Yolŋu model Magnolia Maymuru on Vogue Australia's September issue 'New Beginnings'

Vogue Australia’s September issue. Photographed by @charliedenno; words by @nardiga. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

Introducing, Yolŋu woman, actress and new generation model Maminydjama (Magnolia) Maymuru featuring on the cover of Vogue Australia’s upcoming September issue! The cover encapsulates femininity and maternal strength as power, where Maymuru cradles her infant daughter Djarraran on Turimetta Beach in New South Wales at sunrise. Coincidentally, Maymuru hails from Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala on ‘Sunrise Country,’ a stunning part of the Northern Territory in far north-east Arnhem Land. In line with Vogue’s global initiative to capture ‘New Beginnings,’ Vogue's September issue covers all over the world are interpreting the sun’s power as a symbol of togetherness, hope and optimism for the future from a time of great uncertainty and change. This interpretation can be seen from actress Gemma Chan on the River Thames in London for British Vogue, to upcoming model Fan Jinghan atop the Zhangye Danxia mountains for Vogue China, to Brno-based artist Milan Houser’s technicolour depiction of dawn to dusk for Vogue Czechoslovakia (Vogue Australia, 2021). 

The ‘New Beginnings’ cover theme is a reflection of where fashion is headed. Anna Wintour (2021), editor-in-chief and global editorial director of Vogue informed Vogue Australia:

“New Beginnings is an expression of optimism—one that speaks to the changes going on in fashion, and the way the industry is becoming more sustainable, more inclusive, and more global.”

In the past, Maymuru has spoken out on the subject of the inclusivity of models of colour in Vogue. She highlighted that Samantha Harris (2010) and Elaine George (1993) have been the only Indigenous Australians to have appeared on the cover of Vogue Australia in its 56-year history. Now, finding herself on the front cover, Maymuru is excited to see more representation of First Nations women in Australian fashion. The media response of an incredible 21,000 plus likes and 600 comments on Vogue Australia’s Instagram post of the cover shows agreement and support for Maymuru’s desire (NITV, 2021). Much of these responses are not only from her community, but several other communities across the country who are extremely proud of her achievement. In an interview with NITV (2021) Maymuru expressed her feelings on the latter:

"Just seeing the comments is really touching. Sometimes it makes me a bit emotional too because you never see people like me in shows and on magazine covers...That's a hard truth but it's time that we start seeing women from everywhere - you know, even in the deserts in Western Australia, there's so many beautiful dark-skinned people, and none of them are represented...But I have noticed that there's a been a shift in the modelling industry."

Vogue Australia’s September issue. Photographed by @charliedenno. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

Unfortunately, few women from Maymuru’s community would ever consider opportunities within the fashion industry. This is very disheartening for Maymuru because she is proud to be a Yirrkala-born woman with a traditional cultural upbringing and wants to showcase her community’s culture and talent. It is undeniable that her community has a wealth of creative talent as her grandfather and great-grandmother’s artworks are hanging in the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and her father is a musician who was involved with the Yothu Yindi affiliated rock/reggae band East Journey (NITV, 2021). 

In an interview with the Australian Human Rights Commission (2017), Maymuru expressed her passion towards using her platform to:

“...be an advocate for my people, my community and talk more about...coming from an Indigenous community...so that other young women in communities and small towns had somebody to kind of relate to.”

Maymuru’s career has catapulted from a slow-paced community life of catching mud crabs, yarning around the fire and working as a sports and recreation officer in Darwin to glamorous fashion shows, red carpets and serious acting roles. At the age of 19, Maymuru was Australia’s first Indigenous Miss World Australia finalist in 2016 and the face of Chadstone’s (Australia’s largest shopping centre in Melbourne) SS16 campaign and fashion show. Soon after these events, she walked her debut runway show for the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair where she wore an array of creations from Aboriginal fashion designers across Australia (Marie Claire, 2016).

Miss World Australia finalists from each state (Maymuru on second left), 2016. Photo credit: Tim Carrafa. Courtesy of the Herald Sun, 2016.

Maymuru in Chadstone’s SS16 campaign. Courtesy of amme, 2016.

Maymuru walking for Chadstone Shopping Centre’s SS16 fashion show. Courtesy of le Blonde Fox, 2016.

In September 2017, Maymuru strutted down the catwalk in Brazil for her first major fashion week! Maymuru was among twelve Indigenous models to walk for the Australian brand Vanessa Moe as part of the Circles Project, which gives Indigenous designers and models a platform to showcase their creative talents (Herald Sun, 2017).

Maymuru at Brazil Fashion Week 2017 wearing Australian brand Vanessa Moe. Courtesy of Herald Sun, 2017.

Not only is Maymuru taking Australian fashion by storm, her acting career has also taken off. In 2019, Maymuru accepted an AACTA Award for the Best Supporting Actress for her debut performance in The Nightingale (2018). Maymuru has also starred as the main character ‘Mary’ in the short-film Shed (2019), and the supporting character ‘Wak Wak’ (the mother to the main character ‘Gutjuk’) in the award-winning film High Ground (2020) (IMDb, 2021).


 Maymuru accepting an AACTA Award in Sydney for Best Supporting Actress, 2019. Photo credit: Getty Images AsiaPac. Courtesy of Zimbio, 2019.

Magnolia Maymuru as Wak Wak and Guruwuk Mununggurr asYoung Gutjuk in High Ground. Photo credit: Madman Films. Courtesy of The Guardian, 2021.

The opportunities that Maymuru has had to represent not just Indigenous women, but all women of colour in the fashion and film industry has had an incredible effect on people all over the world. This is seen where her story was featured in a local Greek newspaper, and a community in Italy that had seen her modelling decided to educate students in their schools about Aboriginal culture in Australia (Sydney Morning Herald, 2016). Locally, Maymuru is doing her bit to support social justice for women and girls in Indigenous communities around the country as an ambassador for the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) project, which is led by the Australian Human Rights Commission (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2020). Ultimately, Maymuru’s goal is to provide recognition and representation for Indigenous women and girls from remote communities in Australian mainstream fashion.

At Yarn, our goal is to help drive and promote the development and longevity of the Indigenous fashion scene into a mainstream space. We are always on the lookout for fresh faces at Yarn to help Indigenous models get their foot in the door to the international fashion realm. It is exciting to see that more and more First Nations models are making it internationally, and providing recognition and representation for the younger generation.