Meet Sené Maluwapi!

Meet Sené Maluwapi!

The BMHQ office is located in Banyo, Brisbane. We would first like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge their continued connection to the land, water and culture of this area.

About Sené Maluwapi

Sené Maluwapi is a promising Zenadh Kes and Papuan model. At just 18 years old, Sené already has four years’ experience in the modelling industry. In 2021, she walked in First Nations Fashion + Design’s ‘Walking in Two Worlds’ show as part of Brisbane Festival. In 2022 she debuted in Australian Fashion week, participating in a panel discussion and walking for Indigenous Fashion Projects x David Jones and First Nations Fashion + Design’s closing show of AAFW. 

Sené is a proud Malu Kiwai woman of the Samu and Gaidai Clans, who uses her modelling career to extend the acknowledgment of First Nations people in creative spaces. The up-and-coming model is a passionate advocate for Indigenous representation in the Australian fashion industry. Sené is also passionate about protecting her island home of Boigu from the impacts of climate change and is an active supporter of the Our Islands Our Home campaign.

How long have you been modelling, and how did you get into the industry?

I started modelling four years ago in my home town Adelaide. My older sister found my first agency from an Instagram call out, I signed with them when I was 14. I was so hesitant, but my mother was my biggest supporter and reminded me that the lack of representation was more the reason why I should do it. I booked my first ever job within a week of signing, for a Mecca Max campaign. Modelling was a space I never thought I’d be in so I felt and still feel so happy to be included. 

What do you love most about modelling? 

My favourite thing about modelling would have to be the way it has taught me self love. Growing up as a POC, I came into this space seeing it only represent people that don’t look like or resonate with me. That was my biggest step to overcome. The industry had changed and they loved the things about me that society made me grow to hate. I grew up being bullied and experiencing racism from a young age. The trauma made me hate my curly hair and brown skin, and I became embarrassed of my cultural heritage. I’m extremely grateful to the young woman I am today. She embraces her hair, skin and culture in every form of work she does. Healing from the trauma had a massive impact, but the industry also assisted on the journey of loving myself again. They appreciated my curly hair that I once thought was “messy” and they reminded me that my beauty was beautiful. 

What’s the best thing about a BlackMilk Clothing photoshoot?

The team. BlackMilk’s studio team are absolute angels. In a modelling career, you meet many studio teams – some you remember, some you won’t. BlackMilk is a team I’ll always remember and hold close to my heart. I think a connection with the model is such an important factor of creating work together. I find brands sometimes get so caught up in the superficial side of things, they forget we’re humans too. I open the door to shoot with BlackMilk’s team and I’m greeted with smiles and hugs. They’re happy and grateful for me to be there and it’s not something every team makes a model feel. I also love shooting with BlackMilk because of their amazing collection of boots. As the BM fanbase knows from the website pics, we love boots! There’s something about a skater dress, big boots and Afro that always makes me leave a BM shoot feeling so empowered. 

Is there anyone you look up to for inspiration? 

My biggest inspiration would definitely be my older sister Waniki. She’s my best friend and with all the hardship we’ve overcome together and alone in our lives, I’m so proud of the woman she is today. She is a 350 Australia community organiser and digital storyteller for the Torres Strait Climate Justice case ‘Our Islands, Our Home.’ She is a passionate advocate for amplifying the voices of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis through different art mediums and she amazes me with every piece of work she creates and does for our community. I wouldn’t be who I am without her.

What’s your fave piece from the Melanie Hava collection? 

My favourite piece from the Melanie Hava collection would be the maxi dress featuring the most beautiful design of the Great Barrier Reef. The colours on this piece are eye-catching and captivating, but I especially love this piece the most because the design truly reminds me of the Great Barrier Reef, which I had the privilege of visiting in 2018. The coral and sea life plus the blue ocean features really make this piece a must-have for me.

You walked in your very first Australian Fashion Week this year – congrats!! What was that experience like?  

Thank you. It was an experience I will never forget. The two shows and panel I participated in were all First Nations talent, which made me so extremely proud to see my people representing in those spaces. I didn’t grow up thinking shows like ours existed or would ever because of society’s beauty standards and the lack of representation in the fashion industry, so to be a part of that much-needed change in the fashion industry is an honour to me. The pride and power of my ancestors were heavily felt as I spoke and walked throughout AAFW.

What is the significance of NAIDOC week to you?

NAIDOC week is important to me because it’s a dedicated time in July of each year where we get to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of the Indigenous people of this land. NAIDOC is not only special to the Indigenous people of Australia, but also non-Indigenous Australians as it’s a time where they’re able to learn, appreciate and acknowledge Indigenous culture. This year’s theme ‘Get up! Stand up! Show up!’ is encouraging First Nations to champion institutional, structural, collaborative, and cooperative change whilst celebrating those who paved the way for us and led change in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over generations.

What advice would you give to other young aspiring Indigenous models?

You belong in this space, don’t doubt yourself. As hard as it is to recognise your worth, know you’re equal to everyone else and your cultural background doesn’t define whether you belong. You have so much potential and you can reach it as long as you continually remind yourself of your ancestors and where you come from. Your people before you were powerful, just like you. You will never walk alone. You can do anything you set your mind to. Never give up. 

Where in Australia should everyone visit at least once?

I believe everyone in Australia needs to visit Zenadh Kes, also known as the Torres Strait Islands. The Torres Strait Islands are a group of 274 islands located at the waterway separating the far northern Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea. 

Zenadh Kes is one of the most beautiful places in the world. My people’s culture, land and stories are often not heard enough and I yearn for my community to be recognised for its cultural knowledge and the beauty of our lands. It has been home to my ancestors and people who have lived with a deep connection to land, sea, sky and culture for over 60,000 years.

Share a fun fact!

My name Sené (Pronounced Sen-eh) means how things used to be in the olden days. I am the namesake of my aunt who passed away. I hold a lot of pride and privilege sharing my name with her and I will continue to in all the work I do.

Thanks so much for your time Sené!

The Wajali Bugan: Melanie Hava x BlackMilk campaign was shot in Mansfield, QLD. Again, we would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge their continued connection to the land, water and culture of this area.

You can see a Map of Indigenous Australia here.