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Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.

Ashley Callingbull

Ashley Callingbull Ashley Callingbull, born on October 21st, 1989 in Alberta, Canada. She is an actress, activist and internet influencer.

Callingbull graced the September 2021 cover of FASHION Magazine. Photographed by Gabor Jurina, she wore a Jamie Okuma dress with Indi City earrings. The images that were shot on location in Florida. She wears Indigenous brands, reflecting the her Cree heritage.

George Antonopoulos worked on creative direction for the shot with styling by Lucrezia Mancini. The makeup artist Colleen Stone worked on makeup with hair being done by Gianluca Mandelli. In an interview, Ashley talks about overcoming intergenerational trauma and overcoming childhood abuse.

Canadian Actress, Activist and Model of the Cree Nation

This beautiful model from the Enoch Cree Nation in the province of Alberta, Canada, is making history as the first Indigenous First Nations woman to appear in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

The 32-year-old, a finalist for the 2021 SI Swim Search, was chosen among thousands of submissions to be flown to the Dominican Republic and photographed by acclaimed photographer Yu Tsai. The winner of the annual casting call to become a rookie in the 2023 issue.

The motivational speaker and pageant queen spoke about why she tried out this year, how she overcame personal insecurities and what this honor means to her today.

Callingbull: "I saw that Sports Illustrated created a Swim Service network, where women can join and have different discussions. It was all about female empowerment, and that really encouraged me to get involved."

Ashley Callingbull"And, the truth is, I felt ready. I was ready for this. I wanted to do it last year, but life became so busy. But this time, I knew I had to do it. I knew thousands of women were going to try it, but I couldn’t miss my chance".

"So, it was six in the morning. I was still in bed. I couldn’t tell if I was still dreaming or half awake. I was told, 'Are you ready to go to the Dominican Republic?' I was crying. I rolled over and hugged my husband. I was so happy that I couldn’t go back to sleep - I was just so excited."

"The first time I ever saw Sports Illustrated was back in the ‘90s. It was the supermodel era. I remember I saw Tyra Banks. It was so rare to see a woman of color on the cover of a magazine."

"It made me feel safe. I thought, 'Maybe someday I can break barriers in my own way. If she can do it, I can do it.' It’s so much more than just seeing a face. Representation matters".

The Enoch Cree model will be the first Indigenous First Nations woman to grace the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

"As a woman, I want my voice to be heard. I wanted to break down those stereotypes of Indigenous people. I want our people to feel that they belong wherever they want to go."

"My whole life, I’ve heard racist terms. I’ve been told my skin isn’t beautiful, my culture isn’t beautiful. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere."

Ashley Callingbull"I was just an insecure girl from the reserve. I never dared to have dreams because I didn’t see anyone out there who looked like me chasing those dreams. Now, I’m in a position where I can open the door for other Indigenous women to walk into this space comfortably."

"It’s just crazy to think that that insecure girl is a strong, empowered woman who’s comfortable in the skin that she’s in. I feel beautiful, and I want to help other women to feel the same."

"Of course, I was actually on a national stage for a pageant. Now, in 2010, I was the only Indigenous woman competing. A media outlet decided to make a joke about it." "I remember they wrote, 'An Indigenous woman is competing. I wonder what she’s going to do for her talent. Is she going to sign welfare checks with her toes or chug Lysol?"

How low-class and demeaning was that...?

"Now, this wouldn’t fly today. But for some reason that was OK to write in 2010. People associated me with that stereotype, and it was so amplified because I am so proud to be Indigenous."

"I was wearing my regalia. I didn’t change for anybody at this pageant. I remember only my mom could afford to go to the pageant because it was so expensive. I made it to the top five."

"I’m standing here in my traditional regalia. I looked at the women next to me, and they were all wearing typical evening gowns. For a moment there, I felt so alone."

"But, I then started hearing a woman singing our traditional song. I thought I was going crazy. And I realized that Indigenous people came to support me. My people came to support me."

Ashley Callingbull"And that blew a fire within me. It lifted me up. And I knew, at that moment, I was going to belong, regardless of the barriers I have to go through. Even though I would have to fight even harder just to be in this space. I wasn’t going to change for anyone."

"It’s such an honor. Not only has it changed my life, but it can change other people’s lives. I’m so happy. My heart feels happy. It feels like it’s smiling. That’s how this honor makes me feel."

Ashley Callingbull said she didn’t feel seen while growing up. "That was the moment when it finally hit me. It was real. I couldn’t believe I was on set … I was just soaking in every moment of it."

"And once the shoot began, I was just so excited. I felt so confident - more confident than I’ve ever been in my entire life. It gave me this fuel that I can make bigger changes and do more things."

"My whole life I felt judged. I want to use this platform to amplify my voice, celebrate who I am, and uplift others who look like me. It’s a moment of celebration. I remember that the photographer, Yu Tsai was so encouraging."

"This is a man who has shot all the supermodels of Sports Illustrated. And yet he was so welcoming and kind. I knew I belonged and that felt good."

"You know, during the beginning of the pandemic, I started to feel lost. All my work had to turn virtual and so much of what I do revolves around traveling and working with youth."

"But for Indigenous people, we believe movement is medicine. I wanted to feel better, so I started working out. I would go running with my dog, and it made me feel healthy again."

Ashley Callingbull"I’m also a jingle dress dancer. Being out in nature made me feel free. It’s my connection to the land, being outside. So, before I even did Sports Illustrated, I wanted to work on my strength training and be in the healthiest shape possible, so I could feel good."

"And I’m always preparing to jingle in the summer. By the time Sports Illustrated came along, running had become my routine - I simply wanted to be the best version of myself. And Sports Illustrated just wants you to feel comfortable and confident as you are.*.

"But, strength training and running are part of my journey. One of the biggest reasons I started working out was for my mental health. I had no motivation. Running with my dog and just stretching outside cleared my head."

"And when I’m mentally strong, I feel like I can conquer anything. Working on my physical was so important to help my mental and spiritual health."

"Even if I accomplish a small little workout, I feel like I've accomplished something. And from there, I feel ready to accomplish anything. It was about bettering myself. And that was my true motivation."

"I want all women to love and appreciate themselves for the way they were created. I want them to live fearlessly and never let fear stop them from chasing their dreams, no matter how big or small."

"I was a little insecure girl who didn’t dare to dream. But I am now a strong, resilient woman. I hope my image will let others know they’re not alone."

Former Miss Canada winner Ashley Callingbull opened up about her 'intergenerational trauma' and giving back to her Cree Nation community during an E's "Ones to Watch" video series celebrating Indigenous heritage.

Ashley CallingbullThe former Miss Canada winner and proud Plains Cree Indigenous woman from Cree Nation and Treaty six territory has dedicated her life to "positive representation" as a model, actress, author and activist.

"For a lot of my life, a lot of the things that I've had to chase, they weren't open to me because I'm an Indigenous woman, whether that be acting or modeling,"

"I've been told that, you know, that Indigenous people aren't relatable, so we're not going to cast you, which is such a crazy thing to hear. Now, times are changing and things are becoming more inclusive, it's taken far too long to get to this point."

"My culture really shaped me because I always had this thing about, 'Well, why can't I do this? Why can't I?' I had this thing like, 'I'm going to prove myself.'"

"I wasn't going to prove the world that I could do if I wanted to prove to myself," she noted. "I wanted to feel good about myself because I didn't have anyone empowering me. I had to empower myself. And once I push myself and accomplish something, I thought, 'What else can I do next?'"

This Nike Dress for Success ambassador is publishing her first book with HarperCollins next year, and hopes to change stereotypes for Indigenous women as well as shed light on the "intergenerational trauma" that plagues many alums from residential schools.

"What I really want is our government to stop fighting these survivors. These people who went to these schools stop fighting them because we do need to really move forward in a way where we can take our lives back, take our control back," Callingbull stressed."

"It's so important that people see the truth, see the country that they're living in and what they're standing on, and the importance of how our culture really saved lives, because that's what these residential schools were implemented for. If they were to take your culture away, to kill the Indian, what they called it, and they wanted to civilize us."

Ashley Callingbull"So when you see an indigenous person, next time you look at them, you know, think that they may be dealing with intergenerational trauma, they may be dealing with things that the government the system has thrown at them."

"So you never know. We never had it easy and we still don't. And I think that's one thing that people really need to be educated on is that we don't have it easy. We're still fighting every day."

Callingbull's upcoming role in the crime series Tribal also works to de-bunk cultural assumptions and shed light on the thousands of missing Indigenous women.

"I'm really thankful to be part of a show that's going to address these issues because a lot of times the media pushes it aside and because we're not women who are white,"

"I just want people to know that, you know, our lives are important. We are worth being searched for. It just boggles my mind still, to this day that there's that lack of support, and that's why it's so important for me to use my voice."

Tribal also works with a largely Indigenous cast, which Callingbull admitted is rare. "For me, it's so important to share the true education about Indigenous people, so they don't have this stereotype on me on set."

"So they don't have this belief that they're going to call me Pocahontas and make all these references because that's really ignorant thing to say and it's offensive, so for me, I always take the opportunity to educate people."

She reflected, "For a lot of my life, a lot of the things that I've had to chase, they weren't open to me because I'm an Indigenous woman, whether that be acting or modeling."

Ashley Callingbull"And I've been told that, you know, Indigenous people aren't relatable, so we're not going to cast you, which is such a crazy thing to hear. And now that times are changing and things are becoming more inclusive, it's been too long like it took too long to get to this point."

Callingbull concluded, "It's quite remarkable because as a young girl, I never had dreams to do what I'm doing now and to see that they came true. I want that to happen for other indigenous youth as well. I want them to find that within their lives, and for me, I'm just trying to pave the way."

"So my Indigenous pride is something that I carry with me everywhere. And I want everyone else to be proud of their heritage as well, because it's beautiful. For me, it's all about taking people along with me as well. Yes, I may be the first and a bunch of different things, but it's so important that I'm not the last."

On Aboriginal Day – June 21st, 2017 - 28-year-old Indigenous personality Ashley Callingbull stoodon a five-foot-high platform, facing a camera in the middle of Edmonton’s Victoria Park. She was a co-host for the Edmonton segment of Aboriginal Day Live for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

Even though there’s a larger stage behind her with performances from a variety of Indigenous artists, a small crowd gathers and remains around the platform to watch Callingbull do her stand-ups in front of the camera. Shouts of support, including a few “I love you, Ashley”s ring out sporadically from the predominantly Indigenous crowd.

“I love you, too” Callingbull replies to one. The woman who initiated the brief exchange gives a slight yelp in surprise because of Callingbull’s response. The crowd around the platform laughs and cheers at the reaction. Callingbull is a rarity in Canada; an Indigenous celebrity known throughout this country’s mainstream pop culture.

About a half hour later, during a commercial break, Callingbull’s stepfather (who she calls “dad”) and partner on Amazing Race Canada Season 4, Joel Ground, reaches up to the platform and offers her a can of soda and a bag of popcorn.

Callingbull grabs both, shoves a handful of popcorn into her mouth, takes a long sip of the soda and sighs. She reluctantly hands the snacks back to Ground because it’s time to go live again.

It’s only a brief glimpse into the off-camera Ashley Callingbull and hints at a secret about Canada’s popular Indigenous beauty queen/actor/model/activist: She loves her junk food.

Maybe not so secret – a large percentage of her @ashcallingbull tweets to her 21,000+ Twitter followers and @ashleycallingbull posts to her 187,000+ Instagram followers regale her love of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and junk food.

In fact, she posts about it so frequently that KFC sent her a personalized chicken bucket with her face – instead of the Colonel’s – on it, and Callingbull turned the company’s interest into a sponsorship opportunity.

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Styling Ivan Jimenez; Makeup Nickol Walkemeyer; Hair Ricardo Perdigao of Studio Mi; Maison Margiela coat, $1,250, from Simons; Sailors boots, $140, from Aldo; Zellan earrings, $18, from Aldo; The Kooples dress, $495, from Simons “During the race, when the crews were interviewing teams in the taxis or at challenges or anything, Ashley always had snacks top of mind,” says Mike Bickerton, the producer and casting director for Amazing Race Canada. Callingbull and her stepfather were the first Indigenous team to participate on the show, finishing in third place after travelling over 25,000 kilometres to over 20 cities. “She could go on and on about how Cheetos and [Hawkins] Cheezies are very, very different,” Bickerton says. (Callingbull likes the crunchier Cheezies.) Of course, her deep love and knowledge of junk food wasn’t the reason why Bickerton cast Callingbull on the highly-rated reality TV show. It was her actions after she became the first Canadian and the first Indigenous woman to win the Mrs. Universe Pageant in 2015 that first drew his attention to her, as well as the attention of many Canadians. “Maybe this is my preconception, but I just don’t assume that somebody is going to [speak out] with their new-found celebrity,” notes Bickerton. “I assume that people are generally a bit more self-serving than community-serving. She immediately went right into using her voice for some kind of good.” Following her win, Callingbull was on a media whirlwind. “The first day it was like 30-something interviews in a day, back-to-back. That was while I was flying in the air, landing in Toronto, and then that whole day was absolute craziness,” she remembers. “Once I had the media in the palm of my hand, I thought, ‘This is the perfect time to speak the truth.’ The truth is real. The truth is raw, and it is going to stir the pot.” Canadians listened as she spoke frankly about inadequate housing, a lack of clean water, inequality in proper education and healthcare, missing and murdered Indigenous women, suicide rates for children in foster care and other Indigenous issues. When she accused the then-Harper government of treating Indigenous people as terrorists when they stand up for their rights, APTN, Huffington Post and Montreal Gazette claimed Callingbull played a major role in the 2015 election because of her efforts to get more Indigenous people to vote. Even the New York Times noted that it seemed Callingbull had more influence during the election on Indigenous people than the head of the Assembly of First Nations. APEGA - BB.May2022 Edmonton Public Library - BB.May2022 In non-Indigenous Canada, whether she was doing good or not was determined by what side of the political spectrum one’s opinions fell on. But Callingbull didn’t care. She had to speak her truth. And, in a very short period of time, she had become something that she never really had growing up as a kid in Enoch: A positive Indigenous role model. Callingbull’s childhood was marked by poverty, and she alleges she was physically and sexually abused by someone in her life. “We had to pick bottles every day just to eat. I remember we would just be counting how many perogies we could eat for supper, and that was really sad,” she says. “My mom worked really hard to give me the best that she could, but during that time she didn’t know I was living through abuse. It was a really difficult time for me. I was dealing with a lot of insecurities and I hated myself for everything that I’d been through. I was afraid that I was going to go into a life of despair and I thought my life would just crumble beneath me.” In October, she shared her story on Instagram to participate in the #MeToo movement. Reconnecting to her Cree culture helped her stabilize her emotional ground and helped find the ability to heal. She fled the abuse and moved in with her grandparents, a medicine man and woman in Enoch. Through ceremonies and language, she found pride in Cree self-identification, along with strength and peace within herself. “I learned to let go and I learned to heal through my culture. That’s what made me a stronger, more independent person. It made me proud of who I am, and it made me not hold on to pain anymore.” She got involved with charities, working for the Lung Association because she had tuberculosis when she was nine, the Canadian Cancer Society when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and the Stollery Children’s Hospital where her six-day-old sister, Ambee, died due to a genetic disorder. Then, reluctantly she admits, she started entering beauty pageants. “It didn’t seem like something that I’d like to do because I’m a girl that’s very down-to-Earth,” Callingbull says. “The Ashley out of the public eye is way more laid-back,” she says. “I never brush my hair or really do my makeup. I always wear sweatpants, hoodies and runners.” A friend’s idea to use the contests as a means of supporting her favourite charities was the tipping point, so she entered the competitive world of pageantry. She made a name for herself locally, winning all the local Enoch events, then became the second runner-up for the 2010 Miss Universe Canada pageant before the big Mrs. Universe win in 2015 put her more into the public eye. Unlike other pageants, Mrs. Universe focuses on what participants have done for their country, rather than just their looks and does not have a, what has been called sexist, swimsuit competition. Appearing on Amazing Race Canada in 2016 gave her an even more expansive profile. Now, she’s booked solidly through spring 2018, her schedule filled with speeches, workshops, auditions, photo shoots and other appearances, including a national campaign as the face of philanthropic jewellery company, Hillberg and Berk. “I do a lot of different things, but I’m always trying to focus on working with the youth first,” she says, the day after spending a week at the Learning Lead Hockey Camp in Whitehorse, Yukon. Callingbull is also a spokesperson and model for Nike’s N7 Fund, an organization that provides funding and equipment for Indigenous youth sport programs in North America. “It’s important to me because they’re our future leaders and I try to give back to these kids who are struggling through the same things that I struggled through. When I was growing up I didn’t have much and I didn’t have any real role models to look up to that could encourage me and put me on the right path. I had to work hard on my own to get where I am today. If I can bring a light into someone’s life and give them that positivity, that motivation to move them forward to a good place, I’d love to be that person. I just love working with the youth because it’s also so much fun. I just like to bring a smile to their face in any way that I can.” row 9-11 Anthony “Thosh” Collins Black and Whites - Chris Nicholls