Making a Scene: Michaella Shannon Creates Indigenous Representation on Screen
"I like to put my bare feet to the earth just to reground myself," explained model, actress, TV host and writer Michaella Shannon. She keeps her feet on the ground while she reaches for the stars in her career. Shannon is from Frog Lake First Nation, in Northern Alberta but she grew up in Saskatchewan.
Shannon hosted a show on APTN called The Other Side, which is about paranormal activity from a First Nations perspective and has a personal blog called Walk With Me. She got to this point after her mom put her in modeling and self esteem classes in Saskatoon with a local modeling agency. In her small white town called Biggar, Saskatchewan, she experienced racism and bullying but enjoyed her modeling classes where she could experiment with her appearance.
The end of the course brought an opportunity for Shannon to audition for a TV series called Rabbit Fall, which was a drama series on APTN. She got the part and loved it. Since then Shannon’s attended Netflix Diversity of Voices program which included attending Banff World Media Film Festival to pitch a television series at an event where industry professionals are looking for Indigenous content. She’s working on bringing two more series to life and she moved all the way to Toronto to create more career opportunities.
Reflecting on her experience when she made a smaller move, from Biggar to Saskatoon to finish high school, she wished she had known more about city life and all the temptations and distractions. The access to alcohol and negative people made her first stay in the city a short one. She came home for a short while to get herself resituated and returned to the city with more experience.
In university, she found herself needing to get out of an abusive relationship and with a new career path in front of her, so she dropped out of university and moved to Alberta. Her schooling had been in Aboriginal justice but her arts career was blooming so she made a big change. She’s contemplating returning to her studies on a part-time basis and that’s why her advice to youth is "school will always be there and not to beat yourself up if you have to take a break and come back because people don't expect you to know what you want to do when you're 18 years old."
If she could give any advice to her younger self it would be, “Try not to care so much. When I was younger, I cared a lot about what other people think and other people's opinions often influenced my decisions and my choices. If I could go back, I really wish I would have stopped caring a lot earlier because once you do, you get so much further. A lot of that comes with building confidence and learning to love yourself and practicing self care. Once you love yourself and you're confident in yourself, no one else can take that away from you.”
No stranger to challenging times, Shannon has found ways to keep her mental health in check during the pandemic. With the halt of tv production, she found herself overwhelmed with anxiety. She turned to her culture and spirituality to stay grounded, returned home to Saskatchewan to spend time with family and in nature. Shannon puts pen to paper to record her achievements and dreams for the future, trying to stay focused on creating momentum.
“It's so easy to just fall into a laziness right now and not do anything, so to just always try to keep yourself inspired and motivated by creating new goals for yourself and journaling, I do a lot of writing on my blog, which is kind of similar to a journal, but is very open for anyone to read. I have a healer and I have a counselor. I have somebody to talk to, and I can't stress the importance of having somebody to talk to,” she advised.
Shannon finds inspiration from traveling, music and being out in nature. “I love just going to sit in the forest and sit with the trees and write or read a book. It really helps clear my mind and it grounds me. It allows for me to have that inspiration running through me again, just to get out of the big city, and stay connected to the land.
With her feet on the ground and her career’s star rising, Michaella Shannon, Eagle Feather Flies with the Wind One More Time, is creating representation on screen for Indigenous people. Bringing together her traditional values and love of new media, she remembers where she came from while looking to where she longs to go.
Thanks to Alison Tedford for authoring this article.
April 2022 Updates: Michaelle now works with CTV Regina as an associate producer and is on a journey to become an anchor with Bell Media.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.