Twenty-one-year-old entrepreneur Kelly Holmes, Lakota, grew up on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. She currently resides in Denver, where since 2007 she’s honed her fashion credentials as a model, makeup artist, hair stylist, and fashion designer. She recently launched the premiere issue of Native Max Magazine, a fashion based magazine that features Native talent from modeling, photography, music, sports, health, and whatever topics it needs to connect with all tribes, age groups, and genders. ICTMN caught up with the ambitious Holmes after the release of the 2012 premier issue featuring Native and America’s Next Top Model contestant Mariah Watchman on the cover.
What made you decide there was a need for a Native magazine primarily about fashion?
I was 16 years old when I got into modeling after I was discovered at a pow wow in Denver in 2007. But a lot of Native designers and photographers didn’t want to work with me because of my lack of experience, so I just modeled around Denver. That’s when I got the idea for the magazine. I decided, “Hey, I’m going to do something that gives other Native people a chance if no one wants me.” I tried to be in Native publications as a writer, but none of them liked my style of writing, and because I was 16 no one took me seriously. So in 2007 the idea for this magazine was there. I was going to give myself until next year to save up money and build networking relationships with people, but I heard other people wanted to come out with their own Native fashion magazines so I decided I better hurry and go forth with it.
Can you tell us about some of your staff?
When I started doing it by myself, it was very difficult. Then I met Derek Nez (Navajo) — he actually wanted to shoot me as a model — and I told him about my magazine. He just fell in love with the idea and offered his help. I also met Crystal Lee (Navajo) at the Denver March Pow Wow, and approached her to model for us. She came to our first photo shoot and also fell in love with the idea, concept, and purpose of the magazine and wanted to help as much as she could. So that’s how I found both of them and they helped out a lot. I consider them my partners more than their co-editor titles would imply.
Is this going to be a high-gloss magazine?
The first issue, the preview issue, is digital. The second issue is going to be a full issue and it’s going to be in print, be high-gloss, have high-definition pictures, and have high quality ink and be out in August. It’s going to be really good overall quality. It’s going to be a quarterly magazine for now.
What’s the reaction been like since you’ve your first issue premiered?
People appreciate we’re doing something that’s never been done before and appreciate us giving people a chance even though they aren’t experienced — kind of like how I used to be. The feedback is supportive because we’re different and people know were taking a risk going through with this.
What’s been the most rewarding part of creating your magazine?
What I like is meeting different people and learning about their cultures. I’m working with people from the south — Navajos — and I’m learning everything about their cultures and traditions and it’s really cool. I’m Lakota so I know about the north, but I get to meet different people and tribes and I enjoy learning about their lives. It’s like even though we’re all considered one race, we’re all different.
How did you get Mariah Watchman for the first cover?
I actually wanted her to be on the cover, but I didn’t know how to get ahold of her or any of that. Luckily, Crystal knows a lot of people. She said she could possibly get Mariah to be in the magazine. Then she came back and was like, “Hey, she wants to do it.” I was excited because I watched Mariah become more involved with modeling, and then she was on America’s Next Top Model, and I was like, “Hey, wait a minute, that’s her! Oh, my god!” I was so happy she went on that show representing her race. A lot of other Native celebrities are like, “I’m part Native American, but I’m not really going to talk about that part of my life. Only my famous side.” But she was totally representing her people and even wore a beaded medallion on the show. She was inspiring and I couldn’t wait to get the interview with her. She was excited about our magazine too and is 100% behind our mission and purpose.
What sets your magazine apart from others?
Some magazines only appeal to men, or women, or kids, but I want to appeal to all tribes and everyone. We want to connect with individuals and create a relationship with our audience. We’re not picky about who we want to work with. We don’t want to create cliques in the Native industry, but want to give everyone a chance. Like, if there’s a girl in high school who wants to get into journalism, kind of like how I was, we want to consider her. Or if there’s a plus-sized girl who’s photogenic who wants to model, we want to give her a chance too. That’s what sets us apart. We strive to be different, yet strive our very hardest to get out a professional and high end magazine.