Ashley Callingbull-Rabbit is emerging from the two-year pandemic healthier, fit and ready to take on a new Indigenous outreach role with two sports teams in Saskatchewan.
Never one to just take a break, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Callingbull-Rabbit found herself at a loss at what to do.
Two years later, she is now married to hockey coach Wacey Rabbit, a former Saskatoon Blades captain who is now returning to the Blades organization as assistant coach. Callingbull-Rabbit is also joining the Blades and the Saskatchewan Rush as an ambassador. They will both be engaged in Indigenous outreach.
In the spring of 2020, the former Mrs. Universe decided to focus on her fitness — a journey that led to landing a coveted photo shoot in Sports Illustrated Magazine and to being named the in-game host for the Edmonton Elks Football team with CISN Country’s Chris Scheetz.
A Cree woman as an in-game host is a monumental moment for all Cree women and a first for Canadian Football.
“Being a proud member of Treaty Six, I’ve always been a fan of Edmonton’s sports teams,” said Callingbull-Rabbit. “I’m excited to join one of my hometown teams with the Edmonton Elks.”
“Having Ashley be a game-day voice of the Elks is not only a source of pride for Enoch, but all Treaty Six First Nations,” Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin said.
Her fitness journey started in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I thought I needed to make a change,” she said. “My lifestyle is busy, like constantly flying, traveling, and working. But when the pandemic started and it was time to go into quarantine, I just felt lost.”
Lost and sad.
“I was sitting there on the couch eating cheeses. I wasn’t feeling as ambitious as before because everything was just so uncertain, so I thought, I’m not feeling good mentally right now.”
She decided to start with small workouts and gradually build up her workout routine. “And now I’ve been doing it for almost two years. I’m in the best shape of my life. I feel amazing,” she said.
“It feels good to take care of myself physically because it helps mentally, and I feel stronger all around.”
It also paid dividends. In May, the former Mrs. World became the first-ever Indigenous woman to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated magazine’s Swimsuit Edition.
It was an incredible opportunity, said Callingbull-Rabbit, because thousands of women applied for it.
She had put a video together for Sports Illustrated that showcased who she was and what she stood for. She received a message that she made it to the casting round with 50 other models, all from different backgrounds, with different stories and accomplishments.
“And then, I remember it was almost 6 a.m. on March 1 and no one calls me at 6 a.m. unless it’s an emergency.
“I answered the phone, and I was half-awake, and they said: ‘We’re calling from Sports Illustrated, and we want to let you know that we’ve selected you and are you free to fly to the Dominican Republic.’
“I said yes and I was crying. I thought it wasn’t real,” she recalled.
“I thought maybe I would wake up, like a dream. And then within days, I was in Dominican Republic shooting for Sports Illustrated, it just happened so fast.”
It was a wonderful experience and a real honour, she added. “I have always been pushing myself and always working toward my goals.”
One of her goals is to help vulnerable and exploited women. “One day, I hope to start a women’s shelter because my mom was escaping domestic violence,” said Callingbull-Rabbit.
“It’s essential for me to give women a second chance at life, and especially help their kids,” she added. “I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”
She challenged others to add movement to their lives, for both their physical and mental wellness: “movement is medicine.”
• Chevi Rabbit is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Alberta Native News
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