History in the Making
February has been a collection of evidence that proves Indigenous people can share and occupy spaces in mainstream media. From the inclusion of two Indigenous models in the new 2019 Spring Campaign for Nordstrom to an all Indigenous cast in Toronto Fashion Week, February has been a month of history in the making.
For the first time, Indigenous designer Lesley Hampton made her debut in Toronto Fashion Week by casting an all Indigenous team of models. Not only did she have an all Indigenous cast, but she also opened the show with Juno Award Nominee Iskwe.
I have to put emphasis on the fact that these are all powerhouse, INDIGENOUS WOMEN making waves in today’s society. Indigenous Women around the world are stepping into their power, reclaiming their identities and fighting not only for equality, but for true diversity.
Lesley Hampton’s sold out show sparked the attention of Jeanne Beker who attended and sat front row of the show. Another powerhouse woman whose career I’ve followed since a very young age. Jeanne Beker is the OG Fashion Television Host! I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea of Jeanne Beker sitting front row at a fashion show that I walked in. And not just any fashion show, an ALL Indigenous fashion show by an Indigenous designer in THE Toronto Fashion Week.
I noticed coverage by Etalk and a few other media networks and it made me think about how different the interview or story would be if it were an Indigenous reporter covering the event. With the many Indigenous artists that are popping up in today’s mainstream industry, I often question the level and quality of coverage that will be done. Will it be appropriate? Will it be effective? Will they know the right kind of questions to ask? Will they know how to ask those questions? How can they cover the story when they don’t know the story?”
I think if it were an Indigenous reporter covering a story like Lesley Hamptons, the questions would be much different and having that would provide mainstream media with a new and fresh perspective.
When it comes to Indigenous fashion, each seam, stitch and thread has a story. For someone who holds knowledge of those stories, I know the kinds of questions that need to be asked in order to get adequate coverage on stories like Lesley Hamptons and I know how to appropriately ask them.
There are a lot of young Indigenous girls whose dreams are to see themselves in mainstream media. What that means is the dreams and goals that Indigenous youth have, are to be acknowledged, valued and included. Indigenous youth grow up dreaming of a time where they will be recognized as equals. Where they will feel worthy, relatable and represented in spaces they haven’t seen themselves before.
It is an incredible time to be alive and Indigenous as these dreams and goals are becoming more and more of a reality. With the inclusion of Indigenous peoples in mainstream media, Indigenous youth, one of the fastest growing demographics in Canada, will begin to feel a sense of self-worth.
It is experiences like these that prove we can share and occupy spaces together, peacefully. We can work together, not against each other. When we can share and occupy spaces together, it creates an opportunity to exchange conversation. I talk a lot about the importance of being included in conversations in mainstream media but have you ever thought that we would like to include you in our conversations too?
One of the challenges I face while working in the fashion, film and television industry is lack of cultural competency. It is this challenge that makes me love the work that I do. I am able to share my knowledge, share my stories and help others feel more comfortable talking about Indigenous peoples and/or issues. How else are people in this industry supposed to learn and reconcile if we don’t include them in our conversations? By building these bridges, I am continuing the path that is being paved for all future generations. And hey, maybe if Indigenous people were included in the everyday conversations, they would see a fresh perspective that isn’t so frightening after all.
When Indigenous youth fail to see themselves positively represented, they shy away from being represented all together. This is why it is important to cover the positive success stories of Indigenous women. All we ever see in mainstream news are stories about missing and murdered Indigenous women. A crucial topic to focus on yes, however, when those are the only stories people hear, it paints us all with the same brush. The picture being painted portrays Indigenous women as weak, vulnerable and invaluable.
That is why I am grateful for CityNews, Breakfast Television and CTV for covering my story. Now, Indigenous girls and women can see a positive success story in the headlines.
This past month I have done a handful of interviews with various news networks and radio stations. What kept me calm through it all was remembering my purpose. I had to remind myself that when I do these interviews, young Indigenous women across Canada are going to see themselves represented in mainstream media. This month I had interviews with CityNews, Breakfast Television and CTV. It all sparked from the 2019 Spring Campaign for Nordstrom Canada when my photo went up on the largest billboard in Canada, Dundas Square Toronto, ON.
Nordstrom Canada might not know it yet, but they just redefined what diversity really means and looks like. Next month, I will go deeper into conversation about how Nordstrom is making history.