Ashley Callingbull has worn many hats — and crowns — in her career. She’s a model, actress, motivational speaker and former Mrs. Universe. Now the Enoch Cree Nation-born Callingbull is one of three faces for Nike’s new Indigenous-inspired shoe, the N7.
And this isn’t just another ad campaign for the experienced model.
“It’s extremely special because the whole collection has Indigenous faces,” Callingbull told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active. “It’s not very often you see a whole collection which is Indigenous people because we don’t have enough representation in mainstream media yet.”
“We don’t win together until we all thrive together,” she added.
The floral and brightly coloured N7 designs are inspired by heritage plants across the Americas. The latest designs are already proving popular.
“All my friends, they love the shoes. Even the guys love the shoes,” Callingbull said. “They’re already sold out.”
Each item of clothing in the line has a different pattern, says Callingbull, all with a different meaning and related to different plants that are used in Indigenous cultures.
The clothing line isn’t just Indigenous-inspired. Part of the product revenues are directed back to Indigenous communities through the N7 fund.
“The money that they raise goes directly back to Indigenous youth through sport,” Callingbull said.
The fund has raised more than US$7.5 million in grants for 259 communities and organizations across North America since it was founded in 2009, with the intention of creating a more equitable playing field for Indigenous youth through sport.
“They give a lot back,” Callingbull said. “And that’s what I really appreciate about it: that it’s helping all Indigenous people.”
Not a Typical Photo Shoot
The launch of the latest N7 campaign came right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — making for a less than typical photo shoot. In order to comply with social distancing rules, Nike sent Callingbull the clothing, lighting and background to do the shoot remotely from her home.
“This is the first time I had to do everything on my own,” she said. “I actually did the shoot on my reserve, Enoch Cree Nation, in the living room.”
Callingbull joked that she can now add the title artistic director to her resume after taking several hours to turn her living room into a make-shift studio. Fortunately for Callingbull, her sister is a hair and makeup artist and helped get her camera-ready.
After preparing the set, Callingbull connected with the Nike creative team over Zoom, the video conferencing service.
“The whole team was on the other side in their homes, watching through Zoom and taking photos that way,” she said. “It’s crazy how I set something up so little in my living room and then it turned out to be this powerful image.”