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

Alstrom heard an advertisement about a fashion modeling agency by chance on the radio. She decided to take fashion to her roots at a convention in Orlando, Florida, where hundreds of models and actors perform in front of agents from all over the country.

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

KNOM producer John Coe happened to cross paths with Cheri Alstrom while he was on vacation. Coe attended the same convention and encountered Alstrom, a fellow Alaskan, by sheer coincidence. Alstrom’s story has since been re-broadcast on radio stations around the state.

The crowd cheered wildly as Alstrom walked the runway. “They told me ‘go represent!’ I said, ‘yes, for my people!’ So that made me even more excited and happier. It was nothing I expected,” she said.

“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.

Alstrom won second place for best fashion model overall. A talent agent called her the very next day.

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