- Kelly R. Vallo had a dream six years ago to become an actress.
No one took her seriously, not even her parents.
used to tell people I was going to be on TV," she said and
the response she got was a snicker from her classmates and friends.
the lack of faith, her dream came true.
three films tacked onto her resume along with countless modeling
stints, she is working to pursue her dream to be cast in a major
motion film. And she got her first big job with a film shot recently
in the Salt Lake City area.
was cast in the movie "Edge of America," an independent
film directed by Chris Eyre. Eyre directed "Smoke Signals"
(1997) and "Skins" (2002).
had a speaking role in the movie with fellow Native American actors
and actresses like Irene Bedard, Wes Studi, Steve Reevis and Cody
movie is about a basketball team on the Navajo Reservation and Vallo's
character, Raylene, is a rebellious teen on the team. She ends up
in Chinle, Vallo, 20, is originally from Nazlini, Ariz. She is currently
on break from Diné College. Her mother is Maureen Begay and
her stepfather is Jackson Begay. She has one older brother, Brian
is Todichii'nii (Bitterwater Clan) born for Acoma Pueblo. Her maternal
grandparents are Deeschii'nii (Start of the Red Streaked People)
and her paternal grandparents are of the Sun People.
thespian journey began when she was 14 years old attending Chinle
High School. Her drama teacher, Ken Van Pelt, motivated her to strive
for the best and to keep acting. So she did.
told me 'You have a talent for acting, stay with it,'" Vallo
recalled. "He motivated me to keep going."
graduated from high school in May 2001. After high school she began
auditioning for roles in movies shot on the reservation. She recalled
one audition for a short film shot in Kayenta.
was a Native American music festival going in Tsaile," Vallo
said. "I auditioned for the film there. It was a Navajo-speaking
role only. I didn't think I had a chance. The director was Norman
Brown. It was a film based on domestic violence."
said she was confident about the role because she could speak fluently
in Navajo. Out of many girls trying for the role, she was given
a call a week later telling her she got the part.
character was Elaine, a young lady involved in an abusive relationship
with her boyfriend. The film was titled "Yil Neh Bah"
and was filmed in June 2001.
second film and leading role was for a movie called "Adaa'a'hojilya."
She played a pregnant woman with diabetes. Her character was Irene
and the film was shot in Chinle in December 2002. Brown also directed
shooting the film in Kayenta she was invited to Frog Lake/Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada, for modeling. It was there that she was introduced
to the industry that most people do not see.
opened my eyes to a whole new world of the film industry and model
industry, what to expect, the business and the whole background,"
she said. "It's brutal being an actress trying to make it in
the film industry.
have to be more Native American than Native American and you have
to be more Anglo than Anglo," she said. "You have to fit
more in the mainstream society."
said that Native Americans are still stereotyped in the film industry.
Americans are envisioned as people who wear buckskin clothing, always
seek the spiritual path, or as alcoholics or warriors. She said
the film industry always overemphasizes Indian cultures.
film industry can never make a reality (based) film," Vallo
for one. It's called 'Grand Avenue.' I think that's based on reality,
Native Americans trying to fit into the world, the mainstream society.
was a good movie based on Native American life," she added.
Avenue" (1998), an HBO film, is a drama about four Native American
families living in Santa Rosa, Calif. who try to maintain their
tribal roots while living away from their reservations. The film
was directed by Daniel Sackheim and is based on a book by Greg Sarris,
a Native American from Santa Rosa, Calif.
have been Navajo actresses who had roles in some major films in
the past. Serene Hedin played Tashina in the movie "Windwalker"
didn't have a speaking role but she was the lead female actress,"
Navajo actress played a small role in "Geronimo: An American
Legend" (1993) as an Apache woman who watches the hanging of
coming home from Canada, she was invited to the Native Indian Market
in Scottsdale where she modeled for designer Tammy Deauvais.
"People called me telling me that they were doing shows (in
Scottsdale), in Phoenix and Albuquerque," she said. "That's
when my whole career, business career took off."
the way she met with Leroy Dejolie, a photographer from the Navajo
Reservation. Dejolie now sponsors Vallo and helped her prepare for
a whole new experience.
introduced me to the backstage and modeling circuit," she said.
"He helped me establish my career and showed me how to make
a portfolio. And he did this all on his own time.
only model traditional and contemporary Indian fashion," she
said. "I'm not a calendar girl. I don't want to offend anybody
in calendars and what not."
said the reason she chose not to be in calendars is the traditional
teachings of her grandparents. She respects her people and does
not want to portray Navajo women in a disrespectful manner that
differs from the teachings.
also said that in historical times Navajo women were not seen as
models and did not conduct themselves in such a manner.
think that models are beautiful," she said. "Really, they
are. More power to them for trying to rise up in the industry."
said in the modeling world there are different types of modeling.
"There's the contemporary modern model, traditional contemporary
fashion, traditional model, calendar girls, editorial models - a
whole line of models," she said.
now anybody can call themselves models," Vallo said. "Any
young beautiful lady who believes she's beautiful can call herself
a model. You don't need pictures to know you're a model. You don't
need an agent or a headshot to be a model.
you know you're beautiful then you're a model," she added.
"Back in the day you had to audition to be known as a model.
Right now with Native Americans being so popular these days, it's
easy to get work as a model."
of her most notable modeling stints was for the QVC television network.
She modeled jewelry crafted by silversmith Ray Tracey.
hundreds of women from the Navajo Reservation and other nations
auditioned," she said. "I was lucky to get it."
is taking a break from her career to take classes at Diné
College. She plans to audition for more movies in the future but
is currently spending time with her grandparents, Annie Rose and
Sammie Walker Sr. of Chinle, and other family.
hopes to break the stereotypes of Native Americans in Hollywood.
She hopes that more Navajos and Native Americans will emerge in
the acting industry. Currently there are still non-Navajo people
playing Navajo roles and Navajos are only cast as extras in films.
have a lot of good native talent," she said.
of her biggest dreams is to host NBC-TV's "Saturday Night Live."
said with dedication and patience, some day she will.