Sephora’s first campaign for National Indigenous History Month strikes a message of resilience after tragedy

“We belong here, and everywhere.”

The discovery of 215 children found buried in an unmarked grave at Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada has shocked and horrified the nation. Enraged, devastated and in mourning, many are looking to rededicate and refocus on supporting diversity and trying to affect systematic change.

Cosmetics company Sephora Canada has released a campaign produced by Indigenous creators, timed for National Indigenous History Month and will be the next evolution of the retailer’s “We Belong To Something Beautiful” brand platform.

Their very first National Indigenous History Month campaign aims to celebrate diversity as well as amplify collaborators’ voices and stories using the Sephora Canada platform, especially during this June of National Indigenous History Month.

Sephora Canada ensured authentic representation through working with a Indigenous creators, artists and designers, along with two new partners: Montreal-based influencer, online sensation and Inuk throat singer Shina Novalinga, and Nehinaw content-creator, social justice activist and social media star Michelle Chubb, both of whom were heavily featured in the campaign ad.

The campaign advisor, Sarain Fox, played a vital role behind the camera and consulted the Sephora Canada team throughout the whole process. 

“When I looked at who I was as an Indigenous woman, I realized that I come from an oral history; my people have been sharing stories of who they are and how to be an act in this world. I am responsible for upholding and continuing my family’s legacy,” Fox stated.

For Sephora Canada, they aim to ensure all their customers are represented in both their media content and their marketing, in their stores and online.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t see Indigenous people anywhere around me,” Fox divulged in her personal highlighted video.

Suzzane Shoush, a Black and Indigenous healthcare physician, is a leader and advocate in the Indigenous community and is currently working to make sure Indigenous people have access to adequate testing and emotional support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Lack of representation in healthcare truly is killing people,” Shoush said in Fox’s video. “Structures of racism, structures of exclusion, structures in which Indigenous people might not feel they can access a family doctor or a specialist that is from their community and understands them.”

With photos of Chubb and Novalinga ready to appear in over 80 stores, the advertisement for the campaign will be shown across Sephora Canada’s digital media platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, where people from across the country are already expressing their feelings of pride, and gratitude, but also of mourning for the childrens’s lives who were lost in light of the recent events.

“This is so beautiful and powerful,” an Instagram user commented on their campaign video. “I wish [Sephora] USA would show this type of support for Indigenous people and uplift their voices. Representation is so important!”

“Rest in peace for the Indigenous children found in BC Kamloops,” wrote another on Sephora Canada’s YouTube channel.

“This is amazing,” an Instagrammer responded in Chubb’s video, “kinanaskomitin for the representation and giving these beautiful iskwewak the platform to speak and share their stories.”

Among these, a significant amount of praise is directed toward the campaign’s authentic portrayal of Indigenous beauty, stemming from their gender- and race-conscious hiring of the cast, design, and production team. Their costuming on set represents much of Indigenous culture, such as the handmade jingle dress worn and made by Chubb during the main video.

“I try to make myself look powerful so the native youth that are looking at me can look up to someone,” Chubb explained in an additional video featuring her. “I think it’s really important that people know the true Indigenous people and not the stereotype.”

Michelle Chubb has currently amassed almost half a million followers on TikTok, educating fans with her platform.

Both in front of and behind the camera, from the actors and voice-overs, to the campaign director and photographer, Sephora Canada ensured genuine representation with a crew full of Indigenous talent. “You don’t [often] see a campaign even just feature all Indigenous people,” Chubb expressed in an interview with CBC News. “And it was nice to see more than just one two-spirit person in there.”

“I want people to know that I am not scared of being who I am, and that I embrace myself as an Inuk person and I am not ashamed,” Novalinga stated in her own video. “I hope I encourage others to do the same.”

Shina Novalinga, proud Inuk throat singer, shares her stories with Sephora’s audience.

Along with this campaign, which aims to send a message of resilience and pride for people from all Indigenous communities, Sephora Canada is proud to announce its newest local Indigenous beauty brand, Cheekbone Beauty, to be released on the Sephora platform in the coming year.

“We demand to take up space,” the campaign video declared. “We need our stories heard, our truths told.”

Image credit: Sephora Canada

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