Celilo Miles, wild firefighter from the Nez Perce tribe, had all but given up on her modeling dream when she received an Instagram message from a casting director asking her to apply for a mysterious modeling gig.
Miles had been at home on the tribe’s reservation in Lapwai, in north-central Idaho, for two years. She had given up modeling in New York, where she had lived for nearly four years. Miles had no idea that returning home would open the door to the biggest fashion campaign of her career.
Months later, after sending an audition tape, Miles learned that she would be modeling for lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret in its Love Cloud campaign.
The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day, marks Victoria’s Secret’s latest effort to expand its size range and change its marketing, Vogue reported.
“Love Cloud Collection is a major moment in the evolution of the brand,” Raúl Martinez, Victoria’s Secret Chief Creative Director, said in a press release. “From the cast of incredible women who bring the collection to life, to the incredible inclusive spirit on set, this campaign is an important part of the new Victoria’s Secret normal we are creating.”
Victoria’s Secret flew Miles, who is half-Nez Perce, and dozens of other women to Los Angeles for three days to shoot for the campaign.
The women joined a handful of famous models for the campaign, but most were lesser-known “inspiring women around the world,” Vogue said.
“They had women from all walks of life,” Miles, 27, said on a Zoom call. “It wasn’t just the size. There were disabled women and pregnant women, black and Hispanic women, and I was there. It was nice to see people from different backgrounds.
At 14, Miles’ agent told him to lose weight
The Victoria’s Secret Love Cloud campaign was one of the first times Miles saw Indigenous women in the modeling industry.
While she was growing up, and in 2017 when she moved to New York to model full-time, “there were hardly any native models,” Miles said.
Miles was first spotted as a model when she was 12 years old. She and her mother attended a scouting event in Moscow. From there, the scouts told him to go to the next event in Seattle.
“At the scouting event, I got the most calls,” Miles said.
She had never thought of modeling before. Miles used to spend his time playing basketball, fishing or picking blueberries with his family in the rural area where they lived.
When Miles was 14, she signed on to work with an agent. She was immediately told to lose weight, she said.
“I was 14,” she said. “It sent me on all this roller coaster of not really being comfortable in my own body and wanting to lose more weight, even though I was thin. I’m almost 6 feet so I never worried about the weight until I started modeling. It was discouraging.
After graduating, Miles completed an internship with the Nez Percé Tribe Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Program. She was a trainee in the department and followed the other employees. After that, Miles became a forest firefighter for the tribe.
Miles said becoming a wildland firefighter felt like a calling. She joined the crew in 2016.
“I had a brother and two cousins on the team,” Miles said. “The cousins and I were all girls, so it was so much fun.”
Miles moves to New York with $1,000
After a year, Miles again felt the need to become a model. She knew she couldn’t be a model in Lapwai, so she moved to New York with $1,000 in her savings account.
For the first six months, she slept on a bunk bed in an Airbnb. Miles was training and dieting constantly.
“I had no connections and no money, and people assumed I had everything because I was pretty,” Miles said.
But she was constantly posing for jobs, she said, and industry executives told her at every audition that she “had potential,” but she never saw that potential materialize. .
Not only was Miles nearly unemployed, but she was out of touch with her culture. Miles remembers not being able to find an Indian Health Service clinic, where she used to go to the doctor.
“I looked for tribal community spaces, but they’re really rare in New York City,” she said.
Miles found other Native Americans who helped her feel a sense of belonging to the community, but she did not feel as strong a connection with them as she had felt in Idaho with members other Pacific Northwest tribes.
“I think people have this perception that all Aboriginal people the people are the same,” Miles said. “The geographical regions are different and our outlook is so different, from east to west and from north to south. We have one thing in common, and that is our relationship with the land.
Disaster strikes the Miles family
In August 2019, Miles’ younger brother, AJ, died of a fentanyl overdose. He was 23 years old.
She was numb.
“I don’t remember anything that happened,” Miles said. “I couldn’t look for a job, I had nothing left to give.”
National, Native American, and Alaska Native communities have been disproportionately affected by drug and opioid overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The opioid crisis, it affects generations,” Miles said.
A few months later, Miles decided she needed to be back with her family and gave up modeling, at least for now.
“To grieve, I had to be with my family,” she said. “Grieving meant going to the mountains, and that’s why I went back to firefighting. I’m stronger on land and when I’m in my homeland.
She went back to firefighting and threw herself into this. She will be in her fourth fire season this summer, her third on the fire team.
Miles said if the Victoria’s Secret campaign gave her more modeling opportunities, she would welcome them.
When Miles got the call for Victoria’s Secret, they told him to bring items from his career. She packed her fire helmet, books and a pair of moccasins.
Miles is seen on the Victoria’s Secret website and in online photo and video ads alongside dozens of other women, posing with her Nez Perce Tribe fire helmet by her side.
“I will be wearing my bra on the line of fire this summer,” Miles wrote in a Facebook post.