Ashley Callingbull’s life path has been filled with ups and downs, but through all her trials she said she’s learned one important thing: live and love fearlessly. That was Callingbull's message as she shared her life’s journey with students at Meadow Lake’s Transition Place Educational Centre and Carpenter High School Tuesday, June 12.
The Alberta-born Cree woman made a name for herself by winning the Mrs. Universe pageant in 2015, but long before those days she said she developed a passion for charity work and giving back to the community. But life wasn’t always glamorous for the 28-year-old. In her youth, she said she was the subject of years of physical and sexual abuse, as well as poverty, which led her down a path of self-hatred. In her teens, she said she focused on her studies, volunteering and getting back to her culture, inspired by her grandparents.
When she spoke to students yesterday, she said her main goal was to be relatable and honest.
“Growing up, I came from nothing," Callingbull said. "I didn’t believe in myself and it took self-love and hard work to get where I am now.”
Callingbull said she has given her time to numerous Indigenous and health-based organizations, and has also been an outspoken advocate for Indigenous issues, including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In addition to her extensive charity work, Callingbull works as a model, actress and product ambassador for Saskatchewan jewelry company Hillberg and Berk and recently joined with Nike.
She said it’s important to speak up and blaze a path for oneself.
“It’s about the ripple effect and what kind of change you can create,” Callingbull said. “If I affect someone in a positive way, you have no idea who they can affect next.”
Callingbull said her favourite part of interacting with Meadow Lake youths was speaking with them directly after her presentation. One of the students who shared some of his aspirations with her was Damon Fulton.
“Her presentation was really awesome,” Fulton said. “To see the stuff that she’s done from where she started is truly amazing. I’m a pretty shy guy; she was kind of a shy kid too who dealt with bullying. She got two degrees and if she can do all this, then surely I can hopefully do one of my dreams.”
Principal Courtney Hildebrand said she was thankful Callingbull spoke to students at the alternative high school.
“Her message of resiliency and goal-setting is important,” Hildebrand said. “Every misfortunate led her to another cause. It’s nice to see how she can take those things and make them into a positive.”
On Twitter @ReporterKath
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