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November 10, 2015

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Kelly Holmes

Kate Hart

headshot of Kelly Holmes by Tara Rose WestonKelly Holmes grew up the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation in South Dakota, and moved to Denver at sixteen. Since mainstream media was lacking positive representations of Native and First Nations people, Kelly decided to take on the problem herself, and launched Native Max Magazine, a Native-owned and operated print + digital publication that focuses on indigenous fashion, health, art, news, pop culture, and more -- and she does it all from home while mothering two children. She is truly a badass lady whose story I'm excited to share.

Be sure to scroll down and enter today's giveaway: a free issue of Native Max Magazine!


Native Max magazine cover
Native Max Magazine
May-June 2015
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?
Kelly : My name is Kelly Holmes, and I'm the founder of Native Max Magazine. My love for writing, designing, styling, photography, business -ultimately creativity, is what led me to develop Native Max.

My current projects are everything Native Max developed into. Native Max is more than a magazine; within the last few years it has developed into a brand of showcasing talent. We have a website to upkeep, social networks, various projects we co plan and produce, partnerships and networks across the world, upcoming ventures. It's definitely not just a magazine anymore.

Kate: Do you have any creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?
Kelly : Native Max is my creative outlet. Like I mentioned, since Native Max is multi-faceted, I'm able to contribute various levels to Native Max. I love to write, so I write stories and articles for both the magazine and website. I love to style and do hair and makeup, so I coordinate photoshoots and style models. I love graphic designing and editing, organizing pages and publishing, so I design the magazine and any promotional materials. I love public relations and promoting, so I take over our social media postings, marketing and PR handling. I also love planning events, so I help co-produce other events for our friends and partners. I love and dearly miss designing accessories, so I'm sort of dabbling in that again. All of my creative outlets are applied to Native Max. On top of all these creative outlets, I'm also handling the business side of things for Native Max.

Native Max magazine cover
Native Max Magazine
Sept-Oct 2014
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?
Kelly : Obviously it's the financial stability. I'm highly confident that if we had a steady stream of revenue, we'd be so much stronger than we are now. We always have obstacles to overcome when it comes to money, just like any other business.

It's also sometimes my young age. I feel like I constantly have to prove myself 100 times more than everyone around me, especially those in the same field as me. When I mess up, many blame my young age. When I'm with my colleagues and want to have fun, my young age is pointed out again, like "oh of course, you're only 24." I have as much talent, drive and determination as others twice my age who are reaching for the same goals.

I'm also a stay-at-home mom to two children, engaged to my love. Caring for my family and pursuing my goals is definitely not easy. I learned to balance everything in my life, whether its physically or mentally. I'm glad to have the support of my fiancée, who is always there for me when things get tough.

Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.
Kelly : When we first printed the magazine, there were high expectations on our next moves. Everything was going great, until the magazines started to fall apart. I had tons of customers complain about pages falling out of the magazines, and demanded refunds. It was tough having to try and fix this problem all by myself. I had to deal with all the complaints and negative backlash from all these unhappy people myself. People would say mean things about us, that it wasn't a surprise that we failed to deliver a completed product. Although it wasn't our fault, I took full responsibility and refunded customers. We lost a ton of customers, and this unfortunate situation tainted our reputation and relationships. In the end, Native Max looked bad. I felt terrible and wanted to quit. It was like why continue on when people are looking at me saying "it was only a matter of time before you failed." But I decided to bounce back and keep on with Native Max. I didn't want to regret quitting after only one obstacle.

Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? Or Tell us something that makes you proud.
Kelly : It's definitely the compliment of how strong or resilient I am, which is also what makes me proud. I've really overcome a lot to get to where I am today, in both my personal life and dream career and whenever I share my story I gain positive reactions from those listening. I was a Native youth in South Dakota, obviously with no sure goals or path, but I was always an introvert, kind of. I was always shy, but filled with a million ideas. I was into art and beading. I sold my jewelry to the emporium in Pierre, SD. I was into fashion, but way too shy to wear some of my great outfit ideas. I took tons of photos and watched a lot of MTV and America's Next Top Model. I was athletic and active in sports. I had all these interests, but didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Then when my mom was accepted into University of Colorado in Boulder, CO when I was 16 years old, we moved to the outskirts of Denver. It was a huge culture shock for me. There were only 4 Native American students at my school, the school was twice the size of my old high school, and the kids were wealthier. During the first week of school was sort of traumatizing for me. I was constantly asked what I was, since I looked different. My obvious answer sparked a million questions, in which some were hurtful and shocking. "Yes we still exist" was my most repeated answer at the time. I was also bullied for a short time by girls who were jealous of me. I would go home after school and cry my eyes out. I wanted to move back home to South Dakota.

Recently, after sharing my stories with colleagues who migrated from different countries around the world to the U.S., I learned my experience was similar to theirs when they moved here from their home countries. Like my friends, when I moved to Denver, it was like moving to another country. I was asked if I spoke English, what food I ate, what music I listened to. I felt disconnected from the students because I was so different. I was looked at oddly by others. I realized I shared the same experience as my friends, who were from places thousands of miles away, but strangely I was from the same country as Denver.

As bad as everything was, I decided to live happily in my new home, my new life in this big city. I didn't give up, and took the chance on making new friends. It was tough being in a huge place where I felt alone, but I had enough courage and strength to tough it out. Now I credit this move to Denver as a huge turning point in my life. I was able to see the world was bigger than I ever imagined, and that there was no limit to what I can do, or where I could go. I'm proud of myself  because of how strong I was to overcome this, and other major obstacles that followed. I continue to encourage Native youth to move forward with their dreams, especially ones who just move to a big city from a small town or reservation.  

Ultimately my story tells of a Native youth who had all these dreams and goals, yet clouds of doubt. I faced constant rejection and harsh criticism when I tried to break into the local modeling and fashion industries. I was constantly asking myself, "I'm trying to make something of myself, why am I being treated this way?" Through it all I was able to find enough strength to move forward and pave my own road. Many youth have this same experience, but give up when it gets hard. I strongly feel that we need to guide and mentor them as much as possible. That's why with Native Max, I work closely with the Native youth and try to give them a creative outlet for them to express themselves, because I don't want any youth to go through what I went through.

Native Max magazine cover
Native Max Magazine
Jan-March 2015
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?
Kelly :  In my experience, it's to constantly be there for each other at our most difficult times. I've had women point out my flaws or negatively comment about something. When I walked into the room, I saw women stare at me with disgust, and not once heard a "congratulations" or anything from them. Because of that, I started to stay to myself for a while. Then I met this group of strong and successful women who seemed to have their goals in line, it was like I walked into a bright-lit room. I experienced nothing but positivity from these ladies. Now whenever something is bothering me, or I'm not having a good time, I can confide in these women knowing they won't bring me down or make me feel bad. It also seems this group of confident, inspirational women are constantly growing their own businesses and lives, as the other group of girls who kept tearing me down are in the same place, physically and mentally.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?
Kelly : Definitely listen to and follow your heart. I've had times where I felt like something wasn't right, but I went with what others told me. When I didn't listen to myself, I always ended up with a pile of crap to clean up, with no one around to help me. If you have a goal, want to start a business, whatever it may be, just remember to follow your heart and listen to yourself. Your mind is always going to want something else, but I feel like your heart will always keep you grounded.



Win an issue of Native Max Magazine!
Native Max Magazine cover
Native Max Magazine July-August 2015


Kelly Holmes is Lakota, from the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota. She's the founder and editor in chief of Native Max Magazine, the country's first Native American fashion magazine. Native Max Magazine has evolved into a modern lexicon of Native American art, culture and fashion. What started out as a publication has now spawned into a brand with numerous methods of promoting exposure for talented Natives all over United States and Canada. Despite not having gone to college, Kelly learned the inner workings of the fashion industry, by modeling, designing, and styling ever since the young age of 16. Although based in Denver, CO, Kelly often explores the country searching for stories and promoting Native Max. Since her time exploring the fashion industry, Kelly has continued to work in fashion & media (print, web, social media and creative consulting) and founded Native Max Magazine. A first of its kind (literally), Native Max Magazine is a fashion & lifestyle magazine that covers today's top trends paralleled with Native American-made fashion designs, accessories and jewelry. Kelly interweaves her loves for fashion and Native culture by writing fashion stories for Native Max and other outlets. Kelly considers herself a freelance creative type; writer and stylist, but no singular title encompasses all that she does, has done, or aims to do.


Native Max Magazine is a bi-monthly publication and first Native fashion magazine which features fashion, style, art and culture of the Native American and First Nations people. However, Native Max isn't just about fashion and style; the magazine offers an array of subjects such as sports, health & fitness, culture & education, art, profiles and current events. Focused on indigenous people, places and cultures with the same sleek presentation found in fashion magazines, Native Max Magazine was created due to the lack of positive representation of Native people in the mainstream media, especially in the fashion industries. Now possessing an online version of the magazine, popular website, mobile app, and strong social media presence, Native Max remains a recognizable name with both the Native communities and the rest of the world. Native Max continues to be a positive movement of promoting talented Native individuals, businesses, organizations, projects, and developments of the U.S. and Canada.

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