Style statements: Edmonton's Amazing Racers are wearing what they believe

James Makokis and Anthony Johnson's red skirts flapped and bounced as they ran up the stairs of the Old Strathcona Antique Mall in Tuesday's episode of Amazing Race Canada

The skirts are a detail that some viewers may have missed, but the couple had special reasons for wearing the outfit in the Edmonton-based episode.

Before they even started the race across Canada, the couple decided to address important issues through their clothing on the show. 

"Signing up for the Amazing Race [Canada], the only reason we did it is to represent Indigenous people but to also talk about some of the issues that all humans need to be talking about," said Johnson on Wednesday. 

Johnson and Makokis make up one of 10 teams competing in the latest season of the reality TV competition.

In the three episodes that have aired, the couple have worn clothing with an underlying message in each episode. 

Craig Ryan/CBC

Red skirts

The red skirts with rainbow ribbons, handmade by Johnson, were worn on the third leg of the race to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as to represent transgender and two-spirit people, the team said. 

The red skirts were inspired by the work of artist Jaime Black and The REDress Project, described by Black as an "esthetic response to the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada."

In case viewers missed the signficance of the red skirts, Johnson wore a bandana that says "MMIW."

CTV

The rainbow ribbons sewn onto the flowy skirts were included to pay homage to transgender and two-spirit people. 

Both Makokis and Johnson identify as two-spirit, a term that describes gender and sexual diversity in Indigenous communities.

It's also important for Makokis, who helps many patients through gender transitioning as a family physician, that transgender and two-spirit individuals are recognized nationally on the team's clothing.

'Water is life'

In the second episode, Makokis and Johnson wore blue T-shirts that said: "Water is life." 

Craig Ryan/CBC

"For us, coming from an Indigenous perspective, water is something we talk about on a regular basis. It's part of our ceremonial culture, it's part of our spiritual ethos, it's part of our philosophical basis for law," Johnson said.  

"It's so important to many Indigenous communities looking to protect their territories," Makokis added. 

'Don't give up'

The couple's team name, Team Ahkameyimok  a word from the Plains Cree language that means "keep going" or "don't give up" — speaks to their strategy in the game, Makokis said. 

The couple has high hopes of winning the grand prize: a trip around the world, $250,000 and two vehicles. 

When viewers see the show, I hope that they see this show and see what we're wearing, they don't think it's a gimmick, because it's not. - Anthony Johnson, Amazing Race Canada competitor

It's still early in the competition but the team plans to keep on sharing messages on their clothing until they are eliminated or win. 

"Coming onto a national television show, to not represent where I am from and highlight the issues important to me is almost like an alien concept," Johnston said. 

Craig Ryan/CBC

Their passion has already influenced others, including staff at the Old Strathcona Antique Mall. 

The business, which was featured in Tuesday's episode, plans to bring the competitors back to the store to speak to their staff about LGBTQ topics.

"The big part of what they do is work with the two-spirit community and we have a connection with that as well, since my sister is two-spirit, some of our staff are and so are some of our vendors," said co-owner Bobbi Weibel. 

The business will soon sell T-shirts as part of Team Ahkameyimok's fundraiser to build a cultural healing centre in Kehewin Cree Nation north of Edmonton.

The couple both work in Kehewin, Makokis as a doctor and Johnson as a project co-ordinator, so the project has a special meaning to them. 

The pair hope they can inspire people to donate to their cause but also want to motivate people to care about important issues.

"I hope that when they see this show and see what we're wearing, they don't think it's a gimmick, because it's not. It's reality television but for me, it's about bringing reality to reality television," said Johnson. 

"When we're wearing a skirt ... when we're representing rainbows, it's not about being ostentatious or outlandish. It's about bringing awareness and perspective in a national platform to people in their living rooms."