Indigenous Representation within the Modelling Industry: We hear from Model, Singer and Performer Nina Korbe

Nina Korbe is a proud Goa-Gungarri and Wakka Wakka woman who grew up all around Queensland and now calls Brisbane her home. Nina is not only a model she is also an accomplished soprano opera singer. Currently, Nina is studying a Master of Arts at the Royal Academy of Music in London to pursue her career as an opera performer.

Nina describes that her modelling experience has provided her with an excellent way to branch into the performing arts industry, and it helps her to hone into her theatrical background where she is constantly dressing up as a multitude of characters.

This talented woman shares with us her experiences working as an Indigenous model and passes on some words of advice and wisdom to young aspiring Indigenous models. 

When did you start modelling? And why?

I had modelled off and on as a teenager but 2018 was when I started taking it more seriously. The experience of working with different designers, makeup artists, photographers and stylists was always something that I really loved; I enjoyed the creative process and fashion has always been an area of the arts that I have found incredibly interesting and potentially empowering. I guess coming from a theatre background where I’m constantly dressing up as other characters has its similarities to modelling so it was a fun industry to branch into.

What is it like being a person of colour in the Australian Modelling Industry? What has your personal experience been?

It can be rather isolating but can also make you feel unique and empowered. I have experienced the good and the bad with this in the industry. Being a person of colour, but even more specifically an Indigenous Australian, you don’t look like what many of the other models look like. I was often told I wasn’t ‘the right look’ for whatever reason at castings. But on the other hand, I have worked with many brands that celebrate that diversity and want to market themselves with a different look! I have loved working with those creatives again and again for various projects and collections.

Why is Indigenous representation within the Australian Modelling Industry so important?

Indigenous representation is immensely important in the modelling industry. The industry can often push a very specific ideal and even when representing people of colour there is not always great variance there either. I, as an Indigenous Australian, have rather fair skin and then you have other Indigenous girls and boys who might have blonde or red hair, very dark skin or very light. I think what is most important is that when people of colour are represented, that there are many different looks because we certainly don’t all look the same. From my experience, the fear of not ‘looking Indigenous enough’ can be incredibly harmful and the modelling industry has the power to really change that narrative – it is something I certainly feel passionately about.

How could the Modelling Industry improve? What changes do you believe are needed?

It would be great to see the industry move to reflect a broader representation of people from different backgrounds and with different body types being celebrated. The industry is definitely moving that way and I hope this shift continues!

Why is promoting Indigenous fashion important to you?

I think it is vital to support Indigenous artists and celebrate the beauty of their work and this absolutely extends to fashion! There are so many stories that are told through Indigenous art and fashion is an excellent way to spread these stories and share our culture.

What’s it like to work with Yarn? How was working on the latest NAIDOC 2020 campaign shoot?

I have always loved modelling for Bundarra - the team are always so great to work with. The designs and the artwork for the NAIDOC 2020 campaign are so beautiful and I feel a great sense of pride modelling these pieces. It also often happens that the models on the shoot are related in some way so that is always heaps of fun to chat about and try to link up the family trees.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring Indigenous models?

My biggest piece of advice for aspiring Indigenous models is to just keep hustling. It is important to keep building your network of creatives you work with, whether through paid jobs or collaborative projects. Always make sure you stay true to your image and never lose sight of how beautiful you are. Just because you weren’t suitable for one campaign with one label doesn’t mean you’re not good enough and you will be exactly what someone else is looking for – you just have to find them!

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I have just moved to London to study my Master of Arts at the Royal Academy of Music. Opera performance has been my main passion since I was young and the goal for me has always been to make a career for myself in the performing arts industry. I still hope to continue modelling and championing the inclusion of people of colour in the wider arts industry.

If you would like to find out more about what Nina is up to check out her Instagram here.