A few years ago, Emma Morrison was just like any other 16-year-old from a small town. A native of the Chapleau Cree First Nation in Ontario, she spent most of her time hunting, fishing and playing sports before joining the world of beauty pageants.
Morrison, now 22, was crowned Miss World Canada on Sunday night, making her the first Indigenous woman to hold the national title. She will enter the international contest “Miss World” next year in Vietnam.
“It’s not about being the first Indigenous woman to hold that title,” Morrison told CBC News. “Of course it’s a great honor … but I wanted to open that door to other indigenous peoples.
Morrison’s first pageant was in the Miss Northern Ontario pageant, where she was one of only three Indigenous contestants out of a total of 39.
But Indigenous representation in Canada’s beauty pageants has improved since then, she said, noting that this year’s Miss Northern Ontario, Grace Webb, is a young woman from Dokis First Nation who was one of 10 Indigenous people in 2022. event participants.
“I’m really doing it for them, the indigenous youth, the indigenous little girls. Because I was once in their position,” Morrison said. She competes to show her six younger foster siblings that they can reach their full potential.
“It doesn’t have to be great, but it can be applying to university or stepping out of your comfort zone, and it’s just important to be that positive example that your dreams are achievable too.”
Mentored by Ms. Universe 2015, Big Sister
Morrison may be Canada’s first indigenous Miss World, but she’s not the first to rise to the top of the beauty pageant world.
After the 2017 won Miss Teenage Canada, Morrison received a surprise social media friend request from Ashley Callingbull-Rabbit, who was the first Canadian and Indigenous woman to win Miss Universe in 2015.
Likening her to a “big sister”, Morrison said Callingbull-Rabbit became a mentor and guide as she progressed through her competition.
WATCH | Beauty pageant winners discuss Indigenous representation:
“She’s also from the reserve and she’s an example that with passion and drive you can achieve anything. So it was fantastic that she took me under her wing,” Morrison said.
In addition to Morrison, Callingbull-Rabbit trains several other local beauty pageant contestants in Canada and the United States. She says she wishes someone had shown her the ropes when she was starting out.
“You can push someone in the right direction and give them all the tools, but it’s really up to them to make that dream come true.” [Emma] have,” Callingbull-Rabbit told CBC News.
“Being a spokesperson is not just about being a face, walking around waving and saying look who I am,” she added. “For me, it’s about what you’re going to do [do] With this platform, how do you intend to use your voice and what positive change do you intend to create?
Morrison, in turn, was tasked with creating a humanitarian project for the Miss World Canada pageant’s main event, Beauty with a Purpose.
Her winning effort, titled “Reconnecting with Belted Skirts,” began after the 2021 A tentative discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a residential school site in Kamloops inspired her to reconnect with her culture.
“So far I’ve made 23 band skirts for Indigenous women to feel beautifully empowered and that’s what I want to do,” she said. “I want to give indigenous women a physical connection to our culture, to remind them to be strong and proud of their cultural identity.”
She hopes to take the initiative to the international stage when she takes part in Miss World next year. As an Indigenous woman, she doesn’t hesitate to represent Canada on the world stage, but recognizes the responsibility that comes with her title, she said.
“I come from such a strong community of people. I’m from the Chapleau Cree First Nation in the Treaty Nine Mushkegowuk Territory. And everyone in my community, my territory, has been incredibly supportive,” she said.
“It’s a relief to know that I have that support, that backbone that’s helping me move forward with this title.”