In August, Ashley Callingbull-Burnham was crowned Mrs. Universe 2015, defeating contestants from around the world. Since then she’s been on national television and has graced magazines and news publications, all while voicing her opinions on murdered and missing Aboriginal women and the latest federal elections, urging people to vote. Now she’s been named the Canadian Dignity Role Model by the International youth empowerment organization Global Dignity Canada.
Callingbull-Burnham is from the Enoch Cree Nation, and joins the ranks of Senator Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate), Deputy Leader of the New Democratic Party Megan Leslie, Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau, and Inuit filmmaker Innosar Issakiark, who are just a few of the National Role Models and Champions of Global Dignity in Canada. Callingbull is honoured to work with students around the world and promote “the right to lead a dignified life.”
Global Dignity chose Ashley Callingbull-Burnham as Dignity Role Model because she speaks to youth around the world about her life, ambitions, self-esteem, health, and education. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree focusing on drama and acting/television. She is also a recipient of the Top 20 Under 30 Award and will be on hand to speak to students from across the country at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa during Global Dignity Day on October 21st.
Giovanna Mingarelli, Global Dignity Canada’s Country Chair says they’re honoured and privileged that Mrs. Callingbull-Burnham has joined the Global Dignity movement. “She’s an inspiration to youth nationwide and beyond through her public activities to encourage respect, self-esteem, tolerance of diversity, and the universal right for everyone to lead a dignified life.”
In one of her first interviews after winning the Mrs. Universe title, Callingbull told the Vancouver Sun that she had hoped she’d win the title so that she could address Aboriginal issues. “People don’t expect a pageant girl to go out and say really crazy things right off the bat. They probably just expected me to have a title and be pretty and that’s it: be pretty and shut up. But I’m not going to shut up.” So that’s exactly what she’s been doing, speaking out and encouraging the Aboriginal people to go out and vote and make a difference in the upcoming federal elections. She says that the current government was created to go against First Nations people and not work for us, and Aboriginal issues are always put on the back burner and are never important.
Callingbull said when she found out that the Mrs Universe Pageant platform was on domestic violence and reflection on children, she knew she had to compete. Until the age of five, she experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence, and lived in poverty, and said that it took many years for the healing process. She has also talked about the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and says there needs to be a national inquiry, something the current government has yet to implement.
On the CBC show Power and Politics, Callingbull told host Rosie Barton that Aboriginal people are treated like terrorists when they’re trying to protect and save the environment by having marches and protests. She also said that because the Mrs, Universe pageant judges contestants on public speaking, charitable contribution, and the work you do within your own country, she embraces this title and is excited about the upcoming year.
Callingbull was the first Canadian—and the first First Nations woman—to win the coveted Mrs. Universe title. Because she’s so outspoken and speaks what’s on her mind, she was asked recently if a career in politics could be in her future. Her response: “You know, I never thought I would be Mrs Universe. You never know what’s going to happen for me in the future, so expect anything.”