Supernaturals Modeling Agency just launched in 2021, but the first organization of its kind is already making waves. The agency works exclusively with Indigenous role models to showcase Indigenous beauty and inspire others to showcase them.
Co-founder Joleen Mitton said she was inspired to start the organization after she began working with Indigenous youth in foster care in Vancouver, Canada. Mitton, a model herself, had worked in the fashion industry since she was 15. As she connected with indigenous youth in her community to teach cultural lessons and life skills, she struggled to reach older children, until one day in 2013.
“We were losing them. We weren’t keeping (their interest) teaching them how to use a slow cooker or how to write a resume,” Mitton said. “I had a fashion show in 2013 on Indigenous Peoples Day and all these young people rushed onto the stage. That’s how it all started. I was like, ‘OK, I have something something tangible here.”
Mitton began teaching modeling and eventually launched Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week, where her mentees strutted down the runway.
“Watching (our mentees) walk in their light was really, really meaningful to see,” Mitton said.
Some of these models eventually broke into the industry, but didn’t have the best experiences.
“A couple of our models had gone to a non-Indigenous agency and they were treated very badly,” she said.
After a while, Mitton and her co-founder Patrick Shannon decided to start their own modeling agency, focused entirely on Indigenous beauty, which Mitton said was a “natural transition.”
“What Supernaturals is trying to do is bring the elders of the culture and (a) native worldview into our agency,” Mitton said. “It was just a natural transition. We wanted to keep them safe, protect them and support them.”
Models who work with Mitton and Supernaturals have shared some of their experiences. One model said it was “amazing” and that she felt “excited for the future”, while another said that since joining the agency she has seen how “every ” dummy was “so powerful”.
“(Supernaturals) helped me find my voice…and be a proud Native woman,” said another model.
Mitton said she has already received thousands of applications from potential models, despite the agency’s short existence. She hopes to soon see models walking down the world’s most elite catwalks and making appearances at fashion weeks around the world.
“To see them proud to be who they are, to see the strength of your ancestors walking behind you, is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Mitton said. “I want to keep doing that, and I think the fashion industry could benefit from that as well.”