Beauty Queen spotlights the beauty of Indigenous culture and peoples

Powwow dancer Hailey Hamelin-Wilson is a student ambassador, a model, an artist, an activist - and a pageant queen.

By Deena Goodrunning, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – Indigenous beauty shines everywhere on Turtle Island, and one example of a shining Indigenous beauty is Hailey Hamelin-Wilson. Originally from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, Hamelin-Wilson now lives in Edmonton where she is pursuing a History degree at the University of Alberta.

But academia is only one of Hamelin-Wilson’s numerous pursuits and passions. She’s also a student ambassador, a model, a jingle dress and fancy shawl dancer, an artist, a TikToker and an activist – and she is a pageant queen.

Only 23 years old, Hamelin-Wilson has held many pageant titles including Miss Teen Canadian Teenager International 2020, Miss Canada Globe 2021, Miss Tourism International Canada 2022 and Miss Charity International Canada 2023. She placed fourth runner up at Miss Globe 2021, out of 50 contestants from across the world. Most recently Hamelin-Wilson has qualified to compete at Miss World Canada 2024, which will take place in Toronto this August. If Hamelin-Wilson wins, she can compete at Miss World, one of the most prestigious and internationally known beauty pageants across the globe.

There has only ever been one other Indigenous woman crowned Miss World Canada: Emma Morrison from Chapleau Cree Nation. Morrison made history in 2022 as the first Indigenous woman to be awarded the title of Miss World Canada.

In an interview with ANNews, Hamelin-Wilson spoke about pow wow dancing, modeling and pageantry.

In 2023 she founded the Pow Wow Dance club at the University of Alberta. “Pow wow dancing is something that I grew up around and I’ve been very passionate about it. When I came to university, I didn’t know too many other people who also pow wow dance so I thought that making a club would be a great opportunity for other pow wow people who want to join. Especially students, because I noticed a lot of students want to dance and they just don’t know where or how to start, or they don’t know anybody. There’s a lot of people who are reconnecting – so it’s a really great opportunity for people to explore their culture and meet other people.”

Hamelin-Wilson is also an artist and enjoys creating regalia and beadwork. On TikTok she creates tutorials on how to make traditional beadwork and regalia for those wanting to learn, and she also makes an income through taking and selling orders for her beadwork and regalia creations.

She became involved in modeling and pageantry after moving to Edmonton as a teenager. While some people dismiss pageantry as useless, Hamelin-Wilson pointed out that pageantry provides many opportunities and can open many doors. It provides Hamelin-Wilson with a platform to spread more awareness and advocate for causes she is passionate about, such as the beauty of Indigenous culture and the issues Indigenous peoples face.

Hamelin-Wilson spoke about wanting to advocate for Indigenous peoples at Miss World Canada. “[Miss World Canada] will be my fifth pageant and I really feel like I can do this, because it’s [a platform where] I can bring more awareness to myself and my community. And I really want to speak about issues such as MMIW, because, a lot of people internationally don’t even know that Indigenous people exist – so it’s a good opportunity to bring awareness.”

Through her pageantry Hamelin-Wilson has been given opportunities to travel to the Philippines, Albania and Malaysia where she has strived to provide positive representation and a voice for Indigenous peoples.

When asked about challenges she has had, Hamelin-Wilson mentioned being bullied, cyber-bullied and dealing with people who dismiss the hard work that she puts into pageantry.

“There’s been times where I’ve spent all of my money just to go to a pageant and I’ve just had so many sleepless nights working really hard so I can get there,” Hamelin-Wilson said. “And a lot of people think that [my success] just happened easily for me when it didn’t. I’ve faced a lot of bullying and there’s been a lot of people commenting on my looks or body because they want to find something I’m insecure about. When I’m in a vulnerable position it gets hard. But, at the same time I know I’ve already represented Canada before so it’s not going to stop me because I’m still going to keep doing [pageantry.]”

In the future, Hamelin-Wilson wants to start her own company where she would train and support Indigenous girls to be successful in pageantry and modeling.

“I, definitely one day, want to create my own company. I want to be able to train Indigenous girls and help them get into modeling and pageants,” Hamelin-Wilson said. “Hopefully one day I will be able to send girls to international pageants – so that’s what my main goal is right now.” She said the training would include learning runway walking, posing, and how to do hair and makeup.

When asked about advice she would have for Indigenous girls who would want to pursue modeling and pageantry, Hamelin-Wilson advised hard work and self-investment.

“I would definitely say you have to work really hard because beauty pageants and modeling is a full-time job. You have to invest in yourself and work on your competence and whatever makes you feel good,” Hamelin-Wilson said.

“But, then also as Indigenous people, we do have our culture – and I feel our culture is very empowering. We can use that to showcase who we are and where we come from and that we’re still here. I’ve always found that when I show people my culture, it brings a lot of people to tears – and people just have so many questions. Because people know the backstory about Indigenous people, but they don’t know that we’re still thriving.”

For those interested in learning more about Hailey Hamelin-Wilson, she can be found at her official Instagram page @haileyykat or her TikTok @haileyykat.

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