Shining from the inside out

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FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. – “Granny panties are your friend!” quipped Jessica Hoyungowa (Navajo/Hopi), better known as Jessica Sin.

Laughter erupted as the founding member and president of the Blue Bird Pinups joked about the undergarments required to achieve certain pinup silhouettes.

This past Saturday, the Native women’s organization held their somewhat-annual “Pin Me Up” workshop in a conference room at the local Holiday Inn Express, where approximately 35 Native women from across the Southwest attended as members, participants, or volunteers.

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Flyer for the Blue Bird Pinups’ “Pin Me Up” workshop.

Throughout the daylong workshop, the ladies of the Blue Bird Pinups taught attendees beauty tips in the form of hair styling and makeup application. Desiree Belone (Navajo/Ponca/Japanese) and Keisha Peaches, aka Mz. Peaches, (Navajo) performed hair and makeup demonstrations on The iiSH’s very own ATM and blogger-slash-museum pro-slash-your daily dose of positive energy, Jaclyn Roessel (Navajo) of Grownup Navajo.

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ATM’s evolution into Katashley Mayhem, her pinup alter ego.

While much of the workshop centered on outward beauty, there is more to pinup—at least the Blue Bird ladies’ style of pinup—than hair, makeup, and fashion.

Discussing the inception of the Blue Bird Pinups, Jessica Sin informed the crowd that the group made their debut at the 2012 Navajo Code Talkers Day. With a mission to become agents of change for their communities with a fun pinup twist, she says they “value and embody such ideas modeled by [their] own mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who possess resilience, beauty, and strength.”

Early in the day, many of the Blue Bird Pinups’ introductions included statements about body positivity and empowerment. Marla Pacheco, aka Venus Royale, (Hopi/Santo Domingo) began the pinup lifestyle and joined the Blue Bird Pinups because she “didn’t want to be a mean girl anymore.” Instead of participating in mean girl behavior, she now encourages other women to be good to themselves and to each other.

The organization, the Blue Birds say, was created to help cultivate a community of women who uplift each other rather than tear each other down.

Some of the participants’ reasons for attending the workshop echoed the need for a space to cultivate self-esteem and positive body image. One woman shared with the group that her work life was so time-consuming and overwhelmingly masculine that she did not have much time for self-care. She was there to feel beautiful for one day.

On the other end of the spectrum, a young Hopi girl teared up as she relayed her experiences being bullied which negatively impacted her self-image. She was there to feel as beautiful as her auntie whom she sees as an empowered woman.

Before the attendees transformed themselves into lovely pinup models, subjects like healthy body image, cultural significance, and environmental considerations were discussed—topics you may not think would be included in a pinup workshop.

The Blue Bird ladies spoke about healthy body image in relation to the clothing that one selects. They encouraged participants to look for items that actually fit instead of trying to squeeze into the smallest size possible. Choosing clothing based on how it fits and ignoring the sizes listed on tags, they say, is just one way to feel good about what you wear. After all, sizes are set by the fashion industry, which has dramatically changed since the age of pinup popularity.

Cultural considerations also arose throughout the day.

Their pinup twist on Native female empowerment requires some interesting amendments to the vintage lifestyle. In discussing thrift shopping, Venus Royale noted that vintage and thrift shop items are pre-owned. To protect herself and pay homage to the previous owner, she blesses her new acquisitions using cedar, a traditional practice that she encourages others to also take into consideration, remarking on its importance to one’s spiritual health.

In the same discussion, Venus brought up the environmental implications of the fashion industry, especially the fast fashion industry. She emphasized that thrift shopping is not only fun, but also environmentally sustainable, which is on par with many Native cultural beliefs and backgrounds.

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The Blue Bird Pinups support the action at Standing Rock to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. L to R: Venus Royale, Krystle Platero, Jessica Sin, Sophia Foxx, and Mz. Peaches. Photo by Roshan Spottsville at the OxDx Fall Fashion Release event.

Jaclyn Roessel furthered positive messages about self-image with tips for self-care. She shared some of her personal methods for relaxing and relieving anxiety, including using essential oils, journaling, and reciting affirming mantras.

To close out the day, participants were given the opportunity to reinvent themselves into a pinup alter ego. The Blue Bird ladies provided tools for transformation and assisted attendees with pinup hairstyles, cat-eye makeup, and proper pinup posing.

Many of the participants stayed well beyond the designated end time to perfect their looks and snap photos.

When asked about how she felt after her pinup transformation, the young Hopi girl exclaimed, “I feel good!”

Her beaming face was the greatest indicator of a successful workshop and mission accomplished by the women of the Blue Bird Pinups.

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ATM (left) styled in “tiki” pinup style and Jaclyn (right) in an evening pinup fashions. Photo by The iiSh’s Bahe.

More photos and video coming soon!

About the author - atm