Hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of likes on a social media app are impressive numbers by any standard.
Even more incredible is the fact, 23-year-old Michelle Chubb has racked up those numbers in just one year.
The Swampy Cree jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg first joined TikTok in January 2020.
Chubb gets emotional when talking about what the platform has meant to her.
Growing up, Chubb says she didn’t believe in herself, didn’t have high hopes for her future and believed others felt the same way.
She says joining TikTok has changed all of that.
Chubb, who has a cleft palate, says posting that first video did mean pushing away her fears.
“The first post was actually about my lip because a lot of people in my life have asked me about my lip and I wanted to make that video. It was just a funny video to test the waters of TikTok and then people liked that. And then I started showing my jingle dress and people loved that a lot more. So, I started showing more of the traditional life of Indigenous people,” says Chubb.
Some of those videos now have nearly 3 million views.
Chubb has nearly 340,000 followers on TikTok and her videos have more than 11.5 million likes.
Videos with Chubb in her regalia or doing beading tutorials garner a lot of attention, although sometimes that attention is negative with people telling her “they thought Native Americans were extinct.”
Now, with a much larger audience, she’s also much more careful about what she posts.
Chubb says the social media platform has helped her deal with her own trauma and experiences and gives her an opportunity to show others that obstacles haven’t stopped her from reaching for her goals.
People will often reach out to her and ask her about how to get and stay sober and how to connect with culture.
She credits her late mooshum with instilling a deep sense of pride in her culture.
Before he passed away, her mooshum would take her out on the land in northern Manitoba, to pow wows, and sweats.
Chubb says retaining that sense of culture can be hard living in the city and there is a stigma from people on the rez that people living in the city are not “native enough.”
Chubb hopes the massive platform she now has will turn into a modelling career.
Just a few years ago, people didn’t believe in her, now Chubb says they tell her to keep going and she hopes other youth continue to reach for the stars, too.