This Woman Created ‘Native Max’, The 1st Native American Lifestyle & Culture Magazine


You may have recently heard the news of a group of Indigenous American actors walking off the set of a new Adam Sandler movie called ‘The Ridiculous Six’ in disgust over inappropriate jokes toward the Native American culture and women. To those people we say bravo! Cultural appropriation is never OK, and especially when it is toward a culture that has had such a fractured and disenfranchised past with immigrant America.

We’ve seen the uproar created by Indigenous groups toward celebrities such as Gwen Stefani when she wore some form of adapted Native American fashion in a music video which was subsequently banned. She’s not the only one, Pharrell Williams has also come under fire for donning a headdress, and so have Victoria’s Secret for displaying tribal gear on their models on the runway.


In the sporting world, the US patent office cancelled the trademark of the Washington Redskins football team after increasing pressure in 2014 saying that it devalued Native American traditions.

When is pop culture going to get it right? Or better still, when is the media and entertainment going to realize that they don’t need to make jokes about another culture and if they want to represent it somehow, they can find the means to do it in an appropriate way.

Which is why when we read about Native Max, the first fashion and lifestyle magazine dedicated to Native American culture, we were stoked! At GTHQ we are all about creating better representations of women, and especially women of color.

Native Max was started by Kelly Holmes, who launched the very first issue in 2012, at the age of 20, which starred American’s Next Top Model’s only Native American contestant Mariah Watchman from cycle 18. Why did she choose to do this? Because of her conversations she would have with far too many people who had no idea about the Indigenous American culture and its people.

She told Buzzfeed that as a teenager she moved from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota to Denver and was shocked to hear people in that city admit they didn’t know Native Americans still existed, when she told them about her heritage. We literally have no words…

As a young girl living in a big city she started to become interested in fashion, art and web design and took out her frustration in those areas. It was being involved in the creative space that got her thinking about how her Indigenous culture was represented in mainstream media.


“I collected fashion magazines since I was little. At 16 I started wondering if a magazine could exist that had Native American stories, models, and makeup tutorials that matched our skin tone,” she said.

Once the idea was planted in her head, she knew she had to run with it. Instead of going to college she decided it was more valuable to get on-the-job training from various experts in the magazine publishing world and attend business seminars.

Despite have the right skills eventually, many people brushed her off, both Native and non-Native Americans who didn’t believe she had what it took.

“When I tried getting into fashion in Denver, people would often say things like, ‘What do Native Americans know about fashion, or even the world?’” added to this many Native Americans were too close-minded for fashion because of the reservations, she said.

What do you do when everyone says no but you know in your heart what you are doing is something important? You find the right people who DO believe in you, and you continue your path. That’s exactly what Kelly did, with a group of friends who helped her get Native Max off the ground.


Today Native Max features an array of Native American content. It’s not just a space for fashion, but also art, culture, and stories and profiles on young Native American men and women who are carving out spaces for themselves in American today. They also cover important social issues and activism which is necessary in many conversations about Indigenous culture: what issues do they face within their own circles and how can we better understand and empathize? Hearing directly from Indigenous men and women is a genius part of this magazine.

And because there is a huge tendency for mainstream media fashion to use Indigenous American culture as a “trend”, Kelly felt it was important to use her platform to dispel myths and share valuable information that some fashion brands are missing.

“Many of these designers take from the culture but don’t give back in any real way, or even acknowledge the native people their designs are based on,” she said.

“We are trying to educate the mainstream fashion industry. It’s great if they want to honor our culture … but it would be better if they brought on a Native designer who knows the real designs and can guide them.” Girl, we couldn’t agree more.

Everything she is doing is hitting all the right notes, because Native Max has been getting plenty of attention not just in the states but overseas. Kelly says she wants to expand the magazine to represent Indigenous cultures in other countries such as Australia. We’d LOVE to see that!


Native Max’s ultimate goal is to promote Native talent, stories, and inspirational individuals to expose their talents to the mainstream industry and to inspire other Native American aspiring artists and designers. I’m just so used to people doubting Native Americans it’s still hard for me to believe that people want to work with us,” said Kelly.

Whether it’s a story on women’s rights issues, female filmmakers, or women who are doing things in the name of social activism, Native Max is the magazine we NEED to have in mainstream media. It is so unfortunate that media and fashion are so advanced in many areas, but fail to recognize the importance of representing different cultures and voices on their amplified platforms.

Thankfully we have young women like Kelly Holmes who see the gap, use their resources and tools and choose to create something that will change the conversation forever.

We hope to see this magazine grow into a competitor as well as an authority on all things Native America. So to all the celebrities out there, fashion brands, and content creators who are looking for a publication to get familiar with Native American culture and represent it in the most appropriate and empowering way possibly, look no further than Native Max.


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