Fashion show, community supporters promote well-being

MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah

The Iiná Bíhoo’aah Body Positivity Fashion Show collaborated with six Utah Diné fashion designers to promote local businesses and health.

“This fashion show was a fabulous way to visually showcase the talent we have locally and where we can invest our dollars,” said Sahar Khadjenoury, Iiná Bíhoo’aah youth coordinator.

Iiná Bíhoo’aah, meaning “essence of life/learning of life,” is a Utah Navajo Health System program that supports youth and young adults by providing therapy counseling, case management, peer support services, education support, supported employment, and access to a traditional healer.

An August 2018 Healthy Transitions grant awarded by the Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funds the opportunities.

Navajo Times | Crystal Ashike
The Iiná Bíhoo’aah program youth council, which is under the Utah Navajo Health System, sought out models from the Utah Navajo area to model at the Body Positivity Fashion show in Monument Valley, Utah, on Thursday, June 1. Kassidy Lee, 18, looks in the mirror and fixes her hair. Lee thought the fashion show would be a great way opportunity to add to her portfolio.

The program encourages youth and young adults by promoting self-advocacy, well-being, and health transition through different community outreach, even establishing a youth council.

The fashion show was a way for a group of young Iiná Bíhoo’aah interns to go out into the local community and seek out designers of clothing, jewelry, handbags and models from the Utah Navajo area.

“But really, going above and beyond to find ways to keep money within the community,” Khadjenoury said.

As revealed by research, poverty, violent victimization, substance abuse, historical trauma and lack of mental health care are factors associated with mental health concerns.

Data suggests Native American and Alaska Native youth and adults have higher rates of mental health problems compared to other Americans, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s 2017 report.

For example, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Native Americans and Alaska Natives between ages 10 to 34 in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Suicide prevention is one of the services the Iiná Bíhoo’aah program offers.

Despite the disturbing numbers, the program aims to impact the confidence of young interns by collaborating with communities, small businesses, and artists to organize an outdoor fashion show.

Navajo Times | Crystal Ashike
Mia Peshlakai, an Iiná Bíhoo’aah intern, model, and a markup artist, applies eyelash extensions to Esperanza Lee, 18, for the Iiná Bíhoo’aah Body Positivity fashion in Monument Valley, Utah on Thursday, July 1.

“It means a lot to where it can bring good body positivity as well and to bring out the good, like lifting the spiritual confidence into young Natives,” said Mia Peshlakai, an Iiná Bíhoo’aah intern, model and makeup artist.

“And it is good for mental health as well and to bring that into people,” she said, “so they can uplift their spirits.”

Uplifting spirits and creating a healthy lifestyle through apparel is Underrated Athletics’ intention. It supports the local community and is one of the small businesses that showed its products at the fashion show using local models.

The products range from pullover hoodies, shirts, backpacks and shorts to accessories, all designed to promote physical health and spiritual and emotional well-being.

Other designers and small businesses included in the show were We Are Navajo by Pfwann Eskee; Sheena Harvey by Sheena Harvey; Neon Nativez by Kreig Benally; Jewelry by The Eldridge Sisters; Bernie Boss by Bernice Holly; Indigenous Couture by Sahar Khadjenoury; Jewelry by Her Name is Tall Feather; and Ashley Tabaaha (Tábąąhá in Navajo) by Valerie Ashley.

The Iiná Bíhoo’aah Body Positivity Fashion show captured beautiful talent from designers to models.

The landscape enhanced the show and brought a strong cultural connection that widened the perspective of positive body image, supporting local talent and mental health.


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