An eclectic group of talented Indigenous Australian women are the cover models for the May issue of Vogue Australia.
26-year-old model Charlee Fraser, 25-year-old actress Magnolia Maymuru, 17-year-old model and TikTok star Cindy Rostron and 47-year-old model Elaine George posed for the cover of the iconic fashion magazine, sharing the story of their careers and lives with Gunai writer, Kirli Saunders.
The cover photo and corresponding shoot was created in collaboration with First Nations Fashion + Design (FNFD), a Non-for-profit fashion brand that supports the growth of the Indigenous fashion industry.
Th May issue details the extraordinary growth of First Nations talent, involving the efforts from FNFD’s mentors as well as a group of young First Nations people that make up part of the Shadow Program. The program offers participants the chance to shadow creative individuals, mentoring opportunities and access to invaluable industry experience.
Awakabal woman Charlee Fraser, who graced the cover of Vogue Australia solo in April 2018, is one of Australia’s most successful models, walking for Chanel, Prada, Dior and Balenciag. She is widely known for her work advocating for First Nation Australians and the importance of sustainability with her #NotJustTrending campaign.
“Though I felt like I struggled with my identity so much, I’m fortunate to have never had that sort of really harsh, horrible racism,” she tells interviewer Kirli Saunders.
“’I’m very thankful and grateful to not have those experiences, and I’m here for my peers who have.”
Last July, Fraser told Forbes that despite being in the model industry for more than eight years, it feels ‘weird’ when people label her an activist.
“It feels weird when people call me an activist,” she said. “It’s not something you ever plan to do. It’s something you fall into as the thing you believe in, who is active about education.”
“I always wanted to express myself — have a voice in things – but not in the way things have turned out. I’m so appreciative that people actually wanted to listen to me. I started talking about things I believe in, and you find other people who align with it and join you.”
In a Sportscraft campaign last year, she said: “My heritage is something I’ve always identified with. I would say more recently I’ve felt a stronger connection to it than I ever have before and I’m really leaning into it and learning much more about my culture, which I’m very excited about.”
The May issue of Vogue is also not a debut Bundjalung and Arakwal woman Elaine George, who made history in 1993 when she became the first Indigenous woman model to grace the cover of Vogue Australia.
The then 17-year old George was discovered while holidaying with family at Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast.
It would take another 17 years before another Indigenous woman became the cover model for Vogue — Samantha Harris, in 2010.
George, who has been working as a child protection officer for more than 25 years, recounted the whirlwind of her first professional campaigns in a story to Vogue last year.
“I was walking 45 minutes down the street to get a thing of milk. A little Murri one walked up and said, ‘Sis, why’s your face on the news-agency?’ and I said ‘Yeah, whatever’ and he said ‘No, I think it’s you’,” George recalls.
“And then I walked down and there was a big poster of the front cover, and all of a sudden they were all around Woodridge Shopping Centre, with my face. So everyone looked at me really weird as I was walking home with a bottle of milk.”
Yolŋu actress and model Magnolia Maymuru was a former Miss World finalist before appearing in Jennifer Kent’s historical thriller, The Nightingale in 2018. She won Best Supporting Actress at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award that year for her role in the film.
She told Saunders that Cathy Freeman and Samantha Harris have continuously served as inspiration.
“I’ve been wanting to model since I was little, so [Harris] was the number-one person I would always look at and think, “I want to be like her”,’ she said.
This is also not Maymuru’s first time on the cover of Vogue Australia. Last September, she graced the cover with her baby daughter Djarraranen on Turimetta Beach in New South Wales at sunrise.
Kune, Rembarrnga, Dalabon model Cindy Rostron, has a solid resolve when it comes to her career as a model.
“I am doing modelling for a reason,” she told Nina Fitzgerald in January this year. “I want to share my culture through fashion and with everyone. Our story is important.
“Our country and our dreaming. To protect our dreaming. I learn balanda [non-Indigenous] and bininj [Aboriginal]. It’s important to have both tools so we can all learn and walk together.”
Rostron is also a TikTok star, with a growing fans of 54.8K followers, who love watching her quirky short dances.
‘I’m just enjoying sharing my culture and seeing other Indigenous women stepping up,” she told Saunders in this month’s issue of Vogue.
“I am just so excited to be part of this industry at this time when Indigenous women are showing their talent and power.”