While you might recognize Taylor White from her seductive selfies on social media, there's far more to her than killer curves or beautiful ink. Taylor has an unbelievable story, going from a teenager living on a small reservation in Washington to a world famous tattoo model in just a few short years. We sat down with the now Los Angeles based model to learn a bit more about her unconventional upbringing and the inspiring reason she's paying a visit to her tribe.
What was your upbringing like?
My upbringing is kind of crazy. I come from a really small reservation in Washington and my parents chose drugs instead of their children. My sisters and I ended up in foster care and we bounced around between homes. I was a young rebel, I ran away a lot and ended up going to juvie because there wasn't a lot of placement within the tribe.
What did you do once you became an adult?
I turned myself around at one point. I was seventeen and I got myself into counseling, back into school, got a guardian ad litem and had my cases dismissed. By the time I was nineteen, I was living in a little studio apartment in a whole different area of Washington and working two jobs, six days a week.
How did you become involved with tattoo modeling?
One day, I woke up so numb and unable to feel anything. I was depressed and physically couldn't feel my body. I remember seeing my Auntie go to the tattoo shop and she told me that going through a tattoo appointment was like a form of therapy. I called the tattoo shop and asked if they had any open availability. I just went in there and kind of kept going. As far as the modeling aspect, I got a random email from a photographer saying they had a studio and wanted me to come out to shoot. I hit up his model references and had my friend come with me, then I started taking pictures and it didn't stop after that. I kept taking pictures with him and people started reposting my stuff. I started getting hit up for pictures by a bunch of random people and my following started growing.
Take us through your tattoo collections and what inspired these pieces?
I feel like my most significant piece, the one people recognize is my sternum tattoo. People always say it's an eagle but no, it's a thunder bird. There's a story where the thunder bird would go to the Puget Sound and take the orca whale as food back to its nest. But somehow, the orca would always find its way back to the Puget Sound because they live in pods their whole life and never leave their family. To me, the thunder bird is a reminder of all the struggles that are going to try to take my focus and not bring me to where I need to go. I really like that story and orcas are my favorite animals. I do have an orca tattooed on my hand, which is also my tribe's symbol. I also have a raven and a sun, which was designed by Joe Seymour who is one of the biggest artists from my tribe. There's a story about how a raven stole the sun and created light for the whole world.
Growing up, there was a lot of art and this is the only culture that I know. So I have a really appreciative outlook on the stories and the art. My body is something that I can't escape, it's my temple and I want to be reminded of things that are important to me.
You've done a few videos on your YouTube channel where you go back to your reservation and talk with people in your tribe. What inspired you to do that?
I lost my cousin to suicide in 2013 and he was my best friend, my closest family member and the person I confided in every day. And then one day he was gone. I watched my Auntie start disintegrating before my eyes, she wasn't going to work and she'd had two jobs forever, she was always working. One day, we got in her truck and she said that we were going to do a suicide awareness event. We were going to push the tribe to help it and get involved. She's been one of my biggest inspirations and my rock because I didn't have my mom. So when she said this is what we were doing, I said "Let's go." I was out there doing car washes and selling these little baby photos for $5. I got enough money to have a speaker come. His name is Litefoot, he's a Native American advocate who was also in the movie The Indian in the Cupboard. It was so inspiring to see my Auntie completely turn around and use her pain to fuel a passion.
Now, every year, we do a suicide awareness event with my tribe. We have speakers come up, do giveaways and people talk about their experiences. I wanted to take that to my YouTube channel and my cousin and I started Rez Talks. We talked to a couple of the tribal members and asked them about their mental state, how suicide affects them and really put a spotlight on what rez life is. You don't really understand it unless you've been there, so I wanted to bring light to that subject because it goes deep and it was a new experience to be able to share my experiences. I want to use my platform for more than just pretty pictures, I want it to include my voice and what I believe in.
Aside from mental health, what else would you like audiences to know about living on a reservation?
When you're living it, it feels like the only thing that's there. That's why I'm so proud to be Native and show that on my skin, but I got out of the reservation and you can too. I world is so much bigger than this and I know that a lot of people don't understand that. The reservations are the land that was left from what they stole from us and forced into these little reserves. My tribe specifically was forced by a little creek of poison oak where there was barely any water. You become so used to that lifestyle and being there, that you don't think you could do anything else or go off the reservation. I want to use my platform to show the youth that you can do literally anything and to speak things into the universe because she's always listening.