When we put the word out that we were taking part in the #amplifymelantedvoices campaign we had some beautiful creatives reach out with suggestions of amazing Aboriginal and Black creators / businesses / influencers they love, and it was like opening up an amazing world that our algorithms never lead us to. One of the messages that came to us was from Amber Mercy, a photographer who had a gorgeous cousin Shaz Mercy. We were in love with her beauty and heard she was an aspiring model and Bundjalung Woman, so we put together a shoot with her! It felt like the early days of Spell where we’d find a friend and create gorgeous pictures together. We spoke to Shaz about growing up in Gumbaynggirr country and her aspirations for the future.
Tell us how being a First Nation Woman feeds into your overall identity?
I am proud to be a First Nations Woman of Bundjalung and Githabul Descendant. I feel strong and proud to Identify and walk as a First Nations Woman.
You are a Bundjalung / Githabul Woman on Gumbaynggirr country – tell us about your family and how they got to be in Gumbaynggirr country? My Great Great Grandmother Evelyn Kay moved to Coffs Harbour with her husband who was working on the Southern breakwater construction in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. She was highly regarded amongst the community – Her life had lasting significance to both the Aboriginal and White communities in Coffs Harbour, the North Coast region and beyond. There is a picture of her at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus acknowledging her legacy and work.
What was growing up for you like? When I was younger I got to spend part of my childhood on land right on the beach my family has occupied for many generations. That was really adventurous and fun. I have a twin brother and we had lots of fun at the beach and with our cousins growing up.
Tell us about your aspirations to be a model, and a career in athletics? I have always been into modelling but have not had the platform or support to put too much energy into it. I have entered competitions in the past and been unsuccessful but this has not deterred me from still trying. I think that it is good for Aboriginal girls to grow up seeing people just like them in magazines, online and on television. I love my sport I would also love to pursue a career in coaching athletics if the opportunity ever popped up.
What is your connection to Spell, how did you feel wearing the clothes?
My cousin took some photos of me wearing Spell one cold afternoon and I loved the dresses instantly I wore (even though they were way too big on me). When I wear Spell I feel special! I feel comfortable and everything is such a vibe – I truly did not want to take the Spell clothes off when we finished the shoot.
What are your favourite parts about living in Gumbaynggirr country? The beaches are amazing but you can go out and be in the mountains and freshwater in just a short drive. The Aboriginal Community here is strong and there are some really good programs that run for the community here. I love to spend time with my family and enjoy my culture through dance with my cousins and Aunty.
There has been strong attention focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement recently – how has this affected you? It’s been really emotional few weeks watching everything come to light. I am sad that so much of history has been swept under the rug but it is empowering to see people take a stand.
What are your hopes coming out of this time? That people open their hearts and minds to making changes for the generations to come.
What else would you like share? Thank you to whole team at Spell who have been so kind, warm and welcoming during this experience. I hope to inspire other First Nations Women to give things a go in life.
With love to Shaz
Team Spell xx