Ojibwe-Cree and wolf clan actor Rachelle White Wind moved to Toronto from Manitoba to get involved with First Nations theater after having spent her formative years raised in a non-indigenous household. After a gamut of emotions from moving to a new town, she came to embrace Toronto as home. “It was a long journey of self-identification,” she says.
White Wind now wants to bridge the gap for others who are in the same position. Her latest Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) production, “Dream Big,” is told from the point of view of a Native North American woman, and connects young indigenous youth with role models and mentors.
APTN's Dream Big helps young kids reach their dreams - White Wind is proud to be a part - Source: Facebook APTN Dream Big page
While speaking recently to Rosanna Deerchild of CBC Radio on the Unreserved Radio Indigenous program about “Dream Big,” White Wind clarified her motivations in its development.
“I just wanted to find a way to help people through their own challenges... From someone who now has a lot to be thankful for, I also saw the other side of a listless existence, [of] being in the dark about how to get anywhere, let alone how to help others,” White Wind said.
The weeks before the Sept 2015 premiere of “Dream Big” were a whirlwind for her. She would soon be travelling to Winnipeg to attend the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards, where she had been requested to style the hair and makeup of several nominees whom she had worked with previously.
That might seem odd, but White Wind owes the start of her professional endeavors to her original involvement in cosmetology education and training while living in Winnipeg in the 1990’s. That led to her enrollment in the Robertson College of Radio and Television Broadcasting, and a stint with the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. Later, she participated in specialized training with Ryerson University in special effects makeup artistry and also the School of Makeup Art Toronto in professional makeup.
She was also a member of the Ford Modeling Agency and has strolled runways at L’Oreal Fashion week, opening the show for three years in a row.
White Wind has never been one to sit idle. After graduating as a cosmetologist, she moved and worked as a hair and makeup artist in the prestigious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. A few years later in 2000, she packed up her car and moved to Toronto.
While working odd jobs, she lived the life of a starving artist but remained too proud to let go of her dreams. After several years, she one day decided she would try her hand in Los Angeles. After arriving in LA with three suitcases, no job and no bed she was seemingly back at square one.
Yet, while living in LA, she came to reflect on her life experiences and thought how much easier life would have been if she had a mentor to help guide her. The idea of “Dream Big” originated in that moment.
Fast-forward five years later after partnering up with Mohawk Princess Productions in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. She now shares a co-creative credit with Angie Pepper O’Bomsawin and Tracey Deer who have been great supporters of her.
Her rise as a Native artist was preceded by a support position with CBC Television doing hair and makeup, prior to beginning her successful run on “Mohawk Girls,” where she plays a “bad girl” named Vicky.
"White Wind was adopted by her French-Canadian Arbez family in Manitoba who were of the Catholic faith when she was quite young. She remains close to this family but says the cost of severing her Aboriginal roots was paid when she reached back for them in Toronto in finding her place on Turtle Island."
White Wind came to understand that mental and emotional void that many adoptees of all races experience. “I blamed myself for all sorts of things that happened to me. It felt like I had done something wrong to deserve my unease. I took it out on myself; including cutting, eating disorders and self-abuse.
“That was why the performing arts were so important to me. I could escape who I did not want to be by becoming someone else,” White Wind says. “I am a living success story to myself, and now others, which can be hard to believe at times, but I am always there for them,” she said, adding that she now is able to translate her words into motivational speaking presentations.
White Wind says that APTN is talking about expanding “Dream Big”to the United States some day.
The sun shines bright for Rachelle White Wind, an artist at heart but with the mind of a businesswoman.