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21st Century Skins calendar focuses on Native entertainers

CHANDLER, Ariz. – The second edition of the 21st Century Skins calendar of Native men is hot off the press with pictures that highlight well-known entertainers along with up-and-coming talent from various American Indian tribes and nations.

The project is a venture of Viewfinder Photographs, owned by Navajo photographer Mihio Manus and his wife, Shaunya, the publication coordinator. Their first calendar of Indian men debuted last year with the help of Tatanka Means Inc., and 1,500 copies were printed on a shoestring budget. This year, based on popular demand, the initial run has been doubled.

Viewfinder Photographs received about 60 photo submissions for its 2007 calendar from men who expressed an interest in posing at no charge in exchange for the exposure that would hopefully further their careers.

Making the final selections was a difficult process, Shaunya Manus said. For guidance, she considered feedback received from women who saw the calendar last year.

“Quite a few wrote about whom they’d like featured and what kind of guys they’d like to see,” she said. “We took into account a lot of their input, such as a request to include older men.”

This year, their ages span from the early 20s to mid-40s.

Native star Zahn McClarnon, who many women requested, is featured twice, in January and August. McClarnon is a Standing Rock Sioux whose biography spans performances on stage, film and numerous television shows. Among his credits are several appearances in “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” He played Elton Blue Cloud in the film “Skins” and appeared in “Into the West.” Zahn can be seen this fall as Ermoke on the CBS show “Comanche Moon.”

Also featured twice is actor, artist and radio show personality Sean Wei Mah, Cree, of Canada. He played Heavy Shield in “Into the West,” Ben Wheelock in the horror movie “It Waits” and High Horse in “Dreamkeeper.” Wei Mah is currently performing at the Storyeum Theatre in Gastown, Vancouver, British Columbia, and pursuing a degree in nutritional science.

April highlights Nate Camacho, Pasqua Yaqui from Arizona. Camacho is an aspiring model and professional dancer with the Circus Runaway Crew. He has a company called Robot Friendly Productions, which provides graphic design and film editing services.

Marcos Akiaten, Chiricahua Apache of Los Angeles, is featured for May. He will appear this fall as an Inuit father on the FOX Broadcasting Company miniseries science fiction thriller “Beyond.”

Kyerin Bennett, Navajo, illustrates the month of June. He is an aspiring actor and model who is studying anthropology.

Also in the lineup is Navajo Randy Boogie, who has been involved in the music scene for 10 years. Boogie is a disc jockey, producer and member of Foundations of Freedom, a hip hop group that has released two albums. He is also a graphic designer and runs Krazy Fresh, a clothing label and online store.

Lance Jensen, Navajo, is featured for September. He aspires to work as a model, but his ultimate goal is to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Along with a full slate as a student, he works at the Boys and Girls Club and is a volunteer basketball coach for 6- to 10-year olds in the Junior Suns League.

October’s model, Navajo Fernando Ross, works with Native fashion designers as a runway model and hopes to break into acting.

Billy Crawley II is pictured for December. He is lead singer and guitarist for the Native metal band Ethnic Degeneration. Crawley, who is Navajo and Osage, has organized Ethnicology, a Native metal rock fest, for the past five years.

Bryan Mercier, Kalapuya/

Umpqua from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde community, will brighten up the chill of February. He is a former semi-pro soccer player who currently works with the forest service.

Photos of Adam Beach and Eddie Spears were requested, but budgetary constraints were a limiting factor, Manus said.

“We wanted all of them to be major names,” she explained, but we’re a brand new company just starting out so we don’t have all the money to bring in the super big names.”

Shoots were scheduled throughout the summer in various locations around Arizona, and many of this year’s pictures have an urban theme, Manus said.

“All the models we did get are really nice guys,” she said. “They’ve all got their own projects going on. They’ve all done something in entertainment.”

The result is a diverse representation of Native men with a variety of talents, personal styles and looks.

The calendars are available on the 21st Century Skins Web site, which has been improved since last year with the addition of e-commerce capabilities, Manus said. Other marketing efforts will be ramped up, including an advertising campaign, sponsorship opportunities and establishment of a distributor network.

“Because we’ve done it one time around, we know a little bit more this time,” she said.

For more information and a glimpse of last year’s calendar, visit www.viewfinderphotographs.com.