Written on June 16, 2021
At ten years old, Danette Haag was severely burned when an unknown gas leak engulfed her family’s Iowa home. Within the first 24 hours, Danette wasn't expected to live, was in a coma, and sustained third-degree burns on 70% of her body.
Before the explosion, Danette had dreams to compete in the Miss America pageant but after the accident, she thought that dream was over. Now 40 years later, she found the strength and courage to take the stage at a Colorado beauty pageant - and in early June, Danette was crowned Mrs. Colorado 2021!
Danette: As a young girl, and for many, many years after, the hardest part was finding my beauty again. Before my injury, I loved myself and wanted to someday be Miss America. After my injury, that dream was shattered and I never thought I would ever be beautiful again. Everything I saw on tv, in the movies confirmed that because of my scars, I was no longer beautiful in any way. After all, it was always the bad guys, the monsters, and evil characters that had the scars – NEVER the beauty queens. I struggled incessantly to redefine beauty so I could somehow love my reflection again so I could somehow stop feeling ugly, embarrassed, and shameful.
It was a constant inner battle that through faith – in God first and foremost, and from that growing faith I learned slowly to also believe in myself. The shame and embarrassment of looking so different were replaced with the knowledge that I am priceless. After a couple of decades, I started seeing my many scars as God’s masterpiece of art that was created when I walked through fire as a child. The courage and strength that my scars represent make that artwork priceless. And out of that powerful, positive life perspective grew self-love and immense pride for all that I’ve endured as a burn survivor.
Danette: This is my third year competing and I’ve worked so hard and learned so much about this amazing pageant system to compete strong. The first year (2019) I didn’t place. In 2020, I was a semi-finalist in the top 12. And this year 2021, I won the crown! I had help with pageant coaching and worked hard preparing for interviews, especially the stage competition in swimsuit and gown with my many-body scars.
I first had the spiritual push to compete in early 2018 and kept denying that thought because I believed the pageant world wouldn’t see my beauty. As a public speaker I was sharing my FLAWLESS program and telling women I see myself the way God sees me.
Then I had a vision of me and 30 other women on stage in our gowns. When I looked around I didn’t see myself as the ‘scarred lady in the middle.’ As I looked around I saw their scars too. I saw their life battles, their insecurities, their pain, and their triumphs. Seeing their scars made me feel included because we ALL have scars. And that’s when I decided to overcome my fear and enter this competition of beauty. The journey has been powerful and rewarding in so many ways! Faith over fear because I know I am always enough!
Danette: I learned about the Phoenix Society through volunteering at the Western States Burn Center in Greeley, CO. Back when I was injured, 40 years ago, there just wasn’t much available for emotional support after a severe burn injury. Today, I am so grateful to be a Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) Peer Supporter and my goal in this volunteer role is to help other survivors get to a strong place of healing in a much quicker time than it took me. I enjoy being a leader for our regular virtual support group sessions as well as one on one virtual peer support.
Danette: As an inspirational speaker since 2016, a podcaster, a writer, and now as Mrs. Colorado 2021; I share my story to inspire others to see their beauty past any scar of life. Everything I share is based on the idea that ‘scars are scars.’ We ALL have life scars of some kind – scars on our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. The cause may be different but the healing, in my experience, is much the same. Sharing my life story and the wisdom gained from learning to see my beauty past my many scars, inspires all kinds of people to not stay stuck behind any life scar. I deeply believe that everyone deserves to see themselves as priceless. It was this philosophy that gave me the courage to compete in a beauty pageant.
Winning the crown and prestigious beauty pageant title of Mrs. Colorado 2021, validates all that I share as “Beauty From Ashes.” Our true beauty really does radiate past any life scar if we let it.