It’s happened more than once to native role models. When she was a model in the early 2000s, Joleen Mitton recalls a time when she was told to swim in chlorinated water, so she could look “paler”. A few years ago, Indigenous model Talaysay Campo was in a photo shoot and she almost didn’t recognize herself in the final images. “They photographed me about five shades lighter than my skin tone,” says Campo. The modeling industry has long underrepresented Indigenous faces, and when they have done so, stories of racism or mistreatment have escalated. But a new modeling agency hopes to change that.
Supernaturals Modeling is the first all-Indigenous modeling agency, officially launched last week. Based in Vancouver, BC, the agency is the brainchild of Mitton and his longtime friend Patrick Shannon (photographer-director). Together, the Indigenous duo hope to foster a safe space for Indigenous talent, in part by working with clients before jobs to ensure their role models are never put in awkward situations like those Mitton, Campo and so many others have lived on the set. “There is so little representation [for Indigenous models], and we often take advantage of it,” explains Shannon. “Traditionally, it’s been a very hostile industry for indigenous people. We try to establish protocols on how to work with Indigenous role models and make sure things are done in a healthy and respectful way.