Fashioning identity: model shares Alaska Native heritage

Fashioning identity: model shares Alaska Native heritage
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:30 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - From Calvin Klein campaigns to sporting Gucci and Chloe designs on the runways, 20-year-old Quannah Chasinghorse has been highlighting her Alaska Native heritage on magazine spreads and on catwalks around the world.

Chasinghorse grew up in a small rural village in Alaska, where her mom taught her to live off the land. Every year her family would go fishing, hunting, and dog mushing.

Chasinghorse said when she was growing up she was always posing everywhere, dreaming of someday being a model.

After being discovered for her work as an activist, that modeling dream quickly became a reality. Since 2020, Chasinghorse has been living out her dream working as a model.

Chasinghorse’s documentary “Walk Two Worlds” was showcased at the First Alaskans Institute 2022 Alaska Native Elders and Youth Conference. In it, Chasinghorse discusses her struggles with her identity growing up and not fitting into the idea of western beauty. She wanted to get a nose job as a child to fit a standard that she felt represented beauty.

Now in the modeling industry, Chasinghorse said that she can still find herself struggling with her self-identity. Chasinghorse said she is often the only Alaska Native and Native American in the room.

“When I’m at work, I’m not just doing my job. I want not only to connect, but I want to educate people. It’s not my obligation to teach people about who we are or anything. I am proud of who we are. I want people to know who we are,” Chasinghorse said.

While modeling, Chasinghorse works to keep her Alaska Native heritage alive. She does this by not cutting her hair and not covering up her traditional Alaska Native tattoos. She says she still struggles with accepting her lifestyle as a model and keeping her Alaska Native roots. Chasinghorse said that it’s important for people to understand that it is okay to turn to their ancestors to ask for guidance.

“I am constantly smudging myself down asking for healing, prayers, asking for you know, guidance whenever I need it. That’s one thing I think we forget. Its okay to ask our ancestors for guidance,” Chasinghorse said.