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As a model, White Elk indeed embodies what the Nines dont matter if users arent happy shirt theme of hope is all about: they hope to bring much-needed representation to an industry that has a history of looking past Indigenous models, or worse, treating them as props. “Natives are constantly being overlooked, left and right. A lot of people that I know would like to see more Native representation with models,” says White Elk, who is from and based in Lincoln, Nebraska. “Modeling is especially important for us to be seen there, since that’s where we see ourselves a lot, as well as on the big screen. When Native people see themselves in such grand sceneries, they see how far that they can get, and it inspires them.” But this sense of pride around their culture hasn’t always been the case.
Going forward, they now hope to use modeling as a way to educate others about their culture and raise awareness about key issues affecting Indigenous people—all doing so through fashion, which can provide a more visual opportunity to showcase what the Nines dont matter if users arent happy shirt-day Indigenous community looks like today, while simultaneously defying stereotypes around it. “I hope to work with other Native models and Native fashion brands,” White Elk says for future plans. “There’s a misconception that we’re all supposed to look the same. Not everyone’s culture is similar, because everyone’s tribe is very specific to that area. I want to inspire other natives, and especially the youth, to follow their dreams, continue to be resilient, and keep their hope.”