Ashley Callingbull had a rough upbringing; she grew up poor and was abused as a child, but the 21-year-old is using her troubled past as a source of strength to compete for the Miss Universe Canada 2010 title.

Callingbull is one of 63 women across the country vying for the coveted crown, and the only competitor of Cree descent.

While her beauty casts her in the same category as the other contenders, her upbringing sets her apart. Callingbull says, growing up on the Enoch Cree Nation and Hobbema reserves, she's had to overcome tremendous hardship.

"Bad things happened to us, you know me and my mom [were] like sexually abused and physically abused," said Callingbull.

Painful memories from her past are still be vivid in her mind, but Callingbull says she's able to put it behind her by focusing on her performing career. She is currently studying drama at Concordia University College in Edmonton.

"Being on stage, people looking at me…makes me feel really good just because the feelings I had when I was a child, it wasn't great," said Callingbull.

To assist her in her goals, Callingbull is getting free help from celebrity trainer Andrea Orbeck. The former Morinville resident now boasts several supermodel clients in the US and wanted to teach Callingbull how to use her rough past as a source of inspiration.

"You get a lot of tenacity, to have to endure some of the areas of your life where you're going to be told no and I think that commonality I also see in Ashley," said Orbeck. 

In addition to free help, Orbeck also donated a number of dresses to Callingbull, one of which is worth $10,000. 

Callingbull says while the title of Miss Universe Canada would be great, her ultimate goal is to work with under-privileged youth.

"I like seeing smiles on kids' faces because I never really had one," she said.

The young woman says no matter where her life path takes her, she hopes to provide inspiration for other young aboriginals.

"Society perceives that we're like drunks, we're dropouts, we're failures, but you know 90 per cent of the people are successful," said Callingbull.

Callingbull will compete in the preliminary round of Miss Universe Canada 2010 on June 12th. The top 20 will then go on to compete in the finals on June 14th.

With files from Jessica Earle