Quannah Chasinghorse 'struggled' growing up without Indigenous representation: 'I never thought that I was desirable'

·4-min read
Quannah Chasinghorse is changing the game when it comes to Indigenous representation. (Photo: Getty Images)
Quannah Chasinghorse is changing the game when it comes to Indigenous representation. (Photo: Getty Images)

Quannah Chasinghorse has secured spots on the covers of magazines like Vogue, Elle and her latest with Allure. But the Indigenous model, 20, explained that it has been a long journey to get the recognition that she is currently after feeling unrepresented for so long.

"I definitely struggled a lot growing up with my looks," she told the beauty publication. "I never thought that I was desirable or wanted or beautiful or anything like that because of very stereotypical beauty standards."

While she's always been interested in fashion and the modeling industry, Chasinghorse didn't seem to have a place within it according to what she saw in the media. Her Indigenous ancestry is both Hän Gwich’in of Eagle Village, Alaska and Sicangu-Oglala Lakota of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which inspired her early activism while living in Fairbanks, Alaska. But feeling unseen in the world also made her feel unheard when it came to the message that she had hoped to share with the world.

Ultimately, it was her authenticity that would lead her to find both self confidence and success.

"I just stopped caring [about other beauty ideals]," she said of her rise to the mainstream. "I’ve realized that I will never be like them, and in order to be truly happy I just need to learn to love myself and not try to change myself so that other people would love me more."

Furthermore, she put the things that she truly cares about at the forefront of her identity.

"What truly made me feel beautiful was my voice. When I found my voice, I found confidence," she said. "When I found my voice, I felt powerful, and that’s where I found my power.... People will listen to you if you have something to say."

While an elder in her community pointed out that Chasinghorse's beauty must also be used to her "best advantage," the model has certainly paved a unique path for herself in using her platform to promote important causes. One of her breakthrough moments was when she appeared in a 2020 Calvin Klein ad that touched on the importance of voting. In the years since, she's used the opportunities that she's been given as ways to educate others about her Native identity.

"I don't want people to be embarrassed or whatever, because it's not their fault that they don't know. It's the school system, it's society. We [Native people] are so erased that people don't even know that we’re still here. I see all over TikTok and Instagram, other people talking about Native Americans in the past tense as if we're not here anymore. That's what I'm trying to change," she said. "I carry myself in a way where I really try to stick to my values and how I was raised."

Chasinghorse has even found that she's more confident when she presents herself in a way that aligns with her culture sharing that she feels "more seen" and "more powerful" when wearing Indigenous jewelry. Most importantly, she's recognized that the industry is starting to show respect for these choices.

"The industry, it is moving, it is growing, and doing better than what it was. Of course, there's more room for growth, but it's definitely in a really good place where I feel like I'm being respected. My ways of life, my values, how I present myself, how I work, and everything is really well-respected in the fashion world right now," she said. "We have to prove ourselves more than anybody else because of the harmful stereotypes that are brought upon our people. To be able to be someone that is changing that narrative within these spaces, it's a very honoring feeling. It really is kind of breaking the trail for others behind me to have a more clear path. It's a lot of work, but it's very worth it."

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