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 James Jones (@notoriouscree), a 34-year-old Indigenous creator from Edmonton, Alberta. He’s known on TikTok for hoop dancing, which captures your attention mid-scroll. Hoop dancing is an Indigenous healing dance, where each hoop represents honoring the circle of life; it is often performed at powwows and other cultural events. A video of him differentiating the style from hula hooping has been viewed over 5 million times. He has also done popular dance videos set to trending songs of the moment, such as this hoop dance set to the “Laxed (Siren Beat)” tune you’ve been hearing everywhere.
Jones, who is Cree, is a full-time speaker and performer; his main cultural artform is hoop dancing, but he also does grass dancing and fancy dancing as well. “I started out as a breakdancer when I was a youth, and transitioned to my traditional dances as I started to reconnect with my culture,” Jones tells Vogue. In 2019, he was even a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and he has also performed with the Indigenous EDM group A Tribe Called Red.
Since posting his very first TikTok on March 30 this year, Jones has amassed more than 713,000 followers on the app. “I started my TikTok account when the COVID-19 lockdown went into effect,” he says. “I wanted to be a comedian on the platform. I started making funny Indigenous humor videos at first, but soon realized people engaged much more with educational and cultural dance content from me.” Now, his page spreads awareness and education around his culture, and his dancing is especially positive and popular. A video of Jones explaining that “light-skinned Natives” and those who don’t speak traditional languages are still Indigenous has resonated with his audience, many of whom thanked him in the comments and related to the feeling of being inadequate. “I feel it’s an important message for all those struggling with identity as Indigenous people,” Jones says of the viral video, a favorite of his.
Below, we spoke to Jones about how he learned to dance, who designed his traditional regalia, and which of his TikTok videos are his favorite.
1. We love your hoop dancing videos. Why do you think this healing dance is needed at this moment in time?
“I wanted to share this healing dance because of all the stuff that has been going on in 2020. I wanted to dance for all those who needed positivity. That’s why we dance as hoop dancers. We dance for those who can’t dance, and we dance to heal. I always hope to educate and bring awareness in a good way.”
2. We also love this TikTok video explaining the link between long hair and Indigenous culture. Why is maintaining long braids important to you?
“Because I was teased and bullied when I was younger for having longer hair and looking different than the kids in my school. I wanted to make this video so other Indigenous boys can learn a bit about the meaning and strength we have in our hair as Indigenous peoples, and that they can wear it proudly.”
3. Your TikTok is focused on sharing about your culture. What does the Indigenous community look like on TikTok?
“The Indigenous community is amazing on the app. There are over 500 different tribes through North America with different languages, different perspectives, and beliefs. It’s awesome to connect with other tribes and collaborate.”
4. Tell us about the regalia you often wear in your videos.
“My regalia and beadwork are made by different people. Michelle Reed made my regalia, and Estrella McKenna made my beadwork. Both are my good friends. My regalia is quite new, I’ve had them both for one year now.”
5. Which TikTok of yours took the longest to create?
“The longest was the hoop dance flying one. I swear that took all day and my calves were burning by the end.”
6. What is the most special Indigenous-made piece in your closet?
“My white eagle feather. It was given to me by the Squamish tribe after a performance, and after I taught their youth some dancing. It was given to me in a special way, and It always reminds me to remember who I am, and to be humble on this journey.”