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First Nations pageant delegate puts spotlight on much more than beauty

The Alexander First Nation member is excited to be a finalist for Miss Canada Petite. 

“We can’t become the people we need to be by remaining what we are.”  — Oprah

Beauty pageants tend to be polarizing. Some people see them as empowering. Others view them as superficial competitions that set impossible beauty standards for women. 

Tamera-Leigh Burnstick, 23, is on a journey of empowerment. As the Alexander First Nation member looks for ways to feel confident and to express her self-worth, she is excited to be a finalist for Miss Canada Petite. 

“I was happy at the announcement I would be a delegate. There was a wave of excitement, but also shock. This is a great opportunity into how I could change my life in what I want to be,” said Burnstick. 

Delegates are expected to participate in six events. Each delegate showcases a costume; displays their talent; addresses a social platform; takes part in an on-stage interview; and confidently struts across the stage in a swimsuit and evening gown. 

In this era of body positivism, Burnstick has a desire to prove her usefulness rather than just standing as a beautiful woman. She currently works at Nightwind Treatment Centre — Kihew Centre in Sturgeon County.  

The addiction centre for youth 12 to 17 focuses on providing care for those who have faced trauma and meeting youth where they are at, said Burnstick. As a program attendant, she bonds with attendees through recreational activities ranging from sports to arts and crafts. 

“It’s helping them deal with their trauma and being there to support them so they can reach their goals and dreams. I was once a youth in that position, and I understand and relate to where they come from. I want to be a role model and show them not to be angry with the world. I want to help them see there is more to life.” 

Raised at Alexander First Nation, the 5'3" brunette attended Kipohtakaw Education Centre, where she graduated in 2016 as class valedictorian. Immediately following, she attended the University of Alberta, but withdrew after the first year. 

“I was in a transition program. Withdrawing had a lot to do with culture shock. I grew up in a culture, a small reserve with people I knew. Going to a big school with not many Native kids I knew was a big shock.” 

An intelligent go-getter, Burnstick found a job at Alexander’s Footprints Healing Centre, an addictions and mental-health facility where she contributed for two years. 

In a spontaneous moment, she packed up her gear and moved to Jasper and then to Tofino looking for adventure. 

“I was 22. Why not travel?” 

But by May 2021, COVID had changed the world immeasurably, and she was homesick for family. 

“I wanted to rebuild relationships with my family, and I wanted to work with First Nations youth helping and supporting them.” 

Reviewing her life, Burnstick remembers the little girl who played with cousins pretending they were rock stars. She carries more painful memories of a girl lacking confidence and self-esteem. 

“Looking back, I did a lot to sabotage myself,” she said. “I was bullied. My life has been constant healing, constant learning, and constant forgiveness.” 

“I want to pave the way for the next generation. I want to advertise who I am, my journey, and what I stand for and where I came from.” 

Miss Canada Globe Productions will host the event in Ontario during the summer of 2022. All costs must be incurred by delegates. Burnstick must pay for plane tickets, lodging, gowns, shoes, bathing suit, makeup, and all accoutrements. Costs can easily top $5,000.  

Those wishing to donate to help offset costs for Burnstick’s journey, can email her at [email protected]

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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