It is increasingly common to hear the names of Mexicans achieving their greatest dreams, despite the discrimination that plagues the country. The story of the indigenous model Haatepah Clearbear is no exception. The face of this young man, also known as Raphael, has been featured by several fashion brands, and it was not until he appeared in ‘Vogue’ that he gained greater recognition.
However, before he achieved success in the modeling medium, everything seemed to be stacked against him, though nothing was enough to make him give it up.
The Story of How Haatepah Clearbear Became a Top Model
Along with his twin brother, Haatepah, of indigenous Mexican roots, grew up in the United States. It was thanks to one of their caregivers that he became interested in learning more about their origins, who descended from tribes such as the Kumeyaay and Chichimeca-Guamare. Everything was going well, until his relative died, and the twins were left under the care of another guardian, who made their lives miserable, offending and discriminating against them over and over again.
He would say racist things at the table, like “‘don’t become a drunken indio.’ My brother and I didn’t fight back until we reached a boiling point. And then we said, ‘We’re not going to take this kind of verbal abuse anymore,’ and we left for Los Angeles. We were homeless for quite a while,” he revealed in an interview with Fashionista magazine.
Indigenous People Are Not Extinct
When he turned 18, life smiled on him and his brother, meeting his biological family, which prompted him to shout to the world that indigenous people are not ‘extinct’ as many people claim.
“When I was 18, I met my biological family. Then I was able to identify the tribal background I have. It was a lot to handle. It’s a really sad story, but that story is also part of our resilience because we’re still here. A lot of people say, ‘All the Native people are gone. Everyone’s extinct,’ but no, we’re here to stay,” he recounted.
A Star Is Born
Clearbear was discovered on Instagram by casting director Daniel Peddle, who led to his involvement with various brands such as Ralph Lauren, Nike, and LuLuLemon. But it wasn’t until 2021 that the model shot to stardom after posing with Karen Vega for Vogue.
“I have Chichimeca blood. I feel it’s very important to represent it. Ever since the Spanish conquistadors, there have been a lot of people telling indigenous Mexicans that it’s bad to be indigenous.”
Proud of His Roots
Since he learned more about his Mexican indigenous origin, Raphael did nothing but be proud, the same message he has wanted to spread around the world since he considers, it a sector that has been forgotten and very vulnerable.
“It’s great to finally have a representation of our indigenous peoples. We don’t look in one direction; we are diverse. Having that representation is going to echo our voices to be heard in spaces where they are not normally heard. I hope that inspires creativity within our community, and also confidence, a sense of trust to be strong and hold our heads high.”
This story is not yet at an end, on the contrary, it has just begun, and rest assured that Haatepah Clearbear will continue to succeed and go further than it already is.
Story written in Spanish by Nayeli Párraga in Cultura Colectiva