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St. Mary’s Yup’ik model turns heads on Florida runway


Entertainment and fashion industry professionals were scouting for new talent in Orlando, Florida, in August when they beheld an unexpected sight: a female model in full Yup’ik regalia.

“Yeah, my headdress, guspuq, dance fans, ivory necklace and bracelet. I was turning heads,” Cheri Alstrom of St Mary’s said.

Alstrom has lived in Dillingham and Bethel, studied at Mt. Edgecumbe and University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has called Anchorage home since 2015. A chance radio advertisement one day sparked her interest in modeling.

“While I was driving my car around Anchorage, I had the radio on and the commercial, it would say, ‘Laura Modeling and Talent agency.’ And I was like, ‘I better check it out.’ So I did and then they called me a couple months later for an audition. And I was like, ‘yay!’ I was so excited. But during the auditions, I messed up, and I was like, ‘oh no, they’re not going to choose me,'” Alstrom said.

But choose her they did. Alstrom signed up for Talent Inc., a convention where she would join hundreds of others to perform for acting and modeling agents from all across the country. Her preparation for the event would span several weeks, entailing hours of study on the entertainment industry, acting and modeling workshops with her peers, and a photoshoot at an Anchorage studio.

“Well, during the photoshoot, Laura said bring props and I was like, ‘I don’t know what to bring.’ And then I was like ‘Oh, I’ll ask if I could use my headdress and dance fans, if it’s appropriate for that kind of stuff.’ And she got really happy and she said, ‘yes, do it.’ And she said, ‘bring it with you down to Orlando.’ And I was like, ‘okay.’ So I did and it was amazing,” Alstrom said.

When the time came to walk the high fashion runway, Alstrom donned her Yup’ik garb and waited her turn backstage. The reaction from her fellow performers caught her off-guard.

“Yeah, they were saying ‘I love your stuff.’ And they told me say go represent! I said, ‘yes, for my people!’ So that made me even more excited and happier. It was nothing I expected,” Alstrom said.

But what surprised her even more was the wild cheer she received when her turn came to walk the runway.

“Yeah, we’re not supposed to smile. And then I caught myself. I was like, ‘oh no, I smiled.’ And then I had to fix my face really fast. And all that cheering made me smile. Even though we weren’t supposed to on the high fashion runway,” Alstrom said.

In the awards ceremony at the culmination of the week, Alstrom was shocked to receive the second-place prize for best fashion model overall. The following day, a professional talent agent expressed an interest in talking with her further. 

Image at top: Cheri Alstrom wears Yup’ik regalia. Photo courtesy of Cheri Alstrom. Used with permission (2022).

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.

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