Model Quannah Chasinghorse: “If you want to work with me, you have to work with me all” 2022-04-27 06:57:45


written by Quana Chasinghors

Quannah Chasinghorse is an Aboriginal activist and land protector who has become a sought-after role model over the past two years. All opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. The feature is part of the CNN Style series Linkwhich explores complex identity issues.

Even though I’ve been in the fashion world since I was young, I never thought I could be a model. I’m a proud member of the Hän Gwich’in and Sičangu/Oglala Lakota tribes in the US – but like most Aboriginal teens, I grew up without any representation in popular culture. I didn’t feel confident or even liked the way I looked.

When I was 14, I received my first face tattoo, a hand-engraved tattoo called Yidįįłtoo, in a ceremony that was practiced to signify coming of age. It was really a special moment. I could have done it sooner, but I waited until I could better express its meaning and sacredness: why it is so important for us to restore this tradition after it has been almost erased – like so many other cultural practices. Each of the other tattoos was a rite of passage. Tattoos Not every Aboriginal person is the same; Each of them tells our personal history.

Quannah Chasinghorse was filmed in the land of Tongva, in Tarzana, California.

Quannah Chasinghorse was filmed in the land of Tongva, in Tarzana, California. credit: Evan Biennale Atwood

I’ve always wanted to represent my people in the best way, and now I’m lucky enough to do so, by being on magazine covers and runways. It’s important to be someone who can change other people’s view of beauty, because I know a lot of girls who are just like me and can feel out of place.

It’s really nice to be part of a bigger change in the fashion industry as people from all walks of life are increasingly represented. But my rule is, if you want to work with me, you all have to work with me. I will not cut or change the color of my hair and will not cover my face tattoos because it is part of my identity as an Aboriginal person. When I first started working, I worried that these non-negotiable things would prevent me from booking jobs, but instead I found the opposite. Everyone I worked with was receptive, understanding, and kind. I have been very lucky.

honor my originality

Last September, I attended my first Met Gala, one of my biggest fashion nights. I wanted to look the right way, especially knowing that the theme was a celebration of American fashion. I set out to be myself and an original genius, which I did by pairing a gold lamé dress by Peter Dundas with Native accessories.

Chasinghorse at the Met Gala last September.

Chasinghorse at the Met Gala last September. credit: Taylor Hill/WireImage/Getty Images

The turquoise and silver jewelry actually belongs to one of my aunts, who was named Miss Navajo Nation in 2006. I wore many of her beautiful silver and turquoise necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

My mom had to raise me and my siblings as a single parent, and my aunts were a huge part of my upbringing, often talking about my mom and the auntie squad and how much they meant to me. These strong moms have shown me what true strength looks like and how to use it in the best possible way.

I love how supportive Anna Wintour (which I thought was a great idea to combine the pieces) and Peter, intuitively knowing how much to wear original jewelry on the red carpet for me. I wore some of my aunt’s pieces again while filming with Vogue Mexico, as well as pieces made by local Alaskan artists.

My people have always felt invisible, so having that kind of vision makes a lot of sense. Despite all that the indigenous communities have suffered and lost, we are still here, and we are proud of who we are.

Search for my voice

From a young age, my mother taught me about our connection to each other, our community and the earth. As an indigenous people, we do not consider ourselves separate or more important than nature. When you grow up in contact with the Earth, it’s only natural that you want to defend it, because it is part of you. I chose to walk the path I do because of these teachings, and today, I continue to do my best and do my part, to spread awareness of many issues within the home country, including climate justice, protection of the Holy Land and waters, indigenous sovereignty, and the MMIWG2S movement, which It means Aboriginal women and girls lost and killed, and Aboriginal souls. formed To stop violence against indigenous women.
Chasinghorse with Aluk Fayed-Menon and Bretman Rock speak at New York Fashion Week for a talk about identity and community within fashion.

Chasinghorse with Aluk Fayed-Menon and Bretman Rock speak at New York Fashion Week for a talk about identity and community within fashion. credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images IMG Fashion

My mother and my aunts traveled with me to many gatherings and protests, where I had space to talk about some of these issues. They came with me to Washington, D.C., where I lobbied on behalf of my people to take back our sacred lands through Human Resources Act 1146 (which passed the House last year but didn’t go further). Because of their constant encouragement, I found my voice discovering my strength.

Modeling has become another channel for my advocacy work. It has become a platform for telling stories as well as highlighting pressing issues. For this reason, it is important to me to work with designers and brands who also support the same values ​​around climate justice and sustainability. I recently walked in for designer Gabriela Hearst, who focuses on sustainability, collaborated with Indigenous people, gave them credit for their work and hired original exhibitors to display the pieces. I’ve also partnered with luxury outerwear brand Mackage, who has made a beautiful sustainable and recycled collection and donated to a non-profit organization that supports indigenous peoples around the world.

Chasinghorse walks the runway during the Gucci Love Parade in Los Angeles.

Chasinghorse walks the runway during the Gucci Love Parade in Los Angeles. credit: Fraser Harrison/Getty Images for Gucci

These days, I receive many letters from young Aboriginal women who are excited to see the latest fashion shoots in magazines. I can’t even explain what kind of feeling I have because it’s so powerful that our employees finally feel seen and heard, after so long without being represented in fashion. And this younger generation would not have to break the first barrier, instead they would be able to walk that path with me.

And while I see more inclusivity in fashion when it comes to race, size, and gender, there is always room for improvement. In every show or photo session I’m a part of, I meet the most beautiful people, and I don’t just talk about their looks. Lots of up-and-coming models now have something special and unique about them to bring – they’re not just meant to be dressed up. Seeing these changes across the industry is heartening as it evolves into a better version of itself. But we have to hold each other responsible. I look forward to watching him grow up.

Top photo: Quana Chasinghorse speaks at the Justice for the People and Justice for the Land rally in Fairbanks, Arkansas.