Indigenous

Beaded eyebrow experiment turns out 'fashionably good' for Ojibway YouTuber

When you think of Indigenous beadwork, eyebrows probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind but Chelsey Moon gave it a try.

‘It’s OK to take things we regard as traditional and add 21st century spins on them,’ says Chelsey Moon

It's a beaded eyebrow. (Chelsey Moon)

When you think of Indigenous beadwork, eyebrows probably aren't the first thing that come to mind.

But it's something Chelsey Moon, an Ojibway YouTuber from Bay Mills Indian community in northern Michigan, thought would be a fun idea to try.

The mother of three spends most of her spare time doing beadwork and spent over two and half hours perfecting a Potawatomi floral stitch across her left brow. 

She blocked her eyebrow with a glue stick and foundation prior to assembling the beads with a pair of tweezers and eyelash glue.

"I did not expect it to gain this much attention, but I didn't expect it to come out looking so good — fashionably good," she said.

The process was documented in a video on her YouTube channel.

Although Moon kept the beads on for only about 20 minutes — enough time to snap some photos — she said she's contemplating wearing the beaded brow again as a part of her jingle dress regalia come powwow season.

She's encouraging others to try it out as well, after receiving a positive reaction across social media.

"People really like it, not only because it's outrageous to them but people are genuinely interested in doing it themselves for powwows," said Moon.

"If you want to try it yourself, go for it, especially if you want it add it to your regalia. I would love to be the trendsetter."

Beading as medicine

For Moon, beading outrageous and unconventional things is a source of fun that pushes boundaries beyond traditional items like moccasins, earrings and hair accessories. It's also had a positive impact on her mental health.

"I do suffer from depression, and beading is like a medicine. It makes those feelings go away for me," she said.

Her eyebrows aren't the only unusual thing she's beaded. She's beaded a pair of high heels after being inspired by the work of Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock fashion designer Jamie Okuma, and last month she added beads to an adult toy following a discussion on Twitter. 

"People said it wasn't traditional, and something I thought about was the fact that beading isn't technically traditional itself. The mindfulness is, but the actual medium isn't. We didn't have beads until we traded with Europeans," said Moon.

"We've adapted many times over the thousands of years we've been here. We haven't lived the exact same way all of these years, so I think it's OK to continue to adapt into the 21st century. It's OK to take things we regard as traditional and add 21st century spins on them."

About the Author

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at kanhehsiio.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.

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