• Samantha Harris walks the runway at Fashion Week in 2017. (AAP)Source: AAP
Dunghutti model Samantha Harris opens up about her inspirations, diversity in modelling and online abuse in her interview with Karla Grant on Living Black.
Melinda Boutkasaka

Living Black
8 Aug 2018 - 4:54 PM  UPDATED 8 Aug 2018 - 4:54 PM

Samantha Harris is one of the best-known models in Australia, with an illustrious career spanning 15 years.

As the second Indigenous model to ever grace the cover of Vogue, she is one of the pioneers in pushing for more diversity in the industry.

“Australia is nowadays very multicultural. There are plenty of different races and it's nice to showcase what we have to offer on the runways… It's celebrating us as a country,” she told Living Black.

However it's not always steps forward. Ms Harris has also been subjected to racist attacks and online abuse.

Last year, she wrote on an Instagram post calling-out online trolls who left offensive comments about her on a media website.

Reflecting on it now, she says dealing with online abuse is a tough business.

“I know people say, ‘don't read them’, but it's hard not to," she said.

"I'm forever telling young girls to just ignore the negative comments, but some of these comments were horrible, they were disgusting. I don't know how there are people out there that would actually take the time to write horrible things about people."

She says it's a challenge, but it is better to avoid reading the comments.

“Just don't give them the time of day, don't give them the gratification," she said.

“It says a lot more about them. If they've taken the time to write negative things, what's going on their life that's giving them to project this negativity on to other people? “

The Dunghutti woman says she wears her cultural identity proudly. 

“When there are stories made about me, it says, ‘Samantha Harris, Aboriginal model’ or ‘Indigenous model’. And I get a lot of people asking me, ‘Doesn't that bother you? That's what they've labelled you. Isn't that unfair and a bit annoying?’

“I'm like, well, no not really because it's who I am. I'm proud of who I am, I'm proud of my culture. We've got one of the most incredible cultures in the world so why would you be ashamed, or why would that bother you?”

Ms Harris’s determination is underpinned by her strong family ties. She names her mother, who was part of the Stolen Generations, as one of the most inspirational figures in her life. 

“She's just a little loving, caring woman, and to think that actually happened to her," Ms Harris said.

“You hear stories in general [about] what had happened back in the day. But for it to be someone that you love, it's a bit close to home a bit, a bit more upsetting."

Growing up in Tweed Heads, Ms Harris always dreamed of a career in modelling but never saw it as a possibility until she was urged to audition for a Girlfriend magazine competition.

She was one of six finalists and was signed on with Chic Management, propelling her to success.

While still in high school, she flew to national and international jobs and her young career gained momentum.

She has modelled for major brands like Miu Miu and Priceline, and has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar.

Sam is also an ambassador for David Jones, working alongside Miranda Kerr and Megan Gale.

Despite her success, Ms Harris has always stayed grounded to her roots. She often travels to remote communities around Australia for modelling workshops and community festivals.

“I feel really inspired after doing the workshops, just to see the smile on the kids’ faces, I'd definitely love to do more programs like that,” she said.

“I never thought all those years ago when I first start modelling that I would be an inspiration to someone. It's really special to know that I could possibly be the reason why someone could pursue their dreams.”

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