Guess what Cree Nation? You’re beautiful and you should flaunt it!

That’s the message Whapmagoostui’s Sarah Meloche-Masty is sending to people all over Eeyou Istchee after her first modeling shoot was a huge success in Toronto for the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards – held November 25-27.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Meloche-Masty of the event that was held at the Rogers Centre. “I thought it’d

be easier, but it was hard work. I felt excited and I felt good about myself, it was just great.”

In all, six Eenouch participated along with 30 other models from across Canada.

The almost-six-foot-tall Meloche-Masty said the preparation was hectic, but worth it. “You have to rush, you don’t really have time to change. And you’re in heels and it’s really bad in heels,” said the 16 year-old grade 10 student.

“I thought it was wonderful, fantastic,” Meloche-Masty’s mother Kathleen Meloche told the Nation. “It’s something she’s been looking forward to. She’s been interested in the field for a long time,” said Meloche who added that her daughter has been an extra in movies as well.

“It’s important to say [that part of the show was] plus-sized modeling. If the girls out there don’t feel they’re magazine material, that shouldn’t stop them. There are different kinds of magazines.”

In August, Dave Jones of Native clothing company Turtle Concepts held workshops across Eeyou Istchee, looking for a few interesting models to work with. He asked Meloche-Masty if she’d be interested and she jumped at the chance.

“When I first met Dave I did an audition so he could see how I walked,” she said. “He told me that a few agencies were looking for my look so I went to his workshop and on the last day I auditioned again. He told me that he wanted me to come to Toronto to do a fashion show, so of course I said yes!”

The workshops were set up to build confidence and to show Cree youth that anything is possible when they put their minds to it.

“This is something that’s really good for her because she’s outgoing but she does have a smidgen of shyness,” said her mom.

While he was giving the workshops, Jones was constantly scouring the crowd to find his next model. He spotted Albert St. Pierre in Ouje-Bougoumou.

“I did workshops for youth this summer with Dave,” said St. Pierre, 18. “We went to Fort Albany, Whapmagoostui and Detroit and met youth all over,” said St. Pierre who was using the workshops to learn how to model and building up to the big gig at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

“It felt good representing my community,” he said. “I felt nervous, but at the end I got used to it. There were 5000 people staring at me.”

St. Pierre was approached by an agent from Native Threads, another Native clothing company. He thinks that modeling is something he can get used to. “I say don’t let opportunities pass you by because you never know what’s going to happen.”

His mother, Lisa Shecapio, was thrilled.

“This was my first time out to an event like this,” she said. “It was overwhelming. It was awesome. I never knew we had so many Native designers.”

“The youth that were involved had so much confidence and we need more of that in our communities. They can do anything they put their minds to,” she said.

Shecapio said she noticed a change in her son as well. “My son had a hard time in school, but when he went away this summer I could tell by his body language he was very different. He is looking forward to going back.”

Shecapio hopes that the event has a snowball effect and encourages more youth to shine. “It was very emotional for me, because I know a lot of youth have a hard time in their communities so to actually see him up there…I can’t describe it. I was crying.”

The models’ grueling two days consisted of getting up at six AM, getting to the Rogers Centre at seven, doing hair and makeup around nine and working into the early evening.

“When I was behind the curtain waiting for the runway I was nervous, but once I got out there, I was so focused,” said Meloche-Masty.

“I want other girls to know that there’s not just stick girls out there, there’s plussized girls too,” she said. “Don’t follow those magazines because they’re not real. It’s just a look they’re trying to give out and girls mistaken that. They take it seriously and there’s bulimia and anorexia and you don’t have to go like that. There’s other ways you can pursue looks.”

“There’s not only one look or shape, there are all kinds of shapes and sizes and you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.”