Alberta First Nations woman wins Mrs. Universe pageant
Published Sunday, August 30, 2015 1:50PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 30, 2015 8:45PM EDT
An Alberta woman has been crowned Mrs. Universe 2015, becoming the first First Nations woman and Canadian delegate to win the title.
Ashley Burnham, 25, won the contest Saturday in Belarus, where the pageant was being held.
Burnham, who hails from the Enoch Cree Nation, is an actress, model and former Miss Universe Canada contestant.
A day after her win, Burnham said she’s “overwhelmed” by the positive response she’s receiving.
“There are people all over the world supporting me and it’s amazing, it’s the best feeling ever,” Burnham told CTV’s News Channel on Sunday.
Burnham said she was pleased to be able to showcase her First Nations identity on the world stage. She said her culture is often misrepresented at pageants, so she wore her “regalia to represent all First Nations people in the proper way.”
When she first started competing in pageants, Burnham said people didn’t expect her to win, “just because of my background.”
“They didn’t even want me to be there,” she said. “Now I’m breaking barriers, I’m successful.”
As a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, Burnham said the theme of the pageant, addressing domestic violence, resonated with her.
“It’s personally affected my life and I wanted to be there for other women, to have a voice for them because a lot of people can’t talk about things like that,” Burnham said. “A lot of people can’t heal on their own, they need people to guide them.”
Burnham posted two photos of herself from the contest to her Instagram page Saturday.
"I'm proud to say I am now the new Mrs. Universe 2015!" she wrote. "So happy right now!"
Mrs. Universe is a pageant designed for contestants who are married.