Supermodel Uses Sacred Headdress to Get Totally Stoked for Coachella


Brazilian Victoria's Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio has courted controversy with an Instagram photo of herself wearing a massive feather headdress. 

The caption on the photo reads "Becoming more inspired for @coachella with this amazing Native American headpiece @jacquieaiche #feathers #festival #coachella #foreveronvacation #inspiration #cocar "

RELATED: Heidi Klum Touts Indian-Themed Shoot for Germany's Next Top Model

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a music festival that takes place this weekend and next in Indio, California, is the biggest event of its kind. Native culture-watchers have also come to know it as ground zero of appropriation thanks to attendees' fondness for Native headdress -- or "hipster headdress." Blogger Adrienne Keene brought up the trend in 2010 in a post titled "The Hipster Headdress Abounds at Coachella", which was cited the following year in a thread on the Coachella discussion board: "Hipsters In Headdresses; Don't Be That Guy".

It's also interesting to note that one might expect Ambrosio, as a Victoria's Secret model, to be more sensitive -- she was one of the models who took the stage for the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion show in which Karlie Kloss wore a controversial feather headdress. Native protests ensued, and Kloss's turn on the catwalk in faux regalia was ultimately edited out of the TV broadcast.

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XanAddams's picture
Submitted by XanAddams on
Please, please can someone send me the money to go. All I need is some light clothes, little bit of food and a baseball bat. I will reclaim ever single warbonnet in one night, I guarantee it.

Aimee Sanders
Aimee Sanders
Submitted by Aimee Sanders on
I woke up last night at 3am because it was too hot to sleep, here in Equatorial Africa... and this article came into my thoughts as the mosquitoes buzzed around my ears. I'm all for cultural sensitivity, and don't mean to offend anyone, but I also see this as a bit over-reactive, especially the comment from XanAddams: "Please, please can someone send me the money to go. All I need is some light clothes, little bit of food and a baseball bat. I will reclaim ever single warbonnet in one night, I guarantee it." Really? Threats of violence over someone who wrote such positive things? "Becoming more inspired for @coachella with this amazing Native American headpiece" She's not dancing around and doing a pantomime of a Pow Wow, she is becoming inspired by something that is amazing and beautiful. My thoughts: 1. Brazilians often wear feathered headdresses for Carnivale, perhaps she saw this as appropriate because of the link (albeit distant) to her own culture. Or maybe, as a model who is used to wearing many different styles of beautiful things from all over the world, she only considered its aesthetic and not its deeper meaning. At any rate, I don't think she was being mean-spirited or intending to mock Native culture. 2. I love dressing up, and not just for Halloween. On a normal day at home or going for a night out with friends, I have worn a kimono, a Chinese shantung silk coat, vintage Indian sarees, African wax-print clothing, a beaded Moroccan bou-bou and slippers, a Middle Eastern belly dancer outfit, dressed as a gypsy, adorned myself with turquoise Native jewelry, all because, and only because, I thought these things were beautiful. No malicious intentions whatsoever. I've also been known to go out wearing butterfly wings from time to time, or dress up like an Olympic figure skater to go skate on the pond below our house, and I mean no disrespect to them either... It is all a reflection of who I am, not as someone locked into a specific culture or heritage, but as a creative, outside-the-box individual. I know my roots, but they are in the far-flung past, and mainstream American Walmart and shopping mall style just doesn't do it for me. So a global culture is what I embrace. I believe there are many who feel the same as I do. 3. My husband-to-be is English, not Scottish, but he's going to wear a kilt to our wedding anyways because he loves wearing a kilt and I think he looks great in one. Should he be threatened with violence by a Scotsman for doing so? 4. What about people who get Maori-style tattoos who haven't ever even been to New Zealand? Should they be denounced or beaten with baseball bats for their insensitivity? 5. What about the college kids who fly Tibetan prayer flags in their dorm rooms? Or kids who have piñatas at their birthday parties? Or the African kids who dress like American rap stars? Or those (like me) who decorate their homes with artwork and masks from their travels abroad? We're all adopting something we admire from another culture. These days, we live in a huge, global melting pot, and I think this phenomenon is only going to become more prevalent. 6. As a young girl, my sister and I, along with our mother, were members of the YMCA's Indian Maidens program, which was like Girl Scouts but involved both moms and daughters- a totally positive, arts and crafts and service-oriented program that encouraged good values and mother-daughter bonding. This was in the early 80s, before cultural sensitivity became a widespread cause, and I imagine the program is now defunct or has changed its name for that very reason. At every meeting, I wore a headband with two faux "eagle" feathers and a fringed brown corduroy vest with hand-colored iron-on rainbow patches that I'd made. I even walked in the Parada del Sol in this outfit, and I loved myself in it. Did that make me an ignorant, culturally insensitive "Cherokee Princess Band Wagon" jerk with no culture of my own? Or does it mean that I was a little girl who liked to play dress up... ...and does it make a difference that my maternal great-great grandmother was 100% Sioux, and lived on the reservation in South Dakota? I acknowledge that there have been - and continue to be - abuses of the sacred articles and iconographies of many indigenous cultures, but I still think that it shouldn't be forbidden for those outside the culture to celebrate their beauty. Indeed, imitation is a form of compliment. And I see it as somewhat full-circle from the days when Navajo children were torn from their homes to be sent to the Phoenix Indian School and taught that their culture was abhorrent and something to be erased and forgotten. There is a difference between mocking a culture and embracing its beauty. Intention is key. I appreciate and respect your points-of-view (save that of XanAddams; violence is unacceptable to me for any reason), but also wanted to speak about the nuance that can exist between acceptance and outraged condemnation. Peace to you all. We need more of it in this world.

Aimee Sanders
Aimee Sanders
Submitted by Aimee Sanders on
When I clicked "Post", this came up: "Your comment has been queued for review by site administrators and will be published after approval." So this means that threats of violence are acceptable if they support the editorial point-of-view? I wonder if my post will be accepted in spite of its questioning point-of-view?