Staying Healthy In A Viral World: Michelle Chubb on Indigenizing TikTok
Many people know Michelle Chubb from TikTok, but she’s really from Winnipeg. A celebrated Indigenous TikTok personality, Chubb is from Winnipeg Bunibonibee Cree Nation (Oxford House), an isolated community ten hours from Winninpeg.
Chubb’s mother is from Cross Lake but she herself grew up in Winnipeg, in St. Norbert, in the south end. She found the transition from Rez life to City life tough, noticing how people looked at her differently because she looks different. After graduation and a lifetime of isolation, Michelle found she bloomed socially. She was looking for community but got lost along the way.
I was just trying to find my character and what to do. I fell into drugs and alcohol. I fell into the wrong crowd. I lost myself and I found myself again by reconnecting with the culture and I am a year sober from alcohol and drugs.
As she got sober, Chubb learned, “You’ve got to figure out your own things on your own, what you want to do in your life, because it's your life and your story.” She shares her story on TikTok with her audience, but it’s not a platform she always took seriously.
She watched TikTok videos on Youtube with her boyfriend and found them entertaining. Later, she decided she wanted to try something new. After her attempts to go to university at U of M for engineering didn’t work out, she was eager for change.
A few months after starting her TikTok, it was a success. She started getting more gaining more and more followers each day. People were now following her, but she was thinking about who she followed as a younger person to find her own way.
Chubb was introduced to ceremony and powows by her grandparents. Her grandfather later passed away and then her mother shared culture with her too. Wanting to finish her Sundance years, Chubb’s mom brought her along. Her family connected her with culture and it’s helped her on her way to TikTok stardom and in navigating everyday life, making mistakes but finding her way back.
She took a gap year after she tried out university, moving to Cross Lake to live with her grandmother. Unfortunately, she fell in with the wrong crowd and found her life was spiraling. While at times she struggled with finding positive connections in “the real world”, she’s carved out a place for herself where she can share her culture online.
She struggled through the ins and outs of the technical end of TikTok, and she’s glad she did. She had a vision for her online presence that was around giving back.
I wanted to help out my younger self, if that makes sense. I wanted to help others because I had trouble when I was younger. I want to be there for those youth also who are having trouble and are lost.
She records messages for her audience all the time, but she has a message to students leaving home community so they don’t feel so alone and overwhelmed by the culture shock of coming to a big city:
My old friends had trouble adapting to the City life. They had trouble with loneliness. You’ve just got to stick through it. Not everything is going to stay the same. You've got to embrace the difference and just stick with it, persevere through the hard challenges and you'll get there.
City life has created challenges Chubb has had to overcome. “I experienced a lot of racism, obviously. In City life, you can see it, but you just choose not to do anything about it because you're scared for yourself. Racism is a big factor, especially with the Rez life too, and not being too Rez or not growing up in the Rez, you're looked at differently.”
Between racism and lateral violence, Chubb has navigated struggles in the world at large. She faces problems on TikTok too. She shares about those, saying, “There will be a lot of comments, just stupid questions or plain racism and a bunch of ignorance, but I just choose to ignore it because not everyone will have an open mind, not everyone is willing to accept what you say. So you can only just grasp the eyes that you can catch.”
Looking back, she wishes she could say to her younger self not to take life too serious, not to overthink things and to accept that not everyone is going to like you. She’s come a long way, but like anyone, she has to work to keep her mental health in check during challenging times.
I keep myself busy. You've got to keep your mind busy. You can't just keep thinking about bad thoughts. You've got to get rid of that negative energy. I've been going back to working out again.
While she’s inspired by the past and culture of her community, Michelle Chubb is focussed on building in a way that’s forward-looking. She says, “I want to see a better future for the native community and myself and just a better future in general.”
In a digital world that can sometimes feel manufactured and contrived, her message is one that values authenticity, sharing“I would like to say to everyone to stay true to themselves.”
Michelle Chubb is an inspiring young woman focused on unapologetically being herself, staying sober and connected to culture, and being part of a healthy community in a viral world. While her success is reflected in followers, it’s really reflected in the strength of her community and her confidence in sharing who she is with a world that didn’t always understand her. Like the content she creates, Michelle Chubb’s journey is a story worth sharing.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for writing this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
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.