on the cover of Vogue Mexico. (Credit: Vogue Mexico)
Growing up in rural Alaska, 18-year-old Quannah
Chasinghorse (Han Gwich'in and Oglala Lakota) didn't see herself
"I have really Lakota facial features," the teen told Native News
Online. "I have the whole bump on my nose, I have really high cheekbones.
I always felt like I was like that one ugly kid in class, because
everyone just loved all the white girls."
Now, Chasinghorse is setting a new beauty standard. This month,
she is featured on the front
cover of Vogue Mexico in the second shoot she landed since signing
with IMG modelsan international management companyin
The Alaska Native teen's 20-page
spread features photos of her donning high fashion paired with
her own Indigenous jewelry on the beaches of Mexico, on a horse
in Native garb, and striking a pose in a Mexican villa. In all the
photos, viewers can readily see Chasinghorse's Native identity made
apparent by traditional tattoos on her chin and temples.
Vogue Mexico editor Karla Martinez told the teen when they saw
Chasinghorse's "pitch" her agents sent in that they knew they'd
found their May covergirl "because she was very unique."
"I think it's because, for years now, the industries are growing
and becoming more inclusive and you're starting to see a lot more
not just Native people, but people of color in general being uplifted
and represented in that way," Changhorse said.
But it's not just the model's appearance that got her noticed.
Her portfolio included speaking engagements and activism work that
has taken her to Washington, D.C. to spread awareness about drilling
in the Arctic Refuge, her Alaska Native homeland. Chasinghorse calls
herself a climate warrier and land protector. In 2019, she made
state news when she and her sister called upon Native leaders
to declare a state of emergency on climate change and reinstate
a task force to advocate for strong climate policies at the annual
Alaska Federation of Natives conferencethe largest statewide
Native organization in Alaska. Chasinghorse now serves on that climate
"Our goal is we want everyone to acknowledge that there is a climate
crisis in Alaska, that it's urgent, and that 12 of our villages
in Alaska are going to become climate refugees if we don't handle
it," she said. "We're supposed to be stewards of the land...and
we really need to step into our role."
She emphasized that another goal is to look towards the future
and slowly steer Alaska's oil and gas-based economy towards more
In a wider lens, Chasinghorse's goal is to be more than a model,
but a role model. As a seventh grader, she was the lone Alaska Native
to testify in front of an all-white school board on why Columbus
Day should be changed to Indigenous Peoples Daya meeting she
had to skip school to attend. The board ultimately ruled in her
"Our history has been whitewashed," she said. "We are the ones
responsible to break the stereotypes to break these barriers that
keep us and hold us victim to our government (and) the way people
treat us. To see good representation through beauty and fashion
will change people's minds and thoughts."
Chasinghorse said she found this to be true even on set for Vogue
Photographers for the shoot Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
wrote in a shared Instagram
caption that, before meeting Chasinghorse, their knowledge of
how "real Native American people" live was limited, and that Chasinghorse
took time to "explain what each face tattoo (given to her by her
mother) means for her as part of her ancestors' heritage."
Chasinghorse said that knowing her colleagues took home the messages
she shared with them made an impact on her.
"It's amazing to me because now our people are getting the representation
that we need, but also people are starting to become more educated
on who we really are, not just the stereotypes," she said.
With empowerment and positive reinforcement backing her up, Chasinghorse
sees something different when she looks in the mirror than she once
did as a kid.
"The more I grew within myself, I realized that I shouldn't wish
for any other features because now I look in the mirror, and I see
my ancestors looking back at me because I carry the same features
that they had, and it really does bring back so much pride for me
now," she said. "Becoming a model, now their favorite thing about
me is my nose, and that was my biggest insecurity."