Hometown: Thunder Bay, ON
Melinda Henderson is a strong, resilient, Anishinabek woman who has faced adversity throughout her life and works hard towards her goals and ambitions. Melinda was born in Winnipeg, MB, and grew up in both Thunder Bay, ON, and Lethbridge, AB. She is from Sagkeeng First Nation, MB and North Spirit Lake First Nation, ON. Melinda has grown a patriotic appreciation of Canada because of how frequently she relocates and the many different scenery and cultures she has been exposed to.
Melinda is Ojibway and Cree and is proud to be representing Aboriginal people at the Miss Universe Canada pageant. Over the years, she has been learning more about her culture and traditional way of life and applies them in her everyday life. She believes the traditions of Aboriginal people can provide a healthier environment and save the planet.
Passionate about the arts, Melinda is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts, English program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, completing the program this spring. Melinda believes that the study of the humanities is an important role in human existence and hopes to use her passion for writing and storytelling to inspire and influence the youth. She has simultaneously completed first, second, and third year courses in social work giving Melinda the opportunity to enroll in the 1-Year (HBSW) Social Work program upon graduating this year. She is confident in pursuing both careers and is using her voice and strength to helping others.
In addition to her academics, Melinda is an award-winning singer and aspiring songwriter who plays guitar and frequently performs at events. She has been working towards a developmental deal at a record label in Nashville, Tennessee, and has also applied to the Independent Songwriting & Performance program for this fall at Seneca College, located in Toronto. She also performs at various events and was the national anthem singer at the Lakehead University Thunderwolves hockey games.
Melinda has worked with Thunderstone Pictures, They. Media, Lux Boutique, The Urban Boutique, Blue Earth Photography, and graced the cover of SEVEN Magazine. Melinda was been involved in choir, drama, dance, and guitar and made her acting debut in the theatre production, “Alice in Wonderland.” She began pageantry in 2011 and competed in Miss North Ontario twice before being selected to compete at Miss Universe Canada.
In high school, she was nominated for several athletic awards and received the “Most Improved Player Award” for soccer. She was still in high school when she made the University of Lethbridge Pronghorn cheerleading team and more recently, was on the Lakehead University cheerleading team where her team competed at PCA Nationals 2013, taking home third place in their division. Upon graduating high school, she received honors in Computer Technology, Creative Writing and Business courses and received the “Student Leadership Award” above her graduating class.
Although Melinda has found success and continues to pursue her dreams, Melinda grew up underprivileged and endured many problems including poverty, racism, physical and sexual abuse, mental illnesses and believes that the residential school effects and her early childhood experiences resulted in her mental illnesses in early adulthood. Melinda is using her platform to speak out about mental health and to fight the stigma around it. She believes that there is not enough support, especially in remote communities, to helping people deal with and overcoming mental illnesses and wants to bring awareness to it.
Giving back to the community is something Melinda will always believe in because it is her community that has supported her every endeavor. From fundraising for Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer, sitting on the Dilico Youth Council that works with children in care and sharing her story she inspires and is a role model to the community for she goes after what it is that she wants despite the odds.
Melinda Henderson is a strong candidate for the title of Miss Universe Canada who demonstrates resiliency, moral, strength, and leadership. Melinda hopes to make history as the first ever aboriginal to win Miss Universe Canada and to work in all communities across Canada.
Languages spoken fluently (please include your native language if English is not your native language).
English and I am very proud to say I am currently learning my native tongue, Ojibway.
What are your interests and what do you enjoy doing the most?
I enjoy singing, songwriting, playing guitar, and dancing. I have sessions at home where I learn a new song on guitar or I will write my own. I also like to go to karaoke nights and open mic nights with my sister Melissa.
Creatively, I enjoy writing, whether it’s an article, for my blog or just how I’m feeling. I enjoy making videos, web-designing, watching documentaries, reading/discussing current events and controversies, and writing poetry or lyrics.
My other interests include traveling, volunteering, trying new things, motivational and public speaking, being a part of the community and working out/staying active. I enjoy singing the most because it was how I expressed myself and dealt with my emotions.
List any special training you have had (music, art, drama, dance, etc.).
- Drama (Theatrical)
- Dance (Hip-Hop, Ballet, Lyrical)
- Public Speaking
- Native Access Program Certificate (8-month university preparatory program)
In what sports, if any, have you participated?
I have participated in many competitive sports. I participated in basketball, track & field, wrestling, 3-pitch, soccer, cross-country running, dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, tumbling, and volleyball. More recently, I was on the Lakehead University competitive cheerleading team where our team competed at PCA Nationals in Toronto placing 3rd in our division. In high school, I received three athletic award nominations and took home “Most Improved Player” for soccer. This summer, I will be playing soccer recreationally with the Thunder Bay Women’s Soccer Club. Out of all these sports, my favorite will always be soccer.
Name one person, other than your parents, who has had the most influence on your life. Why?
My older brother Joseph RL Keesick has had the most influence on my life. Currently, he is a professional MMA fighter who has fought all across Canada and is finishing his (HB) Kinesiology degree at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Growing up, he was always setting city records and was the MVP in every sport he played. That really pushed my older sisters and me to be just as great. Without his influence, we would not have been as involved or competitive in sports. He has seen obstacles and struggles and works so hard towards his goals no matter what and doesn’t let anything stop him. I know if I work just as hard as him towards my dreams, I, too, can succeed.
What is your proudest personal accomplishment (other than participating in this pageant)?
My proudest personal accomplishment is when I realized I was capable and worthy. I spent a large part of my life believing I was lesser than or not worthy. I let experiences and society tell me that and worst of all, I truly believed it. I used to ask myself why I couldn’t be great and I came up with all these reasons and why I didn’t deserve success or happiness and I always found a way to decide that I didn’t deserve it. Upon overcoming so much and accomplishing my goals, I have realized that I was the only thing standing in the way of my success and happiness. Even if there is a million reasons as to why I shouldn’t succeed or be happy, all I need now is one reason as to why I deserve it and that is because I am worthy. This is an important milestone in my life that has made all the difference and I want to work towards helping others make these same revelations and realizing they are worthy.
What is the most interesting or unique thing that has ever happened to you and/or what is the most interesting thing about you?
What is interesting about me is that I have two older sisters named Melanie Henderson and Melissa Henderson and we’re all a year apart. I have no idea what my mother was thinking when she named us! I also have a younger sister named Jessie Keesick who is a year younger than me and was adopted when we were very young. I am lucky to have them and I love all my sisters very much.
What is your career ambition and what are you doing or plan to do to accomplish that goal?
My career ambition is to work in Broadcasting & Journalism and I am finishing up my (BA) English/Journalism program to accomplish that goal. While obtaining my (BA) English/Journalism degree, I also took a first, second, and third year course in social work and upon graduating I am eligible to apply to the 1-Year (HBSW) Social Work program that I will be applying to in 2-3 years. This summer, I will be volunteering my time to working with the youth and will also be freelance writing to gain experience as a journalist. Aside from these two fields of interest, I have applied to Seneca College for this fall to attend the Independent Songwriting & Performance program, in Toronto Ontario, to develop in songwriting, performing, and distributing myself as an artist. I’ve been told that I have too many dreams but I am glad I have more than one.
What would be your “dream job” in life?
My dream job has always been to be an accomplished international singer. Since I was able to talk, I was always singing. It is a passion and a dream of mine that I will never stop working towards.
Are you currently a student?
If yes, where?
Area of study:
Are you currently employed?
No, but I work when the school year ends.
Describe where you were raised and what your childhood was like.
My childhood was very different from everybody else’s. I was raised in Northwestern Ontario and I grew up around alcohol and domestic violence. I was exposed to a lot as a young girl and I experienced traumatizing things that would eventually effect my self-esteem and self-worth. I felt as though my childhood and innocence was taken away from me because of the environment I grew up in and the people I was exposed to. I also dealt with bullying and racism and went through periods in my childhood where I felt like an outsider and sometimes very lonely. For most of my life, my mother has been the one raising me and my siblings and we went through times in our lives where we did not have much food or money for things. Through the pain of my childhood, I coped by singing and developed a passion for the performing arts. It was always my dream to be a singer and to escape the life I once had but now that I am older, I’ve found myself coming back to help those in similar situations and sharing my story with those who struggle to prove to them despite how you grew up and what you might have gone through, you can succeed and be happy.
List any interesting or unusual jobs you may have had.
I once held a pair of Michael Buble’s signed shoes at a charity event and my job was to stand at a corner holding the shoes on a tray throughout the event and during the auction. It’s weird that I’ve never met him, but I’ve held his shoes…
List any volunteering you have done.
- Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer – Organized fundraisers for tis organization in both 2012 and 2014
- The Sioux Lookout Homeless Shelter – Collected canned goods at public events for the shelter
- The District Humane Society – Spent an evening cleaning and completing duties for animals in care
- Dilico Christmas Wish Foundation – Provided a child with Christmas wish gifts for a child
- Mental Health in Schools Awareness Symposium – Publically spoke about my mental health struggles to a conference of seven different high schools in the Northwestern Ontario district
- Dilico Youth Council – Monthly meetings to plan and organize events for Anishinabek children and youth in care
- Shoes & Champagne: Habitat for Humanity – Held a pair of Michael Buble’s signed shoes that were up for auction for charity
- We Are The Future! Youth Conference – helped with event tasks and duties, cleaning up duties, and working with the youth
- Children’s Aid Society – Assisted with the teddy bear toss at the Lakehead University Thunderwolves Hockey game
- Lakehead University Thunderwolves Hockey Games – Performed the national anthem
What is your most unusual talent?
My most unusual talent would have to be that I can make people laugh. I have a unique sense of humor and have always been known to be really silly. Without intention, I say things that make people laugh.
Where is the most interesting place you have been to?
The most interesting place I have been to was the Calgary Stampede. The first time I went to the Calgary Stampede was in the summer of 2007 and I was exposed to a whole different world and I met amazing people. The most special part about the stampede for me was sleeping in a tipi in the Indian Village right next to the Saddle Dome with my mom, sister, Gookum and Shoom. Through the whole twelve days of the stampede we all slept in a tipi under the stars. I’ve been to the Calgary Stampede a total of 4 times since.
What do you hope to be doing in ten years?
In ten years, I will have hoped to have had a credible job in journalism and social work as well as work in music. I may also be with someone I love with a few children and a house in the country.
Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t asked?
I would like to thank the Beauties of Canada Organization for selecting me to compete at Miss Universe Canada 2016. This opportunity means the world to me and I know me participating means the world to aboriginal children and youth out there who are living in third world living conditions and in poverty. I lived in those conditions when I was young and now, here I am, competing in the prestigious Miss Universe Canada pageant! I’m also grateful for the opportunity to work with Operation Smile Canada. Meegwetch.