There’s no denying the pride our communities feel, when our incredible First Nations models feature in national campaigns, appear on our television screens and even in the pages of Vogue.
Pioneers of this industry such as Charlee Fraser, Samantha Harris and Magnolia Maymuru have been critical in paving the way for aspiring Indigenous women and importantly, diversifying beauty and fashion here and around the world.
Following in their footsteps is a new face in Australia's modelling scene.
Billie-Jean Hamlet, the girl from The Kimberley with intense green-blue eyes, blonde hair and statement beauty marks, has already landed a major fashion campaign despite only signing with her Sydney modelling agency mere months ago.
Hailing from WA, Billie-Jean grew up in the small remote community of Ngurtuwarta in Fitzroy Crossing, immersed in the culture and the natural landscape, amongst the red earth and bright blue skies of her Country.
“My family and I lived in a small tin shed by a water tank just outside of the community. We lived off the land and went fishing and hunting every day to survive. My totem is the Barramundi fish and my Elders often call me 'The Fresh Water Mermaid,’” she said.
Although Billie-Jean, a Walmatjarri/Yamatiji woman, describes herself as a mostly shy child, she became interested in the industry after taking some modelling classes. She was enrolled in a modelling course to ‘help bring her out of her shell’ and also to help her transition to life in the city, as her family moved to Perth when she was six-years-old.
“I started lessons at a local academy and always knew it was something I wanted to do in the future. I tried acting and playing sports for a while after that, before returning to modelling 10 years later.”
Billie-Jean eventually signed with an agency to start modelling part-time while she was still in high school. Following a short break and a trip to California, she courageously booked a one-way ticket to Sydney for an opportunity to sign with industry giants Priscillas Model Management who represent her today.
Only joining the agency four months ago, Billie-Jean has quickly landed iconic brand, Country Road’s ‘New Horizons’ summer 2020 campaign.
"Although it was my first job, I felt extremely comfortable and 'in my element'. I felt as if my ancestors were watching over me. It was truly magical."
“Shooting for the Country Road campaign in Alice Springs was an amazing experience and one that I'll always remember. Although it was my first job, I felt extremely comfortable and 'in my element'. I felt as if my ancestors were watching over me. It was truly magical," she said.
“I hope it inspired other young Indigenous women to believe in themselves and encouraged them to chase their dreams.”
Billie-Jean says the experience of the campaign was everything she had hoped for and more and that seeing herself on a billboard for the first time was an absolute ‘dream come true.’
Although the campaign is at the forefront of the Australian fashion industry, Bille-Jean is equally excited about the growth of the Indigenous community in this sector.
She lists some of her favourite brands as Litiyalla, which was founded by her cousin Camilla Sawford; fun and fearless accessories label, Haus of Dizzy and Western Australian resort and swim label, Kirrikin.
“It is just wonderful to see such a beautiful and positive representation of Aboriginal culture and an increasing growth of Indigenous talent and diversity within the fashion industry,” she said.
While Billie-Jean likes an eclectic mix of styles and aesthetics, she describes her everyday style as very laid back, with her ‘go-to’ outfit being a pair of classic sneakers, denim shorts and a vintage t-shirt.
It’s a look suited to her down-to-Earth lifestyle, where you’re more likely to find her out exploring nature over partying hard in nightclubs.
“Something I'm sure most people don't know about me is that I am a very spiritual person. I am appreciative of simplicity in life and find serenity in nature."
“Something I'm sure most people don't know about me is that I am a very spiritual person,” she says. “I am appreciative of simplicity in life and find serenity in nature. I meditate daily, practice yoga and collect crystals for positive energy. I find that it keeps me calm and grounded.”
With a new year fast approaching, the emerging model definitely has international opportunities high on her list and hopes her talent will take her to Paris or New York one day soon.
Most importantly however, she wants to continue to be a driving force for the next generation of Indigenous models here at home.
“I hope to have a positive influence on any up and coming or aspiring Indigenous models, as I know there is an abundance of potential talent within the Aboriginal community which has yet to be discovered.”
Yatu Widders Hunt is a Director at Indigenous social change agency, Cox Inall Ridgeway and founder and curator of the Australian Indigenous Fashion social media community. She has worked in communications for a number of years, including for Federal Government, the Koori Mail and the NCIE. Follow Yatu @ausindigenousfashion