Iksokapi Profile: Carrissa Lowhorn, Siksika Nation
Selected as the 1st IKSOKAPI Profile, Carrissa Lowhorn exhibits all things great about the Indigenous woman of the world
Carrissa Lowhorn is a First Nation woman from Siksika Nation, she has always been passionate about helping others in need. Her humanitarian instincts have lead her towards a path in pageantry, and for that very reason Carrissa discovered that pageants gave her opportunities to speak on issues that were important to her.
In 2011 Carrissa was selected a National finalists as Miss Southern Alberta, and went on to compete nationally. Based on her performance and education background, Carrissa went on to winning a national title as Miss Canadian Scholarship Ambassador, and as well as a scholarship. Carrissa carried this title for a year, which gave her the opportunity to enhance her volunteer efforts, as well as speak to youth on the importance of education.
Carrissa feels strongly about the importance of education and helping others. As a young girl Carrissa faced adversity within the education system, “I was told that I was a special student with “basic” potential, and currently I am proving them wrong”.
This past July 2013 Carrissa was selected nationally to represent Canada on an international level in the Miss Tourism Planet pageant in Athens Greece, where she won the Miss Cosmopolitan award. The Miss Cosmopolitan award is awarded to a person who is most familiar with and at ease with many different cultures. Just as she was about to embark on her adventure to Greece, Calgary and surrounding areas were affected by a major flood. Over 200 hundred homes in Carrissa’s community (Siksika Nation) were devastated by the flood, including her family home. Carrissa managed to help a few days before she left, and continues to help her community in any way that she can.
Based on Carrissa’s previous success in pageantry and dual citizenship status, on October 2013 she was selected to represent the United States of America in a major international pageant (2013 Miss Globe World Finals) in the Republic of Albania. Carrissa went on to winning the Miss Cosmopolitan award for the second time. For the past few years Carrissa has been juggling being a student, working, and volunteer work. All of Carrissa’s hard work is finally paying off, as of this November 2013 Carrissa will be gradating with her Bachelor of Arts in International Indigenous Studies.
January 2014 Carrissa will travel to Miami Florida to pass on her title (Miss USA), and help select the next Miss USA to compete internationally in Albania for the 2014 Miss Globe World Finals.
IKSOKAPI Magazine: Have you always wanted to participate in pageants when you were younger?
Carrissa Lowhorn: When I was younger I never really thought of pageants, it wasn’t until the Miss Congeniality movie that I learned about them. I now have to laugh to myself about that one because pageants are not all what they are perceived to be. In my younger years I was a girly girl mixed with tom boy qualities. I use to play ice hockey regularly growing up.
IM: You traveled to Greece and Albania earlier this year, what was your experience like in Europe?
CL: When I competed in Greece this past June, I learned that Greece as country has been devastated by an economic crisis. While in Greece I will never forget the time I was sitting at a table at an outdoor restaurant, and a little girl come up to me playing a small guitar wanting money. The owner of the restaurant chased her away, and before she left I secretly handed her some change. The little girls face lit up and she ran away. It was heart breaking to see because she somewhat resembled my little sister. It made me happy and sad at the same time, but I felt good because I made her smile.
As for visiting Albania I learned that the country is a newly developing democratic county. Albania was once under communist control as well as war struck. Where ever you go in Albania you can see that they are under major construction of homes and most of the buildings are half finished. Seeing a country in a developing state really made me appreciate and realize how lucky I am to live where I live.
My over all experience of visiting Europe had a humbling affect over me. I will always remember how Europe made me feel, I felt like I was in a different time in another world. I thank the creator every day for all his blessing and showing me all these beautiful places.
IM: What do you hope to achieve with your pageant experience?
CL: With the titles I’ve won I have been given the opportunity to enhance my volunteer efforts and speak on issues that are important to me. I also want to inspire other First Nation youth and show them that anything is attainable through hard work.
IM: What is the best part about participating in pageants?
CL: The best part of pageants is that they have helped me with my interpersonal development skills within my everyday life. I have gained confidence in how I present myself, and overcoming the fear of being and speaking in front people. Pageants also gave me the opportunity to show case my culture and who I am as a First Nation woman to people from all over the world.
IM: What is the worst part about participating in pageants?
CL: The worst part of pageant are the endless hours of walking in heels, blisters, late nights and early mornings.
IM: How do you prepare for pageants?
CL: I workout and eat really healthy, sometimes it’s hard because when I see food that’s not necessarily good for you, I want to eat it, and sometimes I do. I practice my walk and speech, pretty much anything that will enhance my stage presence.
IM: Pageants often recognize & support various causes, what cause(s) is important to you?
CL: Diabetes and Cancer are two causes that are important to me because they are two causes that have affected many people/families within society, including some of my close family members. I have attended walks and runs supporting these causes, and helped raised money for these two causes.
IM: What have you learned from your experiences?
CL: The biggest lesson I learned is that you have to be open to criticism when it is given. Thick skinned! Especially when it comes to pageants, it may not even be true, but I like to think of criticism as opportunities to learn and better myself. Being emotionally strong is another characteristic that one must posses.
Travelling to another country alone helped me to discover that I possessed, an emotional strength within myself to not get lonely or travel alone. I can go anywhere alone, and not be scared. Doesn’t mean I won’t be scared being in the open ocean alone lol. I’m saying I’ll go where opportunity is necessary! I mustn’t forget you must learn how to multitask, and be good at expressing yourself.
Being diverse in communication is important, because there are so many personalities, languages, and cultures out there, I learned that this was one of my strengths when I won the Miss cosmopolitan award twice internationally as Miss Canada and Miss USA. I just learned to be to open to anything that came my way!
IM: How do you balance such a hectic schedule?
CL: Yoga and working helps me to relieve stress, and also spending time with loved ones. When things go a bit off course I just focus my attention on grounding my spirit, something a close friend taught me to do, meditate and focus on living in the moment because there is a time and a place to deal with things good or bad.
IM: What do you enjoy doing when you are not working or studying?
CL: Hot yoga, shopping, movies, travelling, family time, and the occasional unplanned adventure. I also volunteer for various events in my community. My community has always supported me in all my endeavours. Volunteering and inspiring others is my way of giving back to my community. With all the volunteer work I’ve done through pageants, I learned the true importance of helping others in need. Helping others is my tribute to remembering and appreciating the people who helped me along my journey. I believe that without persistence and the help of others I would not be where I am today. We are all connected.
IM: Where do you go from here?
CL: There is another pageant in the planning, so more training! I also plan to get my second degree, currently I am focusing on my job, up coming pageant, and really just giving myself some time to rest from all my years of school.
IM: What advice do you have to others who want to follow in the same footsteps?
CL: Just be yourself, there will always be people who will appreciate you for that, and sometimes not, but the important thing is to keep pushing on. Work hard, pray, be healthy, love, and be thankful, just be balanced. The doors that were meant to be opened by you will open, nothing can prevent that from happening
IM: Did you make any New Years Resolutions, if so, can you share with us what they are?
CL: I really just want to continue what I am doing, and focusing on new dreams. A new year for me is something to be excited for, because I know there are future opportunities waiting for me to conquer. More lessons to be learned and lived, I enjoy learning.