Sheena Begay believes every Native American design has a story. That belief is a large part of why she enjoys modeling pieces from Native artists. It’s her way of putting their story out there for others to hear and see. And to show people about their history and what they’re trying to build with their creativity.
Modeling wasn’t the path she took as a career. Taking care of her grandparents while she was in high school motivated her to get a nursing degree. It’s still the career she loves. Photography was her second love. At first, she did senior portraits and sports photos for friends, using their tribal homelands as the background. It was a way of telling their story through their photo. Her friends kept telling her she needed to be in front of the camera.
Sheena had friends who were designers and they convinced her to model their work for marketing photos. She enjoyed showcasing their pieces and helping them put their work out into the community. The first show she did was modeling a gown for artist Trisha Michael, who helped her learn some important techniques to enhance her techniques.
Her designer friends recommended her to other artists, and Sheena found more and more modeling work. She learned to take her time, to let herself be in the moment when she was modeling, and to focus on the story the artist wanted to tell. Modeling beautiful pieces created through an investment of time, effort and creativity brought her joy.
The work also brought her confidence. It’s the best advice she can give to those who wish to do this type of work. As she puts it, “we’re all different shapes and sizes, and we each represent who we are, the way we are.” Being humble and respectful of others, she says, helps you have confidence in yourself.
Sheena also advises future models to not let the work and the desire for success overwhelm them. She advises them they shouldn’t “forget where they came from” and shouldn’t “change for society”, but instead to “just relax, it’s going to be there.”
Another caution she gives is not to forget to take care of family, and of themselves. Often when chasing a career, she says, it’s easy to focus only on what must be done, and to forget the things we truly want to do, to forget the passion that drives true enjoyment of what we do. In both her nursing and her modeling career, it’s this deep desire to focus on the stories of the people she’s with that drives Sheena Begay to be her best.