Quannah Chasinghorse is a name you may not have heard until this fall but you’ve likely heard it a whole lot since. The 19-year-old IMG model’s rise to stardom seems to have happened overnight, with a glittering appearance at the Met Gala, but since then she’s faced a Chanel campaign and walked in a Gucci show, and shared a stage with Yara Shahidi for Dell computers — just a few of the résumé bullet points that solidified her as a model of the moment and one of our favorites to watch this year.
But back to that gala. For the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” event, Chasinghorse sought to honor her roots in the Han Gwich’in and Sicangu/Oglala Lakota tribes, sourcing the perfect jewelry through her own family tree. Her aunt, a former Miss Navajo Nation, flew out from Arizona with jewelry she had been collecting throughout her career.
“My mom and I had a great idea of asking my Auntie Jocelyn Billy Upshaw to borrow some of her beautiful silver and turquoise,” says Chasinghorse. “It worked out so perfectly! I’m so blessed to have been able to showcase some Indigenous art at such a big event.”
She also marked her first New York Fashion Week this September, closing Prabal Gurung’s runway show in a feathery pink and green strapless gown. With the momentum of her breakthrough moment propelling her forward, Chasinghorse aims to continue using style to quite literally make a statement. She shared her ambitions for herself and for the industry as part of InStyle’s December Voices of Style feature.
“Through my advocacy and modeling, I’ve gained a platform that can create change,” she says. “When I walk into the world of fashion, whether it be a photo shoot or a runway show, I always share as much as I can about how important representation is, as it helps my community gain more eyes and ears that are willing to listen and learn.”
She adds, “It’s an honor being someone within the Indigenous community [who can] bring awareness to important issues: our cultures, traditions, and the beauty we carry.” But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
As a land protector for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a rising voice within a community that has historically been silenced, she feels extra pressure to speak up and stress the importance of responsible stewardship of the land. Though she is steadfast in her advocacy of her people and the territory she feels so connected to, being a representative for a marginalized group can sometimes be a draining responsibility.
“It’s not easy, and is often exhausting, to constantly try and break down stereotypes and prove to the world that Indigenous people are so much more than what we are painted out to be,” says Chasinghorse. “We carry so much traditional knowledge and strength, yet we are pushed out of conversations that influence our future. I want people to know that we are so much more than our trauma and pain. We shouldn’t have to constantly defend the lands, water, and even ourselves. It should be our number one right to be able to live our ways of life without these worries and challenges.”
After the Met Gala, Chasinghorse tweeted that she felt alone at the glamorous event (grateful as she was to attend). In a subsequent interview with Insider, she said, “I remember standing there and looking at everyone and feeling so alone. Like, really, really lonely.” And though she catapulted to recognition immediately after, she said, “No one knew me. No one cared to ask.” Suffice to say they know her now.
Looking ahead, the model hopes to use her growing platform to demand that Indigenous representation be more than just a moment in the spotlight, and that various communities of Native American experience deserve to enjoy staying power across industries, from fashion to film and beyond.
“I really want to see people in powerful positions making space for indigenous voices,” says Chasinghorse. “Indigenous people, for generations, have been very vocal about the issues and challenges we face, yet we are just starting to get attention in mainstream media. It’s time to uplift, include more voices, and highlight Indigenous excellence.”
For more stories like this, pick up the December/January 2022 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Nov. 19th.