Zaya got her start in fashion when she was just 17, after she moved to São Paulo to pursue modeling. There, she was quickly signed by Ford and became the agency’s first Indigenous face. “That was history, because I didn’t just start to get into fashion—I started consulting with clients and explaining to them that we want more [Indigenous] representation,” says Zaya. “We don’t want stereotypes. We want people with real stories and identities.”
Since then, Zaya has signed with CAA, and she’s modeled for brands such as Ugg and Gucci Westman. She was also a front-row fixture during fashion month and recently starred in the film Postcard From Earth, directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Regardless of who she’s worked with, Zaya has aimed to bring her Indigenous experiences and stories to the forefront of all her projects. She’s also intentional about who she collaborates with. “I don’t want to work with [a fast fashion brand],” says Zaya. “But if they come to me and say they want help to change their brand, then I want to be a part of that.” On the side, Zaya serves as an advisor to The Slow Factory and the United Nations, where she hopes to spread awareness about her Indigenous culture and how her people’s cultural teachings can help combat climate change. “One of my goals is [to make sure] Indigenous people are included in decision-making,” says Zaya. “I believe that there’s [no earth] without us anymore. We know sustainable ways of living, and we are not different from nature—we are the same thing.”
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