Native American Beauty

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

In my 20s, I was always kind of conflicted about what beauty was. I only had one other brother, and I think we were treated a little bit differently as a boy and a girl. My mother loved to dress me when I was little. I often remember her buying me dresses with too much bow, which I would cut off.

I left home when I went to college in Boulder, Colorado. I was just out of high school, probably 18 or 19, when I met a painter. He asked me to model for him. He used to paint Native Americans. He had access to wardrobe collections of Native costumes. He would often borrow buckskins and different types of jewelry. From him, there was a group of Denver artists who I would model for. I never really thought of myself as being a beauty, just somewhat different. When I started modeling for this Denver artist, I began to realize I had something, which is hard to describe. I modeled until I moved to San Francisco at 25.

a Southwest Indian School, circa 1900s

I am Chicana and Native American. My paternal grandmother was from southern Utah, and she was sent to Indian School, which was kind of like a convent Indian school, in Las Vegas, New Mexico as a young girl. She went to school there. Both of my parents are from southern Colorado.

I always liked my hair and my eyes. I don’t really like to wear a lot of make-up. I don’t color my hair either. There was a time earlier in San Francisco where I did find somebody who added some color to my hair. That was fun for awhile. Streaks of color…purple, blue. I wasn´t trying to cover up anything. I was trying to add some color to my hair. Other than that, I´ve never bleached my hair or wanted to have a different color. At one time when I was young, I wanted to have green eyes. I thought it would be interesting to have dark hair and hazel eyes.

What does beauty mean to you now?

I think of ethnic beauty. If people think about their own roots and where they come from and try to accentuate that…to be that instead of something that they’re not. That is something I consider to be beautiful.

I do that now by letting my hair grow out (color-wise). As far as clothing, that has taken a long time to feel comfortable. There was a time when I had good jobs and bought nice clothes. Now when I buy things, I usually go to 2nd hand stores. I’m more conscious of money. And I also know that I can find nice things because people have had them and often they´ve never been worn. I have a great time finding beautiful things.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

I´ve matured. But I really don´t think that my ideas have changed that much. I would never want to go back to being younger or in time. I prefer to go forward.

Bernadette, 53

San Francisco


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Kay Knudsen
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 16:04:21

    A great read of Bernadette’s modeling for Denver artists and ‘going forward in beauty and aging’.
    I am glad for my Scandinavian/Midwest but find it fascinating to hear of roots of Chicana and Utah, Colorado. Opposites attract; my best friend is of Mexican and Bolivian (&Czechoslovakian!) heritage.
    Friendships, sisterhood admiring the hazel or the blue eyes we share in what it’s like to have so as to appreciate and in the end be thankful for the uniqueness we offer. Thanks for the good read!


    • Beauty Sheen Queen
      Feb 28, 2011 @ 07:17:17

      I’m glad you liked the interview. And it is interesting to see how “opposites attract” at times, I agree. I liked hearing about a background
      really different from my own. Everybody has such a unique story.


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