Nikita Kahpeaysewat is certainly a model citizen. A Plains Cree 20-year-old from Moosomin First Nation, Kahpeaysewat is an athletic, singing model and public speaker who occasionally makes YouTube videos. For a girl so poised, it’d be hard to believe it wasn’t always this way. Overcoming low self-confidence and being bullied, Kahpeaysewat found her voice and is using it to spread empowerment across Indian Country.

NATIVE MAX: What inspired you to compete in Miss Saskatchewan World 2012?
Nikita Kahpeaysewat: It was really my mom who inspired me. When first asked I didn’t have self-confidence or self-esteem to compete. My mom told me to try out something new because she never had the opportunity to do that. I placed the third runner-up and qualified to compete in Miss Teen Canada World 2012.

What did you learn by competing in your first pageant?
NK: It taught me how to be confident. They had a lot of workshops, like how to properly smile, feel confident in my skin and how to stand for something. For the pageant, we all had to have a platform, and mine was about bullying. Bringing awareness because I was bullied. It brought me out of my shell and gave me that confident boost to compete.

Wow. Were you bullied before?
NK: All throughout elementary through high school, I never really fitted in with the crowd. I stood out too much. I was different and growing up on the reserve it was because I was the chief’s daughter. Dad was chief for 8 years. Kids must’ve thought I was rich. That’s really the only reason I can think of.

What was it like competing in your second pageant, Miss Teen Canada World 2012?
NK: I was in the top 20 out of 63 girls, and there were only two other First Nations girls. I was definitely a lot more confident in this pageant. Before I was just developing who I wanted to be. It really encouraged me to try new things; it helped me find my voice. It was overall a great experience and I moved forward with my careers.

How often do you model? Has your modeling evolved or grown since you first started?
NK: Right now in Calgary, I’m looking for a new agency. It’s not a steady career I guess. The past year I modeled in Melbourne, Australia. That was huge for my career. In the past two years, it has rapidly developed more than in the last five years. It made it more frequent for me to model. More comfortable.

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Photo by Serena Liu

What was it like modeling in Australia?
NK: It was a short trip. It was only four days and in that four days it was practicing, modeling then going to sleep and doing it all over again. The trip changed my perspective of how I see the world. There, they talk differently. They have their own slang. It was mind blowing going over there.

What made you interested in the military?
NK: I went to Bold Eagle Military Base for aboriginal students. It’s a summer program. You take basic military qualifications. I tried out just because I’m open to trying new things.

And why did you decide to join the Canadian Armed Forces?
NK: I like to try new things, and also my sister Nicole (who was the first Aboriginal woman to graduate Royal Military College of Canada) and brother inspired me. They have experience and they inspired me. If it doesn’t work out it was a good experience. I’m no longer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

You’ve been athletic your whole life. What are your main sports?
NK: I’m not on a team right now but I’m pretty athletic. I really like soccer, basketball but my main sport was hockey.

And you’re into music as well.
NK: It’s a working progress once I’m in school. I love singing. I post my music on my YouTube and want to post more music later this year.

Are you going to school also?
NK: I’m going to Mount Royal University this fall. I am getting my Bachelors of Science in Environmental Sciences. I’ll be in university for the next 5 years.

What a hectic schedule! How do you balance everything?
NK: I’m the type of person where I love to have a busy schedule. I’m not the type of person that has nothing to do. I’m used to it. The military helped me be more time efficient and self-disciplined. I always like to keep myself busy.

You’re also a traditional dancer. Do you hit the powwow trails during this time of year? What powwows are you planning on going to?
NK: Oh yeah, every summer. I try to go out as much as I can. Onion Lake, maybe. I want to go to a couple in California. I just go with the flow and plan from there.

Are you dabbling a little bit into beauty vlogging? What other topics are you planning on covering with your YouTube channel?
NK: Oh yeah, I’m definitely going to keep up with my YouTube videos. I’m looking into buying more equipment so I can make better quality videos. I want to improve myself.

As a public speaker, what sort of topics do you discuss at your gigs?
NK: I just got back from Cold Lake where I was a keynote speaker at a woman’s traditional conference. I spoke about my platform, my journey and my message for my community: we should be encouraging all of our young First Nations women. My mom encouraged me and look what that has done for me. Get out there and try new things.

Do you have any big projects or events coming up?
NK: The Indigenous Fashion Runway Project here in Canada this September. It’s the same thing I modeled in from Melbourne. We can show them the First Nations culture. Some of the people I met never been to North America before. I’m really excited for it. We’ll give them that welcoming experience.

This is your moment: up until now, what has your journey been like being a young aboriginal woman? How have you overcome your struggles?
NK: Empowering other women. It’s not just about getting onto billboards. It’s about getting exposure. Exposure gives you power, and power gives you a voice. I use my voice to inspire other aboriginal women. This is what I did. Try new things, because you won’t ever know what doors it’ll open. You never know unless you try. That’s what modeling means to me. It means more opportunities and empowering other women. It took me across the world twice. So remain positive and have faith in yourself. That’s what keeps me going.

What do you want young girls reading this to take away and apply to themselves?
NK: I want them to be open-minded, and to try new things. I want them to expand themselves and really get out there and be comfortable.