NAIDOC Week celebrates and recognises the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. BEAUTYDIRECTORY acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For more information on NAIDOC Week and this year's theme, visit the official website HERE.
The 2023 NAIDOC week theme – For Our Elders celebrates the wisdom and impact Aboriginal elders have had on the progression and endurance of Aboriginal culture. Paving the way for future generations, Aboriginal Elders are trailblazers, leaders, educators and cultural beacons. This NAIDOC week, I sat down with Tiana Meehan a 21-year-old Wiradjuri Woman, professional dancer, model, actress and ex-Miss Universe Australia finalist to gain insight into her experience in the modelling world and how this NAIDOC week we can address challenges in these spaces for First Nations People.
Meehan has danced overseas in New York, in music videos for iconic Australian artists like Lisa Veronica and on reality shows such as I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Aside from her dancing accomplishments, she has a longstanding background in the modelling and pageant world, having most recently competed in Miss Universe Australia 2021.
“It helped and pushed me and motivated me to fight for my career,” says Meehan.
Speaking on the challenges she has faced in the modelling and pageant landscape around embracing her Aboriginal identity. Meehan states, “When I first started to acknowledge my heritage, I came across a great deal of comments like – you can’t be Aboriginal if you are white.
“you’re too pretty for an Aboriginal.
“Well, what percentage are you?”
When faced with these comments Meehan took this as an opportunity to, “Educate the person speaking on them as these opinions come from a place of ignorance.”
These comments are considered microaggressions, a way of discriminating indirectly and are harmful to the cultural identity of First Nations Peoples. It is important to note that comments like this can sometimes fly below the radar especially, due to the appearance-based, sometimes cutthroat, nature of the modelling industry.
When asked about a way forward, Meehan shared significant insight into how we can transcend these issues.
“One way forward is to challenge the conventional standards of beauty by highlighting the beauty of diverse cultures and ethnicities and not just making it a tick-in-the-box system.
“Fashion brands and agencies can also actively seek out indigenous talent and provide them with opportunities to thrive. This means not only focusing on physical appearance but also valuing the unique stories and experiences that individuals from First Nations communities bring to the table. Representation should extend beyond the runway. Collaboration with First Nations photographers, stylists, makeup artists, and other creatives can significantly contribute to creating an inclusive industry.”
She shared some advice for young First Nations Peoples aspiring to enter the world of modelling,
“Be yourself. Embrace your unique cultural identity and let it shine through your modelling career. Don't feel pressured to conform or hide. Celebrate your heritage and let it be a source of strength and inspiration. Stand Up for Representation. Advocate for greater diversity and inclusion in the industry. Use your voice to promote authentic representation of First Nations people and challenge stereotypes.
Take care of yourself. Prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing. Set boundaries and surround yourself with a supportive network. Find a mentor, especially someone in the industry who has faced the same challenges as you.”
Tiana is creating a swimwear line called AKUNA, which she says will draw inspiration from Indigenous art and include creative collaborations with First Nations artists. If you want to support Tiana on her journey, her Instagram and business page are linked below.