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China experience opens eyes for beauty pageant contestant
As if winning second runner-up in June’s Miss Universe Canada competition wasn’t enough excitement for Ashley Callingbull, the 20-year-old Cree beauty from Enoch has just returned from competing in the Miss Friendship International Pageant in Hubei, China.
Callingbull said she was picked by the MUC director to attend the international pageant. “You never win Miss Universe the first time around. The director sends you to international pageants to gain more experience and training, so you can come back and compete again.”
And an experience it was! Callingbull said the way pageants are run in China is quite unlike the one she took part in at home. “The Miss Friendship Pageant was definitely different. For Miss Universe it was a lot of training, in China it was lots of shows. For a month, we travelled all over the country doing parades, appearances at schools, talent shows in the Gobi desert, and a lot of government functions. It was stressful and draining, but a lot of fun, too.”
Despite the hectic schedule, the pageant had its comical moments, the 183 cm tall Callingbull said. “Being one of the tallest people in the country, the clothes were all small. The swim suit I had to wear was 2XL in Asian size, and it was still really, really tiny.”
Besides the chance to see a foreign country, Callingbull said going to China introduced her to people from many different places.
“I met all kinds of girls from all over the world. I made a lot of friends. The competition we were in is all about uniting all the countries. I think I did really well being from Canada, where it’s so multicultural. A lot of girls had a hard time adjusting, but I wasn’t afraid to meet different people. I deal with different people, different cultures every day. I was telling the girls, ‘Canada is not like China. If you come to Canada there will always be someone just like you.’”
Callingbull won Miss Photogenic, was fourth in the polls, and also won Goddess Award in China, but that wasn’t the most important reward she took away from the trip, she said.
“It was quite an eye opener. Going there made me really grateful to live where I live. I saw things I’d never seen before in Canada. The poverty, the way people live, education, jobs, everything is different. People work their whole lives for a one-room house, people suffer there.”
Equipped with these experiences, Callingbull is ready to tackle new challenges back home, and already her agenda for the coming months seems firmly in place.
“The rest of the year I’ll be travelling. I’ll be visiting schools, doing fashion shows, and another awesome thing came up – I was asked to speak at Harvard. I guess a lot of people know about me because I was the first Native American, First Nations woman to become Miss Canada. It’s a big deal. You know the stereotype, they expect me not to be where I am, doing all these things, and yet, here I am.”
Callingbull will be co-starring with Gordon Tootoosis in the new TV series Blackstone, on Showcase in January. She also plans to return to university for the winter semester.
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