INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY MEDIA NETWORK: Your calendar’s cover model is Kiowa Gordon, who is one of four Native American actors in the “Wolfpack” of the phenomenally successful films Twilight: New Moon and Twilight: Eclipse. Consensus on the Wolfpack is divided; some feel the actors are a leap forward for Natives on screen, while others find them to be a modern gloss on an old stereotype. What’s your feeling?
SHAUNYA MANUS: It’s a double-edged sword. We want to be culturally sensitive, but we also want Native Americans to succeed. I work with struggling actors, and I support their struggles. So I’m happy to see actors succeed as the Wolfpack guys have. Native actors need to be seen, even if it means considering some roles that are not culturally sensitive. I don’t think these Twilight films are doing us any harm. And honestly—when you’re coming from a Native American perspective, you have to expect that Hollywood is never going to get our story 100% right unless they have Native American casting agents, screen writers and producers.
ICTMN: How do you feel about an actor like Kiowa achieving Hollywood stardom?
MANUS: I love it. I’ve been doing this calendar since 2005, and I have always known there would be a fan base for Native men. Going back to films like Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves—there was support for the Native actors in those films. Women liked them. There just wasn’t the organized support we have with these Twilight actors. One person can’t do it alone—we’ve got Adam Beach, and he’s great, but he doesn’t have the star power of Johnny Depp.
ICTMN: Did the Twilight phenomenon make this calendar more successful?
MANUS: Well, I actually put the calendar out late—December 15, which is not when you want to publish a calendar. You’d like to have it out much earlier. The difference was the viral campaign; the calendar marketed itself in a viral way. The second anyone posted a single thing about it to a Wolfpack fan site, the other 15 Wolfpack sites picked it up and did their own posts. So I would say that considering the late publication date, the calendar has been very successful, and it’s because of the Wolfpack fans.
ICTMN: Do you feel that we might be seeing a wave of successful Native actors in the future?
ICTMN: Who’s next?
MANUS: Rick Mora. He’s doing a lot of good things right now, and he has a big following. He was actually in the first Twilight film, in a flashback sequence. Rick is going to be a star. Also Martin Sensmeier—he is just drop-dead gorgeous. He’s Tlingit, from Alaska.
ICTMN: What would you like to do with the calendar next year?
MANUS: I’d like to get some older guys, actually. They have a lot of appeal. Some older women have looked at this calendar, they look at Kiowa and say “I can’t look at this—he’s my son’s age. I can’t look at my son!” I’d love to have Gil Birmingham, Wes Studi, or Graham Green. They all have a huge following, women are really into them. A lot of my calendar’s fans are non-Native women who romanticize the wise, spiritual Indian image. They all play that so well.
ICTMN: Do you have any plans to do a women’s calendar?
MANUS: Yes, we’ll be doing one for 2012.
ICTMN: Who are you trying to get for it?
MANUS: I have my list, but my husband, who takes the pictures, has already told me I will have no control over the women’s calendar. He says that I put him through this ordeal with the men every year, there’s no way I get to choose the women too. He has his ideas of what he wants—it’s going to be very interesting.
To order the 21st Century Skins calendar (or apply to be a model for the 2012 edition) visit viewfinderphotographs.com. The calendar is sponsored by JR's Conveience Store in Scottsdale AZ, Ryan Singer Art, and Tatanka Clothing.