Native model Quannah Chasinghorse has covered Vogue Mexico and walked catwalks for Gucci and Rihanna — but, she said, she didn’t feel like she “belonged” at the Met Gala when she attended this year, describing it as “elitist” and a ‘weird place to be.’
The 19-year-old, whose ancestry is Hän Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota, joined Megan Fox, Ciara and Mary J. Blige as a guest of designer Peter Dundas at the September 14 fashion event, but told Insider this week that the whole affair was not quite in line with her moral values.
“I just don’t think I belong in those places because I’m not an elitist,” she said. “My way of walking in this world, in the industry, is so different from everyone else, because I feel like I’m constantly breaking barriers.
“Nobody knew me, nobody wanted to ask,” she added. ‘People are there for themselves and it shows.’
Out of place? Indigenous model Quannah Chasinghorse says she didn’t feel like she “belonged” at the Met Gala when she attended this year, describing it as “elitist” and a “weird place to be in”
Her take: She was also excited about the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” theme, saying she celebrated “my native bloodlines that flow through my veins.”
Quannah certainly broke through a lot of barriers and was the first Native American to cover a song from Vogue when she fronted Vogue Mexico earlier this year.
She has also covered V Magazine, posed for Calvin Klein and Chanel campaigns, and walked the runway for Prabal Gurung, Gabriela Hearst, Jonathan Simkhai, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty and most recently for Gucci.
But attending the Met Gala was different for Quannah, who said she felt out of place.
“It was just such a weird space to be in. I remember standing there looking at everyone and feeling so alone. Really very lonely,” she said, noting that there weren’t many other indigenous people.
Quannah seems to have taken some time to deal with those feelings, as the teenage model shared her excitement about attending that night.
“Nobody knew me, nobody wanted to ask,” she added. ‘People are there for themselves and it shows’
Meaningful: With her designer dress, she wore silver and turquoise Navaho jewelry borrowed from her aunt in Arizona. She said her jewelry and traditional tattoos meant that her “ancestors were with me at the time” and that they made her feel “powerful.”
“Words cannot describe my gratitude to those who made it possible for me to attend my first Met Gala,” she wrote on Instagram.
‘MAHSI’CHOO (thanks so much) Anna Wintour @voguemagazine and @peter_dundas for inviting me and making me feel like I belong. Truly an honor and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”
However, at the time she said she disagreed with the theme of the gala, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” writing, “I didn’t celebrate American independence (nor will I ever), I celebrated my native bloodlines running through my veins as I keep my heart so close and sacred because my people fought genocide over and over and WE ARE STILL HERE!’
Speaking to Insider, she repeated: “I am by no means celebrating America. If I were to celebrate anything, it would be my native roots, my nativeness, who I am. Because of what America has done to my people, I am proud to be here today.”
“My ancestors had to endure so much genocide after genocide after genocide,” she added.
Breaking Barriers: Quannah reported on Vogue Mexico earlier this year, making her the first Native American to do a number of Vogue
Model moment: She has also walked the runway for Prabal Gurung, Gabriela Hearst, Jonathan Simkhai and most recently Gucci (pictured)
In-demand: Quannah is pictured on Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show
Changes: She appeared in campaigns for Chanel and Calvin Klein. She noted that she always wanted to be a model, but never saw indigenous representation in fashion or beauty. Now she’s happily seeing a shift – which she’s part of
The History Behind Quannah Chasinghorse’s Ink
Quannah Chasinghorse has several traditional Hän Gwich’in tattoos, which are called Yidįįłtoo.
The practice goes back at least 10,000 years, and according to the New York Times, but were banned in the 19th and 20th centuries due to western colonization.
Now the art is making a comeback as Alaska Native women strive to reconnect with their ancestral traditions.
Quannah Yidįįłtoo’s most notable is a line along her chin.
She said Fashion that the facial tattoo was her first, which her mother did by hand when Quannah was 14.
“My mother taught me about our sacred tattoos from an early age,” she said.
“The meaning of my first tattoo has everything to do with becoming a woman. [In my culture] when someone becomes her wife, she can now give birth, get married and take on more responsibilities.
‘That includes a ceremony; we always have a ceremony when we do traditional tattoos. It was such a powerful experience. When I got the tattoo, I really felt connected to a deeper part of myself.”
She added that her tattoos make her feel “more confident” because she “carries a part of my ancestry that was almost completely lost.”
To that end, Quannah paired her dress—a Dundas x Revolve number custom made for her—with silver and turquoise Navaho jewelry borrowed from her Arizona aunt, former Miss Navajo Nation Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw.
“All that turquoise and silver, and my tattoos, brought me back,” she said. “All my ancestors were with me at that time, they walked the red carpet with me, it made me feel more powerful.”
On Instagram, she said it was “extremely special that I was able to show the beautiful REAL (Native) American ‘culture’ and describe the special meaning of her jewelry.
“The turquoise represents protection, guidance and love,” she said. “I all felt like walking the red carpet with the spirit of my ancestors walking with me.
“It’s a really empowering feeling knowing that my presence gives much-needed visibility to indigenous beauty, fashion, art and our communities, along with many of the things we face as a collective.”
Quannah, who is also known for her activism for indigenous issues and climate change, told Vogue earlier this year that her causes are still very important to her.
‘I am extremely passionate about the [activism] work I do,” she said. ‘I get native young people who approach me and tell me that I inspire them to use their voice and also look more at their identity as an indigenous person.’
Her modeling career even helps her get more attention to the issues.
‘People forget that we are people who have been through so much. They forget history, let alone know history – it has been invisible for years. But we’re starting to see more Indigenous people being uplifted and included, and it’s amazing to be a part of that,” she said.
She noted that she always wanted to be a model, but never saw indigenous representation in fashion or beauty. Now, thankfully, she’s seeing a shift — which she’s part of.
“I never grew up confident because of the negative stereotypes of Native Americans,” she said. “But that’s changing. Today, younger generations will be able to witness indigenous excellence on the covers of magazines – and hopefully everywhere.”