BELARUS— Ashley Burnham from the Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton, Alberta made history this past weekend as the first First Nations woman and first Canadian to be crowned Mrs. Universe.
The 25-year-old, a dancer and actress, embraced her culture throughout the Mrs. Universe pageant, sporting a jingle dress for part of the competition and wearing a buckskin dress and singing a traditional cree song for the talent portion of the pageant.
Ms. Burnham has been quoted in numerous global media outlets as saying that she hopes her win will inspire other First Nation women.
The Expositor spoke with Manitoulin First Nations women in the pageant world about what Ms. Burnham’s win means to them.
“She is tremendously inspiring,” said Miss Wikwemikong 2014-2015 Destinee Kaboni. “To be the first First Nation to win Mrs. Universe and to be the first Canadian woman to hold the title is amazing. She has set the bar for young Native girls across Canada. Ashley is showing girls not to be afraid to reach for their dreams. She is definitely someone to look up to as a role model.”
“She has suffered poverty and abuse, which other First Nations youth have endured,” continued Ms. Kaboni, “but she has overcome it. She has demonstrated that no matter where you come from, what you have had to go through, you can overcome it and reach your goals. She used her background as a drive to accomplish her goals. She makes me and other indigenous women proud. She is a strong, proud and beautiful First Nation woman and a wonderful role model.”
“I was really excited when I heard Ashley Burham was crowned Mrs. Universe,” Miss Manitoulin 2015-2016 Brittany Manitowabi told The Expositor. “It is very inspirational to me. I think it has really brought all of Canada together to celebrate her achievement of being not only the first First Nation woman to be named Mrs. Universe, but also the first Canadian. She is a role model to all Canadian women.”
Mrs. Universe is an international pageant that started in 2007, focussed on married contestants.