Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull and her dad are 1st First Nation Amazing Race Canada team
Many people already know her as Mrs. Universe, but after tonight Ashley Callingbull will also be known as one half of the first First Nations team on Amazing Race Canada.
Callingbull and her father, Joel Ground — both from Enoch Cree Nation, Alta. — will be competing in the reality show, which kicks off its new season tonight at 8 p.m. on CTV.
"To see a First Nation team on the Amazing Race is... going to empower a lot of First Nation people to do really well in their lives, and to go after their dreams," said Callingbull.
The duo have always been fans of Amazing Race Canada, so it was a no-brainer to sign up. Callingbull said this year the show received several Indigenous applicants, and she is honoured to be paving the way.
Callingbull is used to being in the spotlight, but this will be a first for Ground.
"I won't be known just as Ashley's dad, it's going to be cool," said Ground.
Usually he is asked to take pictures of Callingbull with her fans, but Ground jokes that after tonight's premiere he'll be included in the photographs.
Preparing for the race
The show requires a combination of strength and brains, and in order to prepare the duo hit both the gym and the history books.
"I started running more and I was looking at different trivia about Canada, including a bit of map stuff, to try to get an advantage," said Ground.
Callingbull was strategic in her preparation, researching facts about Canadian cities the show hasn't visited. Physically, the race challenged her every step of the way.
"We push ourselves to these limits... and then out of nowhere we find the strength that we didn't know we had," said Callingbull.
"Because of Amazing Race Canada I'm a different person now. I'm stronger than ever… I became a warrior woman in the race, and it's going to set a good example."
"I feel like we're really breaking some barriers, and stereotypes… we're setting a good example and trying to be role models for all the First Nation youth that are watching the show," said Callingbull.
Being a First Nation role model is something Callingbull is used to, since becoming a household name after being crowned Mrs. Universe. She has used her platform to bring awareness to issues that are important to her, including First Nation rights and the environment.
"I've always seen people come up to Ashley, and seen how their eyes light up when they talk to her, because she's such a role model," said Ground, who is himself well suited to be a role model for First Nation fathers.
Ground, who is actually Callingbull's stepfather, has an undeniably strong bond with his daughter. Callingbull is excited for Canadians to meet her dad — and learn their story — since he helped her overcome a lot to become the woman she is today.
"Growing up and living through poverty and abuse… having my dad come into my life made it better," said Callingbull.
The competition kicks off in Yellowknife and host Jon Montgomery says the first episode will contain the "single greatest stunt" to appear on the show.