Growing up I often heard I wasn't good enough because I was a "Native girl." My nation is White Bear First Nations, Saskatchewan, but I was born in Victoria, BC, as an off-reserve band member. In fact, I am three generations off-reserve; and I am of mixed heritage with Polish-Ukrainian and British-Indian on my mother's side. Living my whole life away from my culture and community, I had minimal support. Eventually, I started taking chances with newfound courage, later than the norm, to try things like stand up comedy, modeling and fitness competitions. My gumption to try new things where society said I didn't belong, is one of the reasons I entered the Miss BC pageant.
At age 37 and married, I had done beauty-based pageants and bikini contests, but I had never done an official pageant. Thinking it might be good practice for my fitness shows, I entered. Darren felt I would be a good role model for the other younger contestants about positive aging (I wore sunscreen since childhood and ate plenty of veggies), but Gloria informed me due to my age I wouldn't be eligible for pageants like Miss Universe. Knowing these strikes might keep me from winning the top title, I decided to enter Miss BC anyways for the fun and experience.
Personally, I was still struggling with my identity and long-term PTSD. I still went publicly as Carla Wayes, forgetting that I spent my first 20 years as Carla Littlechief. The negative attention my lastname and culture received in the 80s and 90s were so traumatizing, I felt safer with the last name my relatives also used when assimilating with the non-Indigneous world.
The pageant weekend was very fun, exciting and heartwarming. It was lovely to meet young women who had great values and hearts in this digital age. The night of the finals seemed to take long. Eventually, Darren announced the delay was due to the judges' decision to create new categories. Mrs. BC and Mrs. Lower Mainland were being determined. I was so thrilled for Tara to be titled Mrs. Lower Mainland, but I was speechless when Darren announced I was Mrs. BC! The girl who never won any contests and competitions before, who was told she wasn't good enough, finally broke through and was recognized for her humanity, kindness and grace as a married woman.
Today, I am a working mother (in hospitality) and I still compete in fitness. I have my personal trainer certification and I have plans to go entrepreneur as a trainer. Being a fitness role model for Indigenous people is now my greater purpose. So I go by Carla Littlechief as my stage name, and on social media. I post on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook with the hashtag "Inspire Turtle Island Fit" to inspire others. Miss BC is a safe place if you felt alone or misunderstood on your journey and want to get into pageants. I'm proud that my fearless nature to try new things, even if society says I'm too old or too whatever, helped create a platform for married women to showcase their beauty and hearts as Mrs. BC.