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Miss World Canada Emma Morrison isn't bothered by beauty standards: 'Beauty starts inside you'

When Emma Morrison was 16, she was camping, hunting and playing sports — until she was introduced to the world of pageantry.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: A model walks the runway for Choke Cherry Creek during Runway 7 Spring / Summer 2024 Collections at Sony Hall on September 09, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Runway 7)
Emma Morrison, the first Indigenous woman to win Miss World Canada, opens up to Yahoo Canada. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Runway 7)

When Emma Morrison was 16, she was camping, hunting and playing almost every sport imaginable — until she was introduced to the world of pageantry.

Little did she know that in a few short years, she would make history as the first Indigenous woman to win Miss World Canada.

As a member of Chapleau Cree First Nation in Ontario, located about 800 kilometres north of Toronto, Morrison and her family spent their time enjoying nature and connecting to their heritage.

And like many teenagers from small towns, she liked to keep busy and look for opportunities. But when Morrison was first asked to enter a pageant, she was skeptical.

"It's scary doing new things I've never tried before, but pageants were able to extend my comfort zone," Morrison told Yahoo Canada last year. "They have opened up new possibilities for me."

The now 22-year-old quickly learned that pageants were her niche. She was contacted on Facebook to represent her community at Miss Teenage Northern Ontario in 2017.

After winning that title, she went on to win Miss Teenage Canada and was able to qualify for Miss World Canada — which she won late last year.

While Morrison agrees it's an honour to be the first Indigenous woman to hold the title, she thinks it's more about opening the door for other Indigenous peoples to walk through.

"A victory for one is a victory for all, and that's really what I took away from [Miss World Canada]. This amplifies my voice of advocacy for Indigenous peoples," Morrison said.

For Miss World Canada, Morrison was required to develop a humanitarian initiative as part of the event's Beauty With a Purpose project.

Her contribution, Reconnecting with Ribbon Skirts, was born after the initial finding of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops residential school in 2021. While this was extremely tragic, Morrison decided to use the news to help Indigenous women feel empowered and to reconnect with their culture.

She taught herself how to sew and made her own ribbon skirts, which symbolize Indigenous values of community, connection and resiliency. Morrison's personal goal is to design, sew and disseminate as many ribbon skirts as she can to Indigenous women across Canada.

Later this year, she will present the project on the international stage when she competes at Miss World.

"My initiative is for women's crystallization. So they'll have something to decolonize their wardrobe, that is physically linked to their culture, and reminds them to stand strong and be proud of their cultural identity," Morrison said.

"A victory for one is a victory for all, and that's really what I took away from [Miss World Canada]. This amplifies my voice of advocacy for Indigenous peoples."Emma Morrison

Despite Morrison's success, determination and resilience, the road hasn't always been easy. Growing up, she struggled with anxiety — and has since learned to make her mental health a priority.

In order to keep her grounded and feeling her best, Morrison believes that opening up to her family has been a vital part of her journey.

"For me it's my parents, but it's key to have people and a support system in your life to just let it out, share your emotions and to battle for you," Morrison explained.

This has been especially important in the age of social media, where Morrison is privy to internet trolls who write mean or derogatory comments on her posts.

"For some people, I'm not a winner and they make that clear. So what I do is just delete the comments and move on. I don't want negativity on my page," Morrison said.

When speaking to Morrison, what becomes clear is that she's a true embodiment of what it means to be Miss World Canada. She's inspirational, positive, curious and is always looking to make a difference.

And while stereotypical definitions of beauty are often what people think of when it comes to pageants, Morrison is on a mission to break that. To her, what makes someone beautiful is not their stylish haircut or perfect makeup, but the impact they leave behind.

"Physical looks fade over time, but it's your inner essence that captivates somebody else. They'll remember you for the words you said and the impact that you've made in their life, whether it's big or small," Morrison explained. "Beauty starts within you. Beauty begins the moment that you fully embrace who you are, and you're not afraid to shine that towards others."

"Beauty begins the moment that you fully embrace who you are, and you're not afraid to shine that towards others."Emma Morrison

Morrison has many goals and dreams, which revolve around inspiring Indigenous youth to reach their full potential. This is something she's already put into action through mentorship and outreach.

Recently, Morrison worked with Tia Nootchtai, an Indigenous pageant competitor who won the title of Miss Ontario Regional Canada 2023.

In an Instagram post, Morrison explained that she has been mentoring Nootchtai for free over the last couple months, and is impressed by her "L.O.L." platform, which encourages Indigenous youth to Live Out Loud.

Additionally, you can often find Morrison sharing her message at schools and classrooms, and visiting as many Indigenous communities as she can.

When it comes to advice for people looking to live their best, most authentic lives, Morrison has one simple message — believe in yourself.

"Step outside your comfort zone. You will open doors for yourself, expand your horizons and allow more opportunities to come your way," she said. "So try to be more courageous even when you are anxious, an just to say yes to opportunities."

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