You may have seen her on one of the many videos by Teen Vogue. Or you may have come across one of her photos on Instagram, which either contain her quote in the captions or thousands of likes, or both. Nonetheless, it’s hard to believe that outspoken model Daunnette Reyome is only fifteen years young. She is one of a handful of Native American models using their platform to battle the cultural appropriation, racism, and stereotypes circulating the world today. I sit down and speak with Reyome about modeling, like how she first got involved in modeling and how she uses it as her stage to bring more awareness to Indian Country.
NATIVE MAX: Daunnette, welcome! First off, what is your tribe?
DAUNNETTE REYOME: Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
Where are you from?
I’m from the Omaha Indian reservation, also in Nebraska.
May I ask how old you are?
I’m 15 years old.
Wow! When did you decide to take modeling seriously?
At about the age of 12 years old.
What was your first real modeling gig?
My first job was with a celebrity hairstylist by the name of Phillip Wilson. I did a hair show with him in Virginia.
Were you shy at first?
I was shy when it came to photoshoots. I hated doing photo shoots because it felt so awkward to me, plus I was really self-conscious about my looks. I would turn down photo shoots and only do runway work because on the runway you were only getting a quick glimpse of me.
How did you overcome it?
Something my dad, Rodney, came up with to help me not be so nervous and scared on the runway was this: give one look to New York, one look to Paris, wink at Milan, then turn around and bring it home. I always tell that story because my dad helped to strengthen my confidence with just that one little gesture and I still use that to this day on the runway. People think photo shoots are just about taking cool pictures, but it’s a lot more than that. If you’re not confident, then modeling is hard work.
My mom printed out ‘I am’ affirmations and pictures of what my goals were, where I wanted to go in my career; a vision board. She hung them up on my bathroom mirror, on the wall in front of the toilet [laughs]. Also all over my bedroom walls so every time I used the bathroom, no matter what I was doing I would see my goal or I could read the affirmations and be reminded of what I wanted and tell myself ‘I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am confident,’ things like that. At first, it was weird to me but after a few weeks of all the positive self-talk, I actually was able to see my beauty. I learned to love myself and understand the beauty of being an Indigenous woman and unique in my way.
What has your modeling career been like so far?
It’s been an interesting journey. Some ups, some downs. I wouldn’t say I’ve been like “supermodel status” busy but things come in waves. I can go from having quite a few bookings in a month to nothing for a couple of months, just depends a lot on my mom’s schedule because she’s the one that handles all my business deals. However, during the school year, I try not to do as much because it requires me to miss school and I don’t like missing school unless it’s working with youth. I turn down a lot of things just because it’s not me, or what I represent. If I feel like it could potentially hurt my brand or that it might change people’s perception of the people or me in Indian Country then I don’t take the job. In some people’s eyes, I’m not “Daunnette Reyome, the model.” I’m “that Native or Indigenous model.” I’m put into a box. So that’s why I always ask myself how my actions or the jobs are going to affect how people see me or see my people because they’ll see ‘Native’ or ‘Indigenous’ model and assume that’s who we all are and that’s not right. You wouldn’t think it would be this way, but it is.
How do you find your confidence to model in runway shows or photoshoots?
I know who I am. I’m Daunnette, the model. I’m Daunnette, the speaker. I am Wiragųšge Šibre Wįga, or Shooting Star. I know what I want and where I want to go, and I’m determined to achieve it all. I’m determined to live up to the name my Choka (grandfather) Greg Bass Sr. gave me.
You’re very vocal and speak out against racism and cultural appropriation among other issues. What motivates you to do so in such a cutthroat, white-dominated industry?
The love I have for my people and the determination I have to inspire others to get to know who we are and how beautiful our culture is. I feel like so many have this image of what an “Indian” is based on what they’ve seen on tv but no one really knows us. People don’t know about the power of our songs, the beauty of our traditions, the connection we have to Wakanda (Creator), the connection we have to Mother Earth, our spirituality. All these things are what make us such a beautiful nation. I know there are jobs I didn’t book because of who I am, and I know there will be plenty more jobs that I won’t get because of that, too. I try not to let that get to me. I’ve gone over the possibility that I may not achieve my dream of becoming the first Native American Victoria’s Secret Angel or the first Native American supermodel because I choose to speak up for my people and it scares me to think that it might not happen. That’s what I’ve wanted to do since as far back as I can remember. But if I have to choose between loving my people and being a big voice for them or using my body to sell underwear and clothes then I choose my people. We’re all worth the risk.
When did you start working with Teen Vogue?
I was 12 years old when I did the Cultural Appreciation feature in the magazine but turned 13 years old shortly after.
What has that partnership been like so far?
It’s been great. The Teen Vogue staff are all so fantastic to work with and just outstanding people to know. They are very supportive of not just me but Indian Country altogether. They want to see us rise together as a nation and for our history to be told by us; not to cause controversy but for us to have our say for once and it not be filtered or twisted. So I am very thankful and appreciative of Teen Vogue for giving me that platform.
What is your advice for a Native youth who’s interested in modeling or finding a platform to use their voice for the good like you do?
Try your hardest. Don’t let anyone kill your dream and always believe in yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it. See yourself doing it. Even on the days when you don’t think you can, go even harder. Modeling can be a brutal industry so make sure you have thick skin. Learn about yourself, your culture, where you come from and who you come from so you’re always more knowledgeable than the vultures that will try to knock you to the ground. Keep our message alive. Make sure what you have to say is powerful so that people will want to pass it on to you and always be thankful for every opportunity. View the criticism as an opportunity for your message to be shared, too. One thing I’ve learned is not to react or respond to criticism because even those that don’t agree with you will share your message. It might not be shared with positive intentions but either way, it is still being shared. When I’m gone, I want someone else to pick up where I left off and keep my message going.
What is your schedule looking like so far?
I am going to have a pretty busy 2018. I have a book that I’m working on for little kids to help them understand our culture a little more. I think it’s important to start teaching at a young age. I also just signed a contract to be an Ultimate Maverick. I can’t say much about that yet because it hasn’t launched, but it’s going to be amazing. I hope to get all the young girls in Indian Country involved in it. I’m also working on coordinating a Day of the Girl celebration in Indian Country on October 11, 2018, so if anyone wants to collaborate they can always contact me. There’s also another major thing I’m working on, but I cannot mention what it is because we haven’t signed yet but I think that’ll be an excellent way for me to show the world where I come from so I’m excited for that as well.
Continuing to use your platform like you have been, what are your ultimate goals?
Bring more awareness to the bad things that go on in Indian Country that are otherwise never talked about in world news in hopes of obtaining more resources to help us. I want our culture to be respected and for us to be viewed as people and not that stereotypical image that you see on the Redskins’ jersey or in Disney’s Pocahontas. I want us to learn to respect each other and our bodies again. I want to help end the cycle of abuse, neglect, depression, suicide and addiction in our communities. That isn’t us. That’s not what our ancestors wanted for us so can we get back to our old ways? I don’t mean back to when they were hunting for food, collecting water from streams, etc. I mean restoring our connection to the Divine. Loving who we are. Understanding the power we hold within ourselves. That’s my ultimate goal.
Makeup by Maria Ortega
Hair by Andrita