Winnipeg Cree influencer featured in Sephora's first Indigenous history month ad campaign

The ads mark Sephora Canada’s first National Indigenous History Month campaign.

Campaign pays homage to ‘knowledge, wisdom, diverse strengths'

The ads primarily feature Winnipegger Michelle Chubb (left) and Montreal-based Shina Novalinga, though many other Indigenous models are also included. (CNW Group/Sephora Canada)

Michelle Chubb says she was shocked when she got an email from cosmetics manufacturer Sephora Canada in April asking her to participate in an upcoming ad campaign featuring an all-Indigenous cast and crew.

It was an exciting opportunity — and one the Winnipeg-based Nehinaw (Swampy Cree) social media influencer knew would have been inspiring for her 10-year-old self to see.

"Knowing what my younger self went through, she couldn't express [herself] the way she wanted to express herself. She was stuck," Chubb told CBC's Up to Speed host Lenard Monkman on Friday.

"I thought I couldn't do much in life…  Having this representation is very important because [now other kids] can dream also and say, like, 'I can do that, too.'"

Chubb is a member of Bunibonibee Cree Nation, also known as Oxford House, a community of about 3,000 people roughly 575 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The ads mark Sephora Canada's first National Indigenous History Month campaign, the company said in a news release.

It intends "to amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, while paying homage to their knowledge, wisdom, diverse strengths, and teachings," the release says.

The campaign features Chubb alongside Montreal-based Inuk throat singer, Shina Novalinga.

'We've been here. We are here. We belong here,' one of the new Sephora Canada ads reads. (CNW Group/Sephora Canada)

It also includes exclusively Indigenous talent, from wardrobe and styling to the campaign's videographer and campaign photographer.

The ads will be featured across Sephora Canada's digital platforms, while images of Novalinga and Chub will appear in the retailer's more than 80 stores, the news release said.

Local drag queen also featured

The campaign also features several members of the Bannock Babes, a Winnipeg-based Indigenous drag group.

Two-spirit drag queen Feather Talia says the representation in the campaign was meaningful to them, too.

"It was amazing," the performer told CBC's Weekend Morning Show host Stephanie Cram on Saturday.

"You don't [often] see a campaign even just feature all Indigenous people …  And it was nice to see more than just one two-spirit person in there."

Winnipeg-based two-spirit drag queen Feather Talia is among several familiar faces featured in the beauty company's latest ad campaign. (Sephora Canada/YouTube)

One of the campaign videos features Chubb dancing in full regalia, wearing a jingle dress. She says that meant a lot to her, especially knowing that Indigenous ceremonies such as potlatch were banned in Canada until 1951.

"It feels really empowering, especially the jingle dress that I made myself. It's just mind blowing how much has changed throughout the years," she said.

WATCH | Michelle Chubb on taking her power back as part of the Sephora Canada campaign:

Chubb, who has more than 403,000 followers on TikTok and upwards of 151,000 on Instagram, says she hopes her platform will help inspire young Indigenous kids to pursue their dreams.

She also had some words of advice for them.

"Don't let anyone tell you what to do and what you can and can't do. You've got to stay empowered," she said.

"Whatever you're dreaming, you can do it. You've just got to focus on yourself and not what anyone else says."

Some critics raised issues with the campaign because it didn't include any Afro-Indigenous people. Sephora Canada posted a statement in response, committing to do better.

"We are actively engaged in conversations with Afro-Indigenous Communities on how to ensure all people see themselves and their stories represented and celebrated in the beauty industry," the statement read in part.