Aleria McKay, the first-ever Indigenous contestant to win a Miss Teenage Ontario title, earned the title of Miss Six Nations 2019-2020 last year.
This year, she has gone on to publish her first poetry book, “Thunderstorms,” which she announced publicly on February 20.
“I knew I liked writing when I was little,” said McKay. “But I was never really good at it and I never really looked at it as something that I could do as a career.”
McKay later entered high school where she thought her niche would be acting, but found herself writing a play. Her play “And She Split the Sky in Two”, follows a story of an indigenous girl dealing with the news of her sister’s suicide.
After writing the piece, McKay’s perspective changed.
“That was a big turning point for me because I realized that not only was my writing impacting people but this was something that I could see myself doing on a long term scale.”
She explained that her poetry is something that she worked on for years from the age of 14 to 18, unknowingly creating content for the book. She said that she performed some of her poems in coffee houses and talent shows, but by her grade twelve year she knew that she wanted to culminate her work into a single spine.
“I just thought ‘I can’t add anymore to this, it’s done,’” she said.
When asked about the books title, she laughed as the concept came from an unlikely source from the summer of 2016.
“At that point in time I was obsessed with the ‘Arctic Monkeys,’ and there’s a song by them called ‘She’s Thunderstorms,’” she said, adding that she listened to the song every morning for two months. “After, the word ‘thunderstorms’ really stuck with me throughout the whole book, because it’s all about reclaiming your voice and using your voice to speak your truth, so I connected to it.”
During her time in finalizing the book, McKay explained that the content addresses a lot of difficult and personal topics to her and the book shares a lot of what has made her, her.
“I just want to show people that I’ve made mistakes and that I’m not trying to say that I’m perfect,” said McKay. “Just because I’m Miss Six Nations doesn’t mean that I’m perfect, and I think thats what people need to see that in titleholders.”
“I’m trying to embody what I want to see in a titleholder, I want somebody who’s real and not someone that I view as unattainable.”
Rather than going through a mainstream publisher, McKay went forward by completely self-publishing. She said that this allowed her to keep the book exactly as she wanted it.
“You lose so much of your vision in the mainstream process and I wanted it to be how I wanted it,” she said. “The cover was my idea, all of the words were my idea and all of the formatting was done by myself.”
She then went through the circles of publishing, coming out at the end with a book that truly reflects her vision for her poetry. She began with her first publishing order of 10 copies, which she said were gone the same day the shipment arrived.
“Within that morning they were all gone, so this next batch will have 50 — and 35 are already pre-ordered,” she said.
Reminiscent of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, of which McKay has three copies, her poetry book can be purchased online at https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/766485630/thunderstorms, or an order can be placed by reaching out to her directly.
McKay’s title platform deals with suicide awareness, knowing that suicide rates are five to seven times higher than the national average in indigenous youth. She is now a student at York University studying theatre studies, which includes playwriting and directing.