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Daunnette Moniz-Reyome

Daunnette Moniz-Reyome, 16, a student at Walthill High School, is shown in the school gym earlier this month. The  member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has spoken out on Native issues and is also a professional model.

WALTHILL — The moment we're called to do something important often catches us by surprise, many times in a way we least expect.

For Daunnette Moniz-Reyome, it was a photo shoot for Teen Vogue magazine in 2016, when she was 13 years old.

Living in Atlanta at the time, Moniz-Reyome had already been modeling since age 11 by the time she was chosen for a May 2016 magazine feature on cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation. Chosen as the Native model for the shoot, Moniz-Reyome was excited to appear in the magazine.

"First I thought it was a photo shoot; after that they wanted to do an interview," she said.

Magazine editors wanted Moniz-Reyome to share what she believed her culture used to be and where it's at today.

It was a question similar to others Moniz-Reyome had discussed many times at the dinner table with her mother and stepfather, Launa and Rodney Reyome. Moniz-Reyome shared her feelings for the interview, and her comments accompanied the photos in the magazine. Once it was published, Moniz-Reyome heard a lot of positive feedback.

"Once it came out, that's where I got my platform," Moniz-Reyome said. "It was at that interview that I realized what my culture really meant to me."

Now 16, the Walthill High School junior continues to think about her culture and how she can use the visibility provided by her modeling career to inspire others to take pride in their heritage.

"Every opportunity brings more experience, more viewers, more people to hear my message," she said. "At first, it was just I wanted to help my people. But now it's I want to help anybody that I can."

As part of the Winnebago Tribe, Moniz-Reyome has had many opportunities to share that message.

In October 2017, she spoke at the United Nations International Day of the Girl event in New York. That speaking engagement arose from contacts she'd made while creating a video series for Teen Vogue in which she and five other Native girls discussed a variety of topics. One of the videos, "Misconceptions about Native Americans," has been viewed on YouTube hundreds of thousands of times.

She's quoted in "The Feminine Revolution," a book published last fall, and earlier this month her essay titled "What is it to you being a 15-year-old Native American girl in 2018" was published in the Omaha World-Herald after her writing impressed Joe Starita, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor and author of books about Chief Standing Bear and Susan La Flesche Picotte, an Omaha Indian who was the country's first Native doctor.

Those opportunities have led Moniz-Reyome to reconsider her career path. She enjoys modeling, but she's found that giving voice to Native issues is even more rewarding.

"At first I thought I was going to be a model, then I found out what meant a lot to me," she said. "I do want to continue modeling, and I do want to continue speaking, but I will choose speaking over modeling if I have to."

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After moving back to Walthill last year, the modeling work has slowed a little, but Moniz-Reyome lives the busy life of a high school teenager who plays basketball. She was also on the volleyball team and will run track this spring. She's also a cheerleader and is involved in drama and speech. She hopes to attend Dartmouth University and major in Native studies.

Using her platform and that education, Moniz-Reyome said she wants to help Natives gain "the respect that I feel we deserve. To get Native Americans our seat back at the table, to be able to speak our opinions and not being shut out because of who we are."

She hopes that by speaking out at her young age, she will give others the strength to speak up and not fear what others might think of them.

"When my journey and this walk of life is done, I want to be an inspiration not only for little girls from where I'm from, but for everyone," she said.

Moniz-Reyome thinks back to that feature in Teen Vogue. If the photo shoot hadn't included that interview about her culture, none of the speaking opportunities she's had since then would have happened.

She probably wouldn't have found her voice.

"I don't think I would have had the courage to do it," she said.

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