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Indigenous Okanagan creator shining bright on TikTok

Lakeisha Marie is one of 40 Indigenous creators taking part in the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators program

There are many sides to Lakeisha Marie, and thousands of social media viewers are watching them unfold during her rise to TikTok stardom.

Marie, who is Plains Cree and lives on Okanagan Indian Band land near Vernon, was a participant in the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators program, which returned for its second year in 2022. Presented by the National Screen Institute, the online training program offers guidance from some of the social media platform’s leading Indigenous creators to empower the selected storytellers on the platform and beyond.

The program arms participants with customized, hands-on training to help them succeed on the platform, teaching them how to grow a community, develop a series of videos and share their unique stories in a safe and respectful online space.

Marie, 21, was one of 40 creators representing every province and territory in Canada selected to participate in this year’s Accelerator.

“I was pretty honoured,” Marie said, recalling her reaction to being selected for the program. “One day I was scrolling through my feed and it popped up and I was like, ‘this sounds cool, maybe I’ll try it out,’ and when I got it … I did my little happy dance.”

Marie expresses herself through digital art as well as Indigenous-based videos. Her passions include dancing, art and writing, and each are represented in her videos.

Having started out with just 25 followers, made up entirely of friends and family, Marie’s TikTok account has since exploded to more than 178,000 followers, many of which she says came after her involvement in the Accelerator program.

Her Indigenous heritage drives a lot of the content she creates, whether she’s creating a comedic video or a more serious video.

“A lot of my videos centre around being Indigenous, whether that be comedy, every now and then I do like to touch on more serious topics, and I like to kind of present them in a way that really makes you feel something, whether that be sad, happy or I suppose just any feeling really,” she said.

An example of a more serious video came on May 5, National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.

“As the video progresses you can see me getting smaller and the red handprints behind me getting bigger, to really emphasize how much of a problem this is,” she said.

@lakeeyshamarie May 5th is a day of action and awareness for MMIWG2.#may5th#mmiwawareness#mmiw#mmiwg2s#mmiwcanada#mmiw ♬ Original sound - Luna

On the lighter side, Marie enjoys sharing her old style fancy dance with viewers. She does the dance without the traditional shawl, making it her own.

“On the powwow trail there’s different categories of dance and mine is an older style of the more contemporary style,” she said.

@lakeeyshamarie Little me would be so proud #powwow#powwowdancer#fancydancer#womensfancyshawl#powwowtok#powwowdance ♬ Trumpet Echo - Ashtonic_

One of Marie’s favourite aspects of being on TikTok is the community she has formed with people from all over. She recently started hopping into the live streams of people on TikTok to chat with them.

“Now I have friends all over, it’s pretty cool.”

Marie has always had a knack for performing in front of people.

“Growing up I was always a bit of a theatrical kid. I used to make little Facebook videos before YouTube was really a big thing, and my cousin actually was the one that pushed me into getting into TikTok,” she said. “When I saw that people were actually making content and it wasn’t just lip syncing songs I was like ‘this sounds cool, this sounds like it’s for me.’”

Marie says the Accelerator program taught her the importance of establishing a routine around her content creation and post scheduling. She’s learned through exploring TikTok’s analytics that there are certain times that work best for publishing videos. She’s also learned about moderators and how to make her TikTok a safe space free of negative words, even when going live.

Getting guidance from fellow Indigenous creator Sherry McKay, who founded the Accelerator, was a highlight for Marie.

“Sherry McKay was one of the people I looked up to when it came to making funny content, and when I applied to this I actually did not know that it was founded by her, so when I found out that I would be able to speak with her and be in her presence I was like oh my goodness! She shared a lot of her experiences with me,” Marie said.

The response to Marie’s content has been overwhelmingly positive with people asking her for tips on dancing and video-making, and showering her with praise.

“A lot of people support me in what I do. Some people make me feel like a little bit of a celebrity because when I go to powwows they’re like ‘oh my goodness Lakeisha!’” she said. “I didn’t think that I would be at that point, but here I am.”

To view more of Marie’s videos, check out her TikTok account, @lakeeyshamarie.

READ MORE: Content creators in the Okanagan can get $10,000 to produce their own video series

READ MORE: Indigenous Vernon creator receives $20K to produce film

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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