At age 10, Danette Haag was severely burned in a house fire but she survived, suffering burns to 70 percent of her body. She was left battling physical and emotional scars that would follow her into adulthood.
Years ago, Danette’s mom was making coffee in their home in Iowa when the water heater ignited an odorless propane leak in the basement. An explosion engulfed Danette, her father, and brother in flames.
Within 24 hours, Danette had slipped into a coma. Doctors, pessimistic, encouraged her family to say their goodbyes. But Danette was a fighter.
“Getting through all of that and surviving it was really my first battle,” she told ABC. “A lot of pain, tons and tons of surgeries, physical therapy, pressure garments, face masks, all of that I had to wear for years and years and years.”
She also recalled her childhood infatuation with the glitz and glamour of beauty pageants. Having to let that go and face the world looking different was one of her most enduring battles.
“It was a big deal in our family to watch the Miss America pageant every year,” Danette’s sister DeAnn Cheney told CBS. “So, when she first watched it after the fire happened, she remembers feeling like a little girl who was crushed.”
But after years of reflection and healing, Danette sees her scars as a gift, and the wisdom she has gained as evidence of God’s light.
“I refuse to be a victim of anything,” she told The Epoch Times. “That mindset from the beginning is a huge part of my life success, living with a severe burn injury. Walking through fire made me a warrior, not a victim.”
Danette met her husband Michael at a singles mixer. He fell in love with the strong, beautiful pig farmer from Iowa who had endured so much. The couple had kids together, and it was Danette’s daughter who later rejuvenated her mom’s passion for pageants.
Her daughter found a decades-old photo from before the fire showing Danette dressed in a Miss America sash, and it prompted Danette to reflect on her progress. She signed up for a Colorado beauty pageant in 2019 representing Windsor, and again in 2020, when judges chose her as one of 12 state semi-finalists.
Danette said she will be competing in the Mrs. Colorado pageant once more on June 5, and is working with a coach in hopes of making it to the top five.
By taking to the pageant stage, Danette wants to encourage both women and men to start redefining where beauty truly comes from. Her younger self, she said, would be proud of how far she’s come.
Today, the wife, mom, and beauty queen is a motivational speaker promoted on the Soul on Fire … Beauty from Ashes website. She also hosts the podcast Listen Soul Sister with the message that true beauty radiates beyond the scars we carry.
“Our world is riddled with pain,” Danette reflected, “and healing begins with self-love and seeing our incredible value.”