May 18, 2010

Tinseltown Korey on MySpace

A group of Natives challenges Tinsel Korey's identity on MySpace:

Tinseltown KoreyTinsel Korey. Proud Native Canadian.

Harsha Patel. Embarrassed East Indian.

What do these two have to do with each other?

They are the same person.

She was born Harsha Patel to a wealthy doctor and his wife in Ontario, but an estrangement from her family, a move across the country after graduating from William Lyon Mackenzie CI she gave herself a new name, and background (claims she is Ojibway), all fueled by ambition. The movie industry is not easy to break into, there are more doors closed than opened, but Harsha saw what she felt was a loophole. She decided to do what many other people have done to aboriginals in Canada and North America, and that was to exploit them for her own chance at fame. Rather than using her own Indian heritage and drawing on Hinduism for support, she instead rewrote her background to Native America, believing that she could garner more roles.

The casting session for New Moon was long and arduous. Line ups were huge. Casting agents were turning people away from the door. A big poster at the door stating "MUST BE NATIVE/FIRST NATIONS."

How did she get through the cracks?

How did a strict casting statement get ignored?
And:There has been a lot of talk of 'rumors', 'gossip', 'bullying', 'slander' and 'libel', which just paints Tinsel Korey as some hapless victim (when she has full agency and made the decision to pursue a career which puts her in the public eye WHILE creating a new identity/background for herself) threatens to silence ACTUAL Native voices. When people make loose threats or attempt to insult the character of those who speak up--as well as accuse anyone who expresses any sort of disbelief in this actress' claims of "hating"/"jealousy"--it further marginalizes Anishinaabe women, and paints ALL Native women who desire fair representation in the media as 'bitter' or just not good enough.

We, as well as others who've spoken out, don't wish anyone (even those who seem to romanticize oppression, falsify adoptee-status or co-opt marginalized peoples' identities) ill-will, and are only in favor of an admission and an apology from the actress herself. If this individual cares about Native people or "breaking casting stereotypes" at all, she will CEASE derailing all discussions of this with flippant 'statements', detracting from the issue with her resume of feel-good 'activist work', et cetera, and just tell the truth.

Many Native people will not agree with us on issues of cultural (mis)appropriation, or are willfully ignorant to the exploitation of Native "identity", and that is fine. However, you'd do a disservice to your ancestors who survived displacement and genocide to not care. When you defend those who practice dishonesty, it is akin to the dismissive attitudes of white people who've told us to "lighten up" about Hollywood's preference for white actors in Native roles. If your culture is merely a tool to use for your own advancement or personal gains, a fashion statement, et cetera...that is your prerogative. But some of us care about maintaining strong familial ties, respecting our elders, acknowledging our clans, knowing our history and striving to keep our languages alive. You can wear your "pride" on any number of t-shirts or use your tribal affiliation to get ahead/distinguish yourself amongst the crowd, but the way in which you carry yourself and treat others is the ultimate decider of what makes you a good person and a culturally-competent member of your nation or person of your background. We would be appreciative of Tinsel Korey's work in Native communities, but we do not believe she can "give back" any more than she has taken...unless she starts practicing honesty.
And:It is one thing to identify WITH Native people, and an entirely different thing to identify AS one. We were willing to 'let it slide' when other non-Native actors were cast in Native roles, and understood that it was the casting directors' faults. However, the difference between you and, for example, Taylor Lautner playing a Native character, is that his acting stops when the camera isn't rolling. Yours hasn't, and you've used it to misrepresent yourself; thereby upholding the same (lack of) values and ethics of Hollywood executives.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Tinsel Korey's High-School Anniversary and Tinsel Korey = Harsha Patel?

Below:  An image from the 'Harsha Patel" Tumblr page.


Marsie and Raro o Aotearoa said...

so whats the big deal if she is or isn't native american...
First nation people should feel some pride that Korey identifies as first nation.

My base line is rock girl .. keep giving it heaps wahine ma.

Anonymous said...

You can't just pretend to be Native, take jobs from real Natives. Wake up, Harsha. You're not honoring, you're stealing.

Anonymous said...

Tinsel's husband claims that she has shown paperwork to prove her heritage to one of the moderators of the site Has anyone looked into that? Asked the moderator how it came up and what she saw?

I've been skeptical of her for a long time but it does seem a bit like "piling on" when all the research goes into proving she's not First Nations and NONE goes into the possibility that she is what she says.

You make an excellent argument for truth here. I completely agree that it's important for so many reasons. But are the truth-seekers only looking for truth where they WANT to find it?

Anonymous said...

Tinsel's husband? 3yrs ago she had no proof and admits she has doubts of her ethnicity then marries a high profile native man and has proof?
higly suspect. If you are not native you might not understand why it's a big deal. Let's talk about not the role but the fact that she is a jingle dancer and goes to ceremonies. Is it still okay to lie then?

Michelle R. Hall Shining Elk said...

My take on who you are, because you are, and stop wanting to be who you are not.

I am a born and raised reservation girl brought up by my grand parents, parents, and many aunts and uncles from my tribe. My culture and our traditions were instilled upon me all of my life from a very young age. I love who I am and where I come from, including the times that were really tough. I take being an Indian and the experiences and teachings I gained from growing up on the rez seriously. Who we are and where we come from as bona fide Indian people (American Indian for clarification purposes) is not for sale or to be taken because it's the newest, latest, greatest "jump on the band wagon" thing, or because it will get you a role or part in a movie.

I work, tirelessly, every single day to try and get our Indian people in film and television roles in both traditional roles and non-descript roles. Every single day -- and I do it because it is from my heart and I want our younger generations to see us in our traditional roles and in roles as doctors, lawyers, and business people. I have submitted countless real Indians for parts in all of the Twilight movies to date, as well as countless other movies. When we, the legitimate Indians lose out on a role because someone of another ethnic background is cast, it is like a 100 million steps backwards in time. So very, very frustrating. And when it happens, I find myself saying "really? really? of all of our beautiful talented Indian people in this country, you couldn't find one to fill the role, you had to undercut us by hiring an "other?" I often spend countless hours to help get an Indian actor who isn’t a client get cast in a role because it is far more important to me to see our Indian people work and get the role then it is about getting paid or being connected to that person. It’s important to me that our Indian people get cast so that if there is a chance to give advice or to consult on cultural or traditional issues on a production, a legitimate Indian is there to contribute. It is important to me, that our people see…our people on screen.

I went through all of this with Rudy Youngblood. At the end of the day, I still proclaim to him "just be who you are, and stop trying to be who you aren't." Rudy felt he didn't have to explain or prove his background, especially his tribal affiliations to anyone, but I begged to differ -- you do have to. And I say this to all the people out there who aren't Indian but have taken over the identity, our culture and our ways because it is the "in" thing to do. You do have to prove your tribal affiliation...our of respect for those who have come before us and made sacrifices for our people, our elders who are still with us, and to those of us who are bona fide American Indians who have lived our lives as such.

I feel the same way about non-Indians who marry Indians...nothing frustrates me more than a non-Indian who thinks via a marriage certificate that now they are Indian and it's all good to start saying they are also an Indian and then starts donning the leather, feathers, turquoise, give themselves their own Indian name, and some go so far as to enter the dance circle without respecting the proper ceremonial protocol before they do.

I was Indian when it wasn't cool to be Indian and dealt with discrimination and harassment because I am Indian and I have, and always will, take the bad and the good that comes with my being an Indian. I am Indian 24/7 every single day of the year.

Rob said...

I've written about the problem of non-Natives playing Natives several dozen times in this blog. Keep reading if you somehow missed those postings.

I'm not actively "looking" for information on Korey. I just post what I come across in the course of my browsing.

If you have evidence that Korey is Native, e-mail it to me. Don't wait for me to find it; find it yourself.

Thanks for your thoughts, Michelle. I agree with you, even though I'm white 24/7.

For more on the subject, see Mackenzie Confirms Korey's Identity.