Woman who suffered burns to 70 percent of her body aged 10 competes in beauty pageant

Woman who suffered burns to 70 percent of her body aged 10 competes in beauty pageant

Growing up, Danette Haag would dress up as a princess, imitating her Disney favourite, Cinderella. But her dreams were completely derailed when she was just 10 years old, after a freak accident left her with burns all over her body.

A faulty valve in the furnace of her family home caused a gas leak one day. As soon as her mother turned on the hot water, the fumes were ignited. Flames rushed up the basement stairs, and Danette was consumed. She survived, but 70 per cent of her body was covered in burns, so she spent the remainder of her school years undergoing pressure garments, face masks and skin grafts.

Decades of healing later, she has pulled through and achieved what she never believed she could. Now 48 years old and a mother of four, she's participating in the Mrs. Colorado competition. As Mrs. Windsor, she is one of around 35 vying for the crown - the winner of which will go on to compete in Mrs. America.

Speaking to the Greeley Tribune, Haag spoke about how her childhood dreams have begun to flourish after all these years. “I remember after the fires watching the Miss America pageant that year, getting excited and that dream built up in me again,” Haag said. “Then, the realization of, ‘Well, that’s never going to happen.’"

"Looking at those women on stage I thought, ‘I’ll never attain that type of beauty ever again,'" she said, but things have now turned around.

“I just feel it’s a natural progression (from) where I’ve been and how I see myself. I’m trying to inspire other people to see their own beauty. Me having the courage to put myself — because I do look so different in many ways — in this arena and this competition will inspire other people to see themselves a little bit differently and to work on defining their own beauty.”

The competition sees Haag take part in a swimsuit display, an interview, and a gown portion. Understandably, this required a lot of courage on her part - but she's found it a positive experience.

“I remember having this vision of me and 30 other women on stage,” Haag said. “Instead of just seeing me as the scarred one, I saw all their scars as well, their broken journeys, the things they’ve gone through that affected them and what they’ve overcome. That made me feel inclusive.”

Haag is a former paediatric nurse, so has a history of speaking to young people who have suffered traumas. Eventually she left the field, becoming a motivational speaker, spreading messages of self love through her business Soul on Fire - Beauty from Ashes.

“Our beauty comes from our character,” Haag said. “It’s a reflection of our character, a reflection of the love that we carry not only for other people, but for ourselves.”

Her father, Don, who was also scarred from the fire, came to the competition to cheer on his daughter. “When she was growing up I never thought — through the fire, through high school — that she would be brave enough to do something like this,” he said. “I’m proud of her for listening to our lord and to have this mission to pass the word with what she’s doing.”