Add a Vogue Mexico cover to Quannah Rose ChasingHorse Potts’ growing resume.
The 18-year-old Fairbanks resident, who is from the Han Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota tribes, is making history as one of the first Indigenous peoples at the highest echelons of modeling. But Potts is, as she puts it, “more than a pretty face” — she is also an accomplished social and environmental activist.
Potts uses her platform to speak out against drilling in the National Wildlife Refuge, to fight for climate justice, Indigenous rights, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.
Her Vogue feature is part of a lifelong goal for Potts, who has wanted to be a model since she was three.
“I was obsessed with modeling and fashion. It’s always been my dream,” she said. Yet dreams do not necessarily become reality, and, up until just two years ago, Potts did not believe people when they told her she could model.
Potts’ success is even more impressive considering her unique background.
“Being a little Native girl from Bush Alaska [and getting] to where I am now .... is an honor and a privilege,” Potts said.
Originally from Eagle Village, Potts grew up “in a cabin in the woods,” she said. She lived a subsistence lifestyle that included hunting, fishing and dog mushing. Her mother, Jody Potts, made sure that she and her siblings were raised with traditional cultural values.
“That really kept me grounded,” she said.
Her journey did not happen overnight and required a lot of work. As an Indigenous person, Potts struggled with a lack of representation in modeling. Not seeing models that looked like her spawned self-doubt; Potts said she felt she was not pretty enough to model because did not meet typical Western beauty standards.
“It was hard. I struggled with my appearance and never felt confident,” she said. However, Potts slowly began to “embrace my Indigenous features and identity.” She also started seriously researching modeling agencies.
Many models use their platform to promote causes, but for Potts, it was the opposite. She became involved in advocacy — specifically, environmentalism and social justice — and gained recognition through the work. For instance, in 2018 she campaigned against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and spoke at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. Around this time, she began receiving invitations to speak across the United States and internationally. In turn, Potts’ advocacy work helped her embrace her physical and cultural identity.
Potts’ work paid off last year, when she was asked to be part of Calvin Klein’s CK One Campaign, which highlighted youth from diverse communities. After her Calvin Klein feature, she received requests from several modeling agencies. Among the callers was her dream agency, IMG models, with which she ultimately signed.
While she remains humble, Potts also recognizes the enormity of her accomplishments. The Vogue Mexico cover “means a lot,” she said, because now Indigenous youth across the globe can see someone who looks like them on the front of a magazine. In other words, Potts has become the Indigenous representation she once lacked.
At 18, Potts has already accomplished a lot, but there is still much she hopes to achieve. When asked about her future goals, Potts laughs, “there’s so much.” She plans to continue promoting causes she believes in (Potts is currently focused on the new AFN Climate Task Force) and is excited about modeling gigs her agency has pitched her for.
Ultimately, though, Potts’ is not driven by tangible benchmarks.
Rather, “My biggest goal and dream is to represent my people in the best way,” she said.
Through her hard work and dedication to advocacy and modeling, Potts has already taken several steps toward her goal.
Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 459-7544.