Two companies enter pin-up model market


NORMAN, Okla. ? In swimsuits or buckskins, the pin-up model is coming to Indian country. Two separate companies are launching calendars featuring native ladies selected after months of auditioning.

Their approaches differ markedly. The pin-ups in "Women of the Earth" wear traditional clothing in demure poses. (See story below.) Rez Dog Clothing Company is going for the "classy sexy" look, a la the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. But both think they have a winning idea.

Rez Dog Clothing

"These girls are so gorgeous this is going to rival Sports Illustrated," said Mary DeHaas, co-producer of the Rez Dog calendar. "People are going to be pleasantly surprised and impressed."

After searching nine months for its 12 models, the Rez Dog calendar recently wrapped up its photo shoot on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Mohawk photographer Leslie Timmerman used the more remote coves and beaches of the lake for locations, searching them out with a rented boat. "We did four days [of shoots]," said DeHaas. She raves about one photo inside a waterfall.

She said the calendar would be ready to distribute in October. It will be available on the pow wow circuit, in Native American gift shops and through the Rez Dog website www.rezdog.com.

The project is an offshoot of Rez Dog Clothing, founded by Mary and Keith DeHaas. Keith, the company's chief executive officer, is Standing Rock Lakota. According to the company biography, he started selling his own T-shirts in 1996 after finding that pow wow vendors carried only what he called "mystic Indian" designs of "not-quite-right images of Indian braves and maidens with rainbows and eagles."

Instead, his company drew on an image common to most Indian communities, "the scruffy and tough survivor ? the reservation dog."

Like the clothing, which features inside jokes and rez slang, the calendar wants to break solemn stereotypes of Indian life.

"It will represent the modern Native American woman as light-hearted, fun and sexy," said a company statement.

Ms. DeHaas said that the models have impressive records of achievement. Many are honor role college students with plans for advanced degrees. "A lot of them feel this is an excellent stepping stone to further their careers," she said.

One, Rachel Shelley, Winnebago and Omaha from Lawrence, Kansas, is a Delta Airlines flight attendant pursuing a degree in Aeronautical Science with the goal of becoming an airline pilot.

Another, Angye Tilley, Creek and Seminole from Bristow, Okla., is a Gates and McNair Scholar at the University of Oklahoma and member of the OU women's basketball team that recently competed in the "Sweet 16" national quarterfinals.

The other models are Shan Baldwin, Navajo, a Broadcast Journalism major at Pima College; LivA'ndrea Knoki, Navajo, a philosophy major at Arizona State University who aspires to be a corporate attorney; Adoesha Bennett, Creek, who studies theater at Haskell Indian Nations University; Ampah DeHaas, Standing Rock Lakota who attends United Tribes Technical College; Bobbi Dorchester, Fort McDowell Reservation Yavapai and Navajo, who graduates from high school at the end of summer and looks forward to studying law.

Also, Toni Lee Tsatoke, Kiowa, who recently graduated from Haskell with a degree in education; Teresa A. Randall, Lakota, who is studying for her Real Estate license in California; Michelle Bowman, Akimel O'Odham from Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, a U.S. Navy veteran working on a Business/Marketing degree at the University of Phoenix; Meredith Koenig, Saginaw Chippewa, a high school junior and beauty pageant veteran; and Lateachia Pemma, Potawatomi and Ho Chunk, who starts her freshman year at Haskell this fall.

The project was sponsored by the Otoe Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma with additional support from the Tahoe Seasons Resort. Rez Dog Clothing incorporated with the Otoe Missouria in 1998, the first company ever to incorporate with the tribe.

If the calendar sells as well as hoped, Ms. DeHaas has plans to expand in 2004. She foresees a swimsuit edition shot in the Caribbean, one for the Rez Dog-sponsored rodeo team of two barrel racers and two bull riders and one for Indian men.

Women of the Earth

LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) ? A man who says he wanted to bridge the gap between Indians and other Americans has produced a calendar with pictures of young women representing 11 U.S. tribes.

Art Bardell, a 37-year-old father of four from this Detroit suburb, was determined to bridge the gulf in cultures. So he set out with a $1,500 Mamiya 645 camera and a lot of nerve and started visiting reservations.

The result is a 2003 calendar, "Women of the Earth," featuring color photos from 11 tribes, The Detroit News said on Aug. 6.

"I didn't have time to write a book, so a colleague suggested a calendar," said Bardell, a Ford Motor Co. executive. "I can't educate the entire world, but I can light a spark to cause people to investigate a little further.

"They may pick up the calendar, read about the tribes the women are from and then be encouraged to learn more."

The calendar includes biographical sketches and blurbs about each tribe.

"This isn't about me," said Bardell, who works in technical communications for Ford in Allen Park. "I've already got a good job. My name doesn't appear anywhere on the calendar. I just want to raise awareness about Native Americans across the country, and to give back."

He said he has a profit-sharing arrangement with the women, and he has pledged to donate part of the proceeds from sales of the $14.95 calendar to the American Indian College Fund.

He also hopes to recover the $16,000 he said he spent on travel and expenses, as well as earn a small profit from the project.

Half the proceeds from sales of a $15 related poster will go to the White Mountain Apache tribe in Arizona, site of a June fire that burned about 138,000 acres.

Bardell's traveled to Montana, Arizona, Utah and North Carolina, as well as to a few off-reservation sites.

Some Indians at first questioned his motives. Bardell said the criticism did not offend him.

"I completely understood because many may have thought I was trying to exploit the women," he said. "But it did not deter me from wanting to do something."

Bardell recruited models though fliers at tribal colleges. (Ads also appeared in this publication.)

He found cover model Dhanielle Declay, 19, through an Arizona agency. The Scottsdale Community College student is from the White Mountain Apache tribe and is a past Miss Indian Teen World pageant winner.

"I never looked upon modeling for the calendar as being exploitive," said Declay. "I regarded it as an opportunity any other American would like. I'm hoping this will lead to more things, like modeling and acting jobs. As long as I know how to represent myself with standards and values, it's fine."