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7 Things I wish I knew before competing in pageants

Hindsight sure is 2020! If I could go back in time, with the things I know now, I would save myself a lot of trouble. I realized there are 7 things I wish I knew before competing in pageants. If someone had shared these tips with me (and if they really sunk in) I believe I could have reached my goal of winning Miss Montana USA, years earlier.

1. Confidence isn’t exclusive

Call me crazy, but I felt really intimidated by a lot of the gorgeous girls I met in pageantry. In my mind, the contestants with the beautiful skin, flawless faces, and legs for days were the most confident women in the world. Turns out I was very wrong. This only became crystal clear when I was at Miss USA, surrounded by the most beautiful women in the country, when I saw everyone’s insecurities come out. If only, I’d truly understood that even the most physically gorgeous people struggle with insecurities, I would have accepted my own a lot sooner. Understanding that, would also make sure I stayed in my own lane, focused on loving what I got, and open to self-growth.

Miss Malibu USA contestants at Fashion Show
Malibu Inn Fashion Show. From left: Dani Walker, Ebony, Lizzie Rovsek (Real Housewives of Orange County), Brie Gabrielle (Miss Florida USA 2016), Madison, Kristen Bradford (Owner of Crown Diva)

2. Hair and Makeup matters

Bad hair and makeup can downgrade even the most beautiful faces. It took years before I grasped the importance of high quality makeup. Since the rise of beauty influencers of Instagram and Youtube, makeup and hair have reached a whole new level of transformation. Knowing how to do your own hair and makeup is a powerful tool that should be utilized. Looking back, I should not have waited until year seven, to save up, and book a hair and makeup lesson. That is one thing I wish I knew, that I now want all pageant contestants to understand. (Peep the difference below. Same face, very different products, and application.)

Before and After hair and makeup lessons
Left (before) Right (After)

Read more about Pageant Interview Hair and Makeup Do’s and Don’ts

3. Self care is self love

It seems so unlike me now, but when I started pageants, I did not invest time into self care. I would wait until pageant week to take care of my hair, skin, and nails. If it weren’t for pageants, I would not make working out and eating healthy a priority today. Pageants taught me that beauty is about so much more than makeup, it means total health and wellness. Working with a personal trainer, learning how to dress for my body, and taking time to care for my overall wellness made a huge difference. I started to love my body more because I finally took time to care for it. Now, I place self care as a high priority. I do my best to workout daily, invest in skincare, eat well and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Since making these adjustments, I’ve seen big changes in my physical health, as well as a happier and more positive state of mind.

Before and after pageant workout transformation
Before (left): Eating poorly, only doing cardio. After (right): Eating well, making workouts, skincare, and sleep, my priority.

4. Sponsorship

Many pageant systems will encourage you to get sponsors to cover your pageant fees. When I started in pageants, I thought sponsors would only cover entry fees, and nothing else. Later I learned that you can get sponsors for absolutely everything. Through some trial and error, I figured out how to successfully obtain sponsors. During my last year of competition, I was able to get things like hotel stays, a custom couture gown, makeup, and lots more, for FREE. It was a big game changer for me. If you’d like to do the same, I explain how I did it, in this episode.

5. Interview Coaching

By the time I started competing in the USA system, I had already won local and state titles for other organizations. In my head, this meant, I knew everything. Unfortunately, this was not true at all. My past success gave me a false sense of experience. I thought that pageants are just pageants, but I was very wrong. Every pageant system looks for different qualities in a titleholder. That means, they want different things in the interview room. I took the wrong approach to USA interviews for years. It was not until I sat through an interview workshop at the Beauty Brand Believe Expo, that I fully understood, what my interview lacked. Equipped with new information, a changed my strategy and won. If only I didn’t wait until my seventh year to do so.

Miss Montana USA 2018 Dani Walker pageant interview outfit
Miss Montana USA 2018 pre-interview photo

6. Walking Coaching

You want to talk about taking the wrong approach? Look no further than my old swimsuit walk. I was so wrapped up in watching old videos of Miss Universe Venezuela and Miss America, that I was literally walking in the wrong direction. It wasn’t until I took a walking lesson, for Miss USA, that the veil was lifted and I could see all the small details of a USA queen’s walk. I wish I knew what a difference minor changes would make to my on stage performance. After a few lessons I changed up my game plan and used my new knowledge to take home my dream title.

7. You can’t shortcut success

Ironically, the things that I thought were saving me time and money, cost me a lot more in the long run. Instead of spending my time seeking sponsors, so I could get the training and resources I needed, I went the cheap route. But, if you really think about it, you save more, if you achieve your dream sooner. Winning in three years instead of seven, means four years less of gowns, wardrobe, and entry fees. In the short term, it looked like I was saving money, but in the long run, I spent much more. Short cutting the road to success will only lead to detours and delays. This is one of the greatest lessons I took away from pageants that now serves my dreams. I’ve stopped short cutting my goals, and prioritize my time, which can’t be replaced, over money, which is a renewable resource.

Client Love

Kristen Brooks, NAM Miss New York 2019

"Dani is beyond knowledgeable and sweet! She’s an absolute dream to work with.”

Cheyenne Paige, International United Miss 2017-18

"Dani made me feel so comfortable performing my first High Fashion Runway routine. With her help I had the highest score in my division and won the International title."

Salena Pham

Salena Pham, Miss Northern Utah USA 2021

"Dani completely changed how I interview, in the best way possible. She was clear, concise, and constructive in her feedback and always made sure I understood how to apply what she taught me. Not only is she extremely knowledge, but is also kind and encouraging. I truly cannot thank her enough for her help and guidance."

Kaitlyn Matherne, NAM Louisiana Teen 2017

"Dani is an incredible person, as well as the most encouraging mentor I have ever had. My dreams would not have become reality without her love and help!"

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