters Day’ and they have a lot of fun on these days. They’re always laughing and joking. My aunt once made the joke, ‘Well we have to cover up, but we wear pretty lingerie to make up for it.’ Not every woman will wear pretty lingerie, but they are allowed to and they do wear nice lingerie. It’s the way of making them feel beautiful.”
Although she grew up with no internet and limited electronics, Stoltz says that she had no issues with catching up with current technology. She discovered Facebook a year after she received her first cell phone and began using the internet at 16. She says:
“My friends and I got a family plan and all got cell phones together. We had an older sibling sign the contract for us, and we all used money from our jobs.”
On common misconceptions about the Amish Community, Stoltz says:
“There are a couple of misconceptions about the Amish community. A lot of people picture it as a kind of like a farm barricaded away from the rest of the world. We have property just like everybody else does. Our neighbors could be Catholic or Jewish or any religion. We’re not all living together on one farm or one fenced off area. We have access to the rest of the world. We’re trained to think of the rest of the world as evil or wild. Our parents teach us to not participate in any activities because they’ll get us into trouble or they won’t be good for us.”
“Some people think it’s a kind of life where teenagers move out of this house and can do whatever they want to. The reality is the teenagers still live with their parents. The only thing that changes is that they have a little bit more say about how they can dress. They’re not allowed to go out and get cars, but they can do that because they’re teenagers and they want to rebel. They’re also allowed to meet up with their friends every weekend. That’s usually at a friend’s parents’ house or under parental supervision, not just wherever they want to. There are parties, but it’s just teenage rebellion. It’s not like the parents actually approve of this.”
Although her parents are not supportive of her career, Stoltz says that they still have a great relationship and she still visits one or twice a year:
“The thing about knowing that my parents don’t support my career is that I know they still support me, and that’s the most important thing. […] They’re always welcoming me back home, so I’m very fortunate. Even people outside of the Amish community aren’t welcomed back home because their parents don’t approve of them: either they are pursuing careers that their parents don’t approve of, or they changed religions or something like that. I’m not the only one that has parents that really don’t approve of my career, but I’m fortunate enough to have parents that welcome me back home no matter what.
Stoltz, now 24, is currently going to school to become a fashion designer. Using her sewing skills she learn from the Amish community, Stoltz started her own eponymous fashion line, Kate Stoltz, last year. Her line focuses on women’s dresses, pillows and quilts. She was honored at the 2014 Demiurge Award for her work in modeling and fashion design. She says:
“I started my brand is because I see a lot of fast fashion companies selling clothing that only last for a week. You wear it twice, and then it doesn’t look good anymore; it falls apart.” My ultimate goal for my brand is to create something that people know they’ll be able to wear for 5 years and it will still look good.”