TikTok is largely dominated by trending songs, dance challenges, and overall embracing creativity, but it’s not as well known for its fashion scene. That being said, a stylish community is forming on the app—and Vogue is here to find the most inspiring, and most stylish, creators.
This week’s must follow account is Shina Novalinga (@shinanova), a 22-year-old Inuk creator based in Montreal, Canada. By day, Novalinga is a college student studying business management, but on TikTok, she brings her Indigenous culture (and style) to the app. Indigenous creators such as James Jones and @the_land have indeed been gaining popularity on the app, using TikTok as a space to celebrate the beauty of Indigenous regalia and traditions. Novalinga does this as well, but primarily through videos of herself throat singing with her mother, Caroline, an art form she learned from her.
Throat singing is a style of music that is unique to Inuit people, though other tribes, such as Tuvan people, perform iterations of it as well. It involves two women who duet face-to-face, using their throats and deep breaths to create a hypnotizing harmony. Today, it’s a rare skill to hold, though artists such as Canadian Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq have brought it back into the mainstream. By posting videos on an app like TikTok, creators such as Novaligna are likely introducing it to a whole new audience.
Since posting her first TikTok in March, Novalinga has amassed over 985,000 followers on the app. “I originally started TikTok for fun, but it evolved when I started spreading awareness about my Indigenous culture,” says Novalinga. “I get inspired by other Indigenous creators, and a lot of my content ideas come naturally.” Novalinga’s special relationship with her mother is apparent on TikTok. She will also share videos of her mother braiding her hair or helping her get ready in the morning. On the fashion front, Novalinga will also proudly model pieces that are made by Caroline, including custom parkas with fur-lined hoods. (In Indigenous culture, every part of a hunted animal is used.) “The connection between my mother and I grows bigger as we throat sing together. It's always a beautiful moment for us,” she says. For a modern twist—this is TikTok after all—she’ll also put her own Indigenous twists on various viral trends on the app, adding her throat singing overtop trending songs, for instance.
Below, Novalinga talks how she learned to throat sing, what she loves about Inuk design, and what her favorite piece in her wardrobe is.
1. Your TikTok is focused on sharing about your culture. Why is it important for you to use the platform to educate?
It's important for me to educate others on my platform because not a lot of people know about our history, or know about the Inuit culture. It has always been brushed off. My goal is to change that and not be afraid to speak about it.
2. What are the favorite parts of your Inuk culture?
My favorite parts are the beauty of my Inuit culture and how alive it is still today. Many of our practices such as throat singing, hunting, sewing, our values, and way of thinking are still very much here and that's something I'm very proud of.
3. When did you start throat singing? How did you learn?
[My mother] has always made me comfortable when learning how to throat sing. It takes time, practice, and mistakes. She always pushed me to keep going and encouraged me to learn. Throat singing is important in our culture because it had almost been a lost tradition due to missionaries. We are now taking it back and passing it down to keep it alive. Throat singing allows us to connect with the sound of nature and the animals. It also allows us to connect with our ancestors, our soul and our voice. The connection between my mother and I grows bigger as we throat sing together. It's always a beautiful moment for us.
4. Tell us about the different coats and Indigenous items you wear in your TikToks—they are beautiful!
Thank you so much! My mother handmakes our parkas for the winter. Sewing is a big part of our culture. We have handmade paaluk (mittens), which is also made with animal fur. We have handmade nasaks (hats), kamiks (Inuit boots), and more. What's different about our clothes is that it is made for the cold weather in the north. The weather can go as cold as -30 degrees [Celcius], so it's important for us to dress warmly!
5. Tell us about this parka your mother handmade; how long did it take?
She said it can take her a full day, but with breaks, it takes her less than a week. It's special because it's handmade with love and made with good thoughts. It is also a passed down tradition, it's rare and very unique. My mother always puts her own twist in her designs and makes our parkas one-of-a-kind. It's really warm and has a very warm fox fur sewed on it. I am very grateful for what she provides for us.
6. What is the most special indigenous-made piece in your closet?
My favorite piece would be my parka of course, and my earrings that my mother made with seal skin!
7. I love that you put Indigenous twists on TiKTok trends. Do you think there needs to be more Native representation on TikTok?
Yes, there needs to be more Native representation because for many years, Indigenous culture was misrepresented and forgotten. We are now using our voices on the platform and I think that's beautiful, to be able to find a community that stands with each other. Everyone should embrace their culture and not feel scared or afraid to spread awareness.
8. What is your favorite TikTok you've ever made? And what took the longest?
My favorite TikTok videos are with my mother. I absolutely love throat singing with her and to be able to share it. The longest video to make was the one about the Residential School system, it took me about 3 hours to make.