June 23, 2011

Butterfly Beauty: Interview with First Nations Model Vina Brown

“Beauty has to exist within before it can shine through in its purest form.” – Vina Brown, First Nations model

Check this out – it’s a really interesting interview with a First Nations model that was published on Butterfly Collection Lingerie's blog for National Aboriginal Day in Canada (which was June 21st). Events take place across the country all month to celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal cultures, the importance of First Nations people to the foundations and progress of Canada, as well as a celebration of the cultural traditions, music, and food.

One of Butterfly Collection Lingerie's models is First Nations.

The author of the blog states, "Not only is she a great role model for curvy women she also illuminates how our diversity is beautiful. On her return from the 28th annual Miss Indian World pageant, I interviewed Vina Brown about what it’s like to be an Aboriginal model in Canada. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do."

Here's the interview:

The Beauty of Aboriginal Day

What is your Aboriginal name?
My Heiltsuk name is Glwaxx which means ocean-going canoe. My adult name is going to translate into Silver-tip Grizzly bear. There are different stages in one's life and my people believe that you need to change your name to suit you as you complete each stage in your life. It recognizes, supports and honors these important transitions.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up on a small First Nations fishing village on the central North-West coast called Bella Bella.

Do you speak a native language?
I don't speak it fluently no, I wish I did and that is something I hope to accomplish before I leave this earth.

What is the most important thing to you about being aboriginal?
Wow very good question. The most important thing would have to be the connection to the environment and the land. I was raised to live with nature and to take my place within the natural laws not to be above mother earth and all her other living beings she supports. I find these teachings have kept me grounded and sane when sometimes mainstream society is out of balance.

How does the definition of beauty differ in your two cultures?
In mainstream society I find that beauty is based solely on the external, there isn’t a great emphasis on women’s minds, spirits and hearts. Traditionally in most Indigenous cultures women were the law makers and teachers and valued for their emotional strength and compassion. Being beautiful in your actions and spirit are valued extremely highly amongst Aboriginal people. Beauty has to exist within before it can shine through in its purest form.

What is the hardest thing about being an Aboriginal model?
Indigenous women are often portrayed in the media as victims of violence and addiction and this perpetuates the idea that we’re all "unhealthy and unstable". This is really dangerous to young Aboriginal girls who can feel hopeless and devalued within western society. I have been told my whole life that I am "pretty for a Native girl" a rather back-handed compliment. I am an Aboriginal woman and hearing comments like “Aboriginal women are ugly” not only offends me but I’m hurt on behalf of the beautiful women I come from, my grandmothers, mother, aunts and cousins all look like what Westerners think Aboriginal people look like, and they are all beautiful. Being an Aboriginal model I have to lead the way in changing people’s perceptions of Aboriginal women through education.

When I look at my people I see nothing but strength, power and the will to survive despite the many attempts to wipe out our very existence and this dignity to me is true beauty.

What do you think western women could learn from aboriginal perception of self esteem and beauty?
That it is our differences that make us beautiful. That our mother earth has blessed us with gifts and it is up to you to accept those gifts and nurture them for good. So much value is put on our external physical gifts and this makes women very vulnerable because our body is only temporary but our spirit continues on once our body returns to mother earth. If your spirit is strong and your mind clear it makes you stronger to deal with ups and downs in life and it will naturally reflect on the outside as beauty.

Changing our mind-sets about what constitutes beauty and recognizing that there is no one perfect exterior will empower women. Beauty is within us all.

Who are your favourite aboriginal designers?
I love Denise Williams, Mia Hunt, Dorothy Grant, Pam Baker and the list goes on. I think there are some really awesome up and coming designers as well!

What do you want people to know about aboriginal models like yourself?
Well I can only speak for myself but I do want people to know that I am very proud to credit my unique look and different features to my Aboriginal side. My high cheek bones, my round face and my oval eyes are all gifts from my ancestors. I will always be proud of where I come from, no matter what anyone else’s perception is because it has made me who I am; a strong, thriving, beautiful and loving Indigenous Woman. Kleco Kleco

(Vina modeling Butterfly Collection Lingerie)

Read the original article by clicking here.