What would you like to know?
Share this Story

Former Miss Canada crowned Mrs. Universe, and we couldn't be prouder

For Cailyn Cox, writing isn't just a hobby, it's her life. Passionate about Hollywood, she makes it her mission to find the most entertaining celebrity gossip for SheKnows readers. And when she's not enthralled in the celeb world, she's ...

Mrs. Universe 2015 reveals how her culture helped her overcome childhood sexual abuse

From SheKnows Canada
Alberta's Ashley Burnham was crowned Mrs. Universe 2015 at the event in Minsk, Belarus, on Saturday — and there is something extra special about her win.

More: DWTS' Cheryl Burke makes heartbreaking confession about child sexual abuse

Not only is Burnham, née Callingbull, the first Canadian to win the pageant (held for married women) but also the first First Nations woman to take the title.

The model and actress is from the Enoch Cree Nation, west of Edmonton, and her heritage is something she is deeply proud of. According to Canada AM, during the competition she wore a white buckskin dress made by a First Nations designer, for the costume segment she wore a customized traditional jingle dress, and for the talent competition she performed a traditional song.

Talent night! Wearing Lyn Kay Designs @mrsuniverse2015

A photo posted by Ashley Burnham (Callingbull) (@ash_burnham) on

More: Can emojis help prevent child abuse?

But she also credits her culture for helping her get through the sexual abuse she suffered when she was a child.

"I've lived through it and can use it to help other people," Burnham said of her abuse, the National Post reports.

Burnham was reportedly raped and beaten during her childhood, and it was not until her mother moved her back to her grandparents' house in Enoch (from Hobbema, now Maskwacis) in her early teens that she rediscovered her Cree culture and spirituality, which helped begin her healing process.

"I think my culture saved me," she reportedly said. "Fear had held me back for so long. I needed to find myself… and I did."

More: Jessa and Jill Duggar open up about child sexual abuse in new documentary

Winning the title has propelled Burnham into the public eye (she's already trending both nationally and internationally), and she is using this spotlight to raise awareness for a cause close to her heart: child sexual abuse.

That moment when you're trending more than Kanye West...

A photo posted by Ashley Burnham (Callingbull) (@ash_burnham) on

Being a survivor herself, Burnham hopes to help others who may be in a similar situation know they are not alone. This was also one of the reasons she was drawn to the competition.

This year, the pageant had the theme of addressing "domestic violence and reflection over children." The topic took a closer look at how domestic violence affects children and what can be done to combat it, sending out a powerful and educational message. Burnham revealed to Canada AM how she could personally relate.

"I thought, this is a perfect platform for me, because I'm relatable to people, I've experienced this myself, and I'm able to speak about it," she said. "I'm glad I'm able to use this title as a way to speak for others that can't speak for themselves."

Follow Us

SheKnows Media ‐ Beauty and Style

New in Living

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!