In a historic event on Saturday evening, Ashley Burnham became both the first Canadian to win the Mrs. Universe title, as well as the first First Nations contestant — ever.
Burnham, who is better known by her maiden name, Ashley Callingbull, is from the Enoch Cree First Nation. An actress and model, she has starred in the APTN show "Blackstone," and also was the second runner-up in the Miss Universe Canada 2010 pageant.
Since getting married in February, Burnham changed her participation from the Miss contests to the Mrs. Universe beauty pageant, which has celebrated and honoured married women since 2007.
Taking place in Minsk, Belarus, this year's contest was dedicated to "domestic violence and reflection over children." As Ashely told the Spruce Grove Examiner in 2012, she endured physical and sexual abuse from her stepfather as a child, and watched her mother gain the strength to eventually leave him.
In the national outfit parade, Burnham wore a stunning beaded jingle dress, a traditional outfit worn for a powwow dance, made by Dabney Warren. As she told the Edmonton Journal, "Ever since I was little, I loved acting and being in the spotlight and on stage and everything. When I was a little kid, I danced jingle and entered every powwow and competed.”
Her swimsuit was a beautiful turquoise bikini:
While her talent outfit was created by Aboriginal designer Lyn Kay Designs:
And her stunning evening gown was designed by Joey Galon:
Mrs. Canada(NOW...Mrs. Universe 2015), Ashley Burnham, First Nation Native Indian Beauty Queen in this haute couture designed Joey Galon, ATELIER competition evening gown. Gown is made of pearl & beaded appliqué florals, embellished with over 6,000 Swarovski crystals and stripped Ostrich feathers....all applied one by one by hand. www.JoeyGalon.com Photo: Mrs. Universe 2015, Ashley Burnham w/Fashion Designer, Joey Galon #joeygalonatelier #joeygalon #fashiondesigner #costumedesigner #hautecouture #PinoyDesigner #FilipinoAmericanDesigner #FilAmDesigner #hautecouturegown #mrsuniversecanada #mrsuniverse @ash_burnham
Many people online quickly championed Burnham's achievement, with Canadian author Kelly Oxford writing a beautiful short essay on Instagram:
This morning I read about @ash_burnham becoming the first First Nations woman and Canadian to become @mrsuniverse2015 With a supportive mother, Ashley has triumphed a childhood of sexual abuse and extreme poverty between Enoch and Hobbema Alberta. In hopes of becoming a positive role model for other young First Nations women, she ignored the bigots who mocked, "What will her talent be, drinking Lysol? Singing welfare cheques with her toes?" She is currently working towards her BA in Drama. I'm typically anti-pageant and objectification of women, but believe Ashley will be such a positive inspiration for so many Canadian First Nations girls - who are the group of Canadians needing it the very, very most. I grew up in Edmonton and have witnessed much racism towards First Nations from Enoch and other nearby reserves. The Canadian government and people quickly forget and often don't even acknowledge the abuse and murder of our First Nations people. Racism in Canada is strong and ignored, we need to acknowledge, educate and support each other.🇨🇦✌🏽️From one Central Alberta girl to another, Congratulations Ashley 💪🏽💪🏽🎉
Plenty of other supporters were easy to find, cheering on everything from Burnham's strength to her beauty.
I am usually anti-pageants, but YES to the new Miss Universe @AshCallingbull being the 1st First Nations & 1st Canadian woman to win!!! 🍁🍁🍁— Natasha Negovanlis (@natvanlis) August 30, 2015
Congratulations Ashley — we can't wait to see what you do next.
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