As a teen, Kelly Holmes of the Lakota tribe was frustrated because, even though she loved fashion, there was no media targeted to Native Americans like herself. She wished for a fashion magazine that featured Native American models and makeup tutorials that matched her skin tone. But instead of putting her hands up and saying “oh well”, she said: “I’m going to make my own”. And you know what? She did.
Native Max is a fashion mag that features Native American models, designers, photographers and stylists, as well as entertainment, culture and fashion news and editorials. The first issue premiered in 2012 and the publication has been growing since then. Now the staff works from different parts of the country and they come from different tribes. Besides Holmes, who hails from the Lakota tribe, staff members are Cherokee, Navajo, Taos Pueblo, Arapaho, Yup’ik, Chahta, Apache and Jiwere-Nutachi, among many others.
Holmes is currently based out of Denver, where she moved when she was a teenager. Sadly, the main difference between the Cheyenne River Reservation, her previous home, and Denver was being discriminated against. “People looked at me like a zoo animal”, she said in an interview. “And many of my peers didn’t know Native Americans still existed at all”.
Suffice to say, making her own fashion magazine wasn’t easy. She encounter her fair share of resistance, especially from people trying to discourage her. Many laughed because they thought Native Americans were too close minded for fashion, because they lived in reservations. Some of the rudest people she pitched the idea to asked “What do Native Americans know about fashion, or even the world?”. Well, they know enough to build an entire magazine from the ground up, that’s what.
And the articles in Native Max are not limited to fashion spreads either. One of the missions of the bimonthly magazine is to educate the fashion industry when it comes to its relationship to Native American culture. Especially when talking about the very controversial “tribal trends”, that include extremely inaccurate headpieces worn by festival goers everywhere.
But the ultimate goal of this mag is to promote Native American models, photographers, designers and showcase their talent, their stories and their profiles. This is why they try to include as many up-and-coming figures as possible, instead of featuring only those who are already established.
Despite what some might think, Native Max continues to enjoy great success after three years, and they have no plans of stopping. So much so, that Holmes is thinking of expanding internationally. She wants to reach other countries with Native population, such as Australia or the Philippines.