From New York's fashion scene to social work in the North: Inuvialuit model looks homeward

·2 min read

It's been a whirlwind couple of years for Willow Allen.

The 22-year-old Inuvialuit woman, originally from Inuvik, N.W.T., launched an unexpected modelling career a couple of years ago after an agency spotted her on social media.

Now, after travelling the world and modelling for heavy-hitters such as Canada Goose, New Balance, Sony and Prada, she's taken a step back to focus on her studies.

Allen's going to school in Saskatchewan, with the goal of following her mother's footsteps into a career in social work. She hopes to work in the fields of mental health and addiction, with a focus on Indigenous people.

"That is a culture that I really understand, and where I feel I would do the most meaningful work," she said.

Modelling, however, has been "an amazing experience," she says — and she's not giving it up entirely. She is still represented by Mode Models, the same agency that signed her a couple of years ago, and says she'll take jobs "here and there," particularly if they're in Canada.

Submitted by Willow Allen
Submitted by Willow Allen

A couple of years ago, she went to live and work in Singapore, and last year she spent three months in New York "just to kind of build a name for myself" there.

"I got to work with a lot of amazing people, and ended up by the end of it booking a job for Louboutin, which is a very big deal," she said.

She also appeared in a music video for Canadian singer Tyler Shaw's When You're Home, filmed in Toronto.

"I had never been in a music video and I thought it would be a really cool experience," she said.

"Shooting it, it was just kind of a lot of 'act natural.' And Tyler was a very friendly guy, so a lot of the scenes where we're having laughing conversations and stuff, they're kind of shooting us, what felt kind of like real life conversations."

Things have slowed down a bit because of the pandemic, she says, and that's why she's decided to focus more on her studies right now. She's finished two years in her degree program, and is going into her third.

She also hopes to return to Inuvik again soon, to see her family and get some work experience.

"I hope to come back for the summer and work either in the field of social services or mental health and addictions, again, like I've been doing the last few years," she said.

Submitted by Willow Allen
Submitted by Willow Allen