A young woman from Alberta is paving the way for Indigenous youth representation and has become the newest face of Nike. Ashley Callingbull believes campaigns like this help Indigenous youth "see themselves" in the media. She uses her modelling as a catalyst for activism, self-healing, and Indigenous representation.
In an exclusive interview with Narcity, Callingbull told us that Nike is all about bettering yourself by encouraging people to become the best version of themselves.
That’s why the corporation picked the Alberta born woman to be their newest campaign model.
Callingbull, of the Enoch Cree Nation, is no stranger to the spotlight and started out in the pageant industry at a very young age.
Her life was not the easiest and early on, she realized that she could intertwine modelling with her culture as a way to heal herself, she told us.
“My culture saved my life. I live my life around traditions and staying away from drugs and alcohol. It kept me true to who I am,” said Callingbull.
“I realized a way for me to heal was to give back.”
This draw to heal herself and others stems from her grandmother and grandfather who are among the medicine men and women within her community, says Callingbull.
Wanting to prove to herself and to society that her Indigenous background and lifestyle are important and worth sharing, she began competing in more and more beauty pageants.
Callingbull stayed true to herself and was even able to win Mrs. Universe while sporting her traditional regalia along the way. This made her the first-ever First Nations Mrs. Universe.
Since then, she has been able to live out some of her biggest dreams, travel the world, and work with huge campaigns that align with her activism.
The title of Mrs. Universe, and participating in The Amazing Race Canada, has given her more responsibility — which she has not taken lightly, she told us.
Aside from the money that she actively raises and donates, she believes that her representation with large campaigns, like Nike, is important for Indigenous youth to look up to.
“Lots of Indigenous youth don’t have dreams for themselves because they don’t see it. But now when they see me, they see themselves,” said Callingbull.
A few months ago, the model was contacted by Nike and asked if she would be the new face of their campaign that integrates healing, wellness, and working on yourself — everything that Callingbull has based her life around.
While Callingbull speaks highly of her work, it's only a fraction of what needs to be done in terms of reconciliation, representation, and education, she said.
Calling her story “very common” within her culture, she notes that many Indigenous people feel as though they will amount to nothing.
“Deep down there is something you don’t know you have. You need to appreciate and love yourself for the way you were created,” explained the activist.
“I want youth to know they are worthy of anything. They shouldn’t be devalued. They have every right to live their best life.”
The new face of Nike explained to Narcity that it’s important that all Canadians educate themselves on Indigenous culture.
“Listen to our stories. It’s more than just showing up,” said Callingbull.
“We don’t win until we all win.”