Ashley Callingbull is all about making history. The Canadian model was the first Indigenous woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015, and last month she became the first Indigenous First Nations woman to be featured in SI Swimsuit Issue. But more than having impressive personal accolades, Callingbull is excited by what these accomplishments can do for other women. We recently chatted with the Enoch Cree Nation member to find out what the reaction has been since her appearance in the magazine and what she hopes to accomplish after this new milestone.
What’s the reaction been to your history-making appearance in SI Swimsuit?
“The reaction was just more than I expected. So many Indigenous people [saw themselves represented] for the first time, which is overwhelming. And it’s not just Indigenous people; many women of color reached out and said it feels so good to be seen and heard. Representation matters. It’s been a dream.”
More from SwimLife
Why is it a dream for you?
“I am the first Indigenous First Nations woman to appear in the magazine, and I know I won’t be the last. I’m opening the door for our next generation of women, which is really important. When you see SI Swimsuit, you see these amazing women who have all these wonderful careers and do so much good for other women. I remember seeing Tyra Banks on the cover as a little girl, and I thought if she could make history, maybe I could do it, too. Now that I’m in this position, I’m also giving inspiration to other women.”
Representation is so important to you. How has being in SI Swimsuit amplified your platform?
“It’s amplified everything. I’ve already been known for the things that I’ve been doing. But having an organization like Sports Illustrated stand behind you and let you speak your truth is so rare—it has made such a huge impact on my life.”
Are there organizations you’re involved with you hope to bring attention to?
“I work with many different organizations. For example, I support the In Her Shoes Foundation gala that raises funds for domestic violence survivors and their children. I grew up living through domestic violence and poverty, so it’s very important to me. And I’m partnering with other women’s organizations in Canada, like the Native Women’s Association.”
And what else do you have on your plate this year?
“This is a crazy year for me. I just created my first jewelry line coming out in the fall. I signed my first book deal with Harper Collins, and I just got a job as an in-game co-host for the Edmonton Elks of the Canadian Football League. So this year is already going to be a lot. But I can’t wait to see what happens next.”