A career in modeling wasn’t something a had in mind. Growing up in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and later in Albuquerque, Brittanya often felt like an outcast in school. She was also extremely shy. Walking out on a runway and chatting with complete strangers felt like a life far removed from her own. But things have a way of changing.
Brittanya’s mother was part of the Indian Placement Program, a foster program run by the Latter-Day Saints. Enrolled children were placed with Mormon foster families and attended largely white schools. Her mother was placed with a family in Bountiful, Utah. When Brittanya was young, the family moved to Kansas so her mother could finish nursing school. This meant the first few years of Brittanya’s life were culturally very different from a child growing up on the reservation. After moving back to Fort Defiance, that difference became noticeable.
In 2000, the family moved again, this time to Albuquerque, where her mom could finish school. Friends of her mother kept encouraging Brittanya to consider modeling. At 5’9”, she seemed a perfect candidate, but her shyness had her telling herself no. She wouldn’t say yes until she was twenty-seven.
Brittanya worked for Thunderbird Supply Company, which sold jewelry supplies. This put her in contact with Native artists. The company held auditions for models. When Brittanya was selected, she finally said yes. In the beginning, Thunderbird helped her with learning how to pose and how to walk. But the best advice they gave her was to have fun with the shoots and the shows. Once she learned that, it got easier to be in front of a crowd or signing posters for customers and doing radio interviews about the pieces and about herself.
Her first Indian Market show was in 2017. Though she says it “scared the daylights out of me”, it also helped her get to know more models and learn more about the industry. And to realize that being on stage, even with all eyes on her, was becoming exhilarating. Though not as much of an adrenaline rush, photo shoots had their own perks. With them, Brittanya says she can be more in the moment, more one on one with the camera. That makes her feel a bit freer, better able to “get in the zone”.
As much as she’s come to love it, Brittanya understands modeling “isn’t like day to day working.” That’s part of what keeps it special. She enjoys the dressing up, doing her hair and make-up and the chance to walk out on the runway. It’s also helped her overcome her shyness and feel more confident in herself.
When asked to give some pointers to those considering a career in modeling, she has some simple advice: practice, practice, practice. She says it shows up on the runway or at the shoot when a model hasn’t been investing in that practice time. And modeling helped her understand the need for a healthy life. Eating well, exercising, and taking care of her skin and her face all help her feel more confident at the job.
These days Brittanya is, as she puts it, “loving life” and focusing on her son, who will soon turn fourteen. Though she’d like to gain a little more fame for her modeling, it’s important to her to be the best she can be for her son. And to enjoy the blessings life has brought her way.