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SHEPHERDSVILLE – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
This is Miss Bullitt County Fair 2008 Danielle Dafler’s mantra before going on stage in any pageant.
Over and over she repeats these words in her thoughts to reassure herself and calm her nerves.
These words are simple and few, derived from a children’s book about a determined train, but they have given her the confidence to succeed in pageants and in life.
Dafler’s beauty, intelligence, determination and energetic personality have helped her achieve many things, which include a college education and a position as a pharmacy technician while she is taking classes at Western Kentucky University’s Elizabethtown campus.
These qualities have also won her recognition on the pageant circuit.
It was nearly 20 years ago that Dafler began her pageant career and it all began at the Bullitt County Fair.
When Dafler was just eight months old, her mother entered her into one of the fair’s baby pageants. With the help of her mother Melissa Robinson, the precocious little girl walked across the stage and took home the grand prize.
Since then, she has competed in the Miss Teen USA and Miss Teen Kentucky pageants, as well as America’s Most Beautiful Girl pageant, for which she was crowned when she was 10 years old.
Her most notable pageant achievement would have to be the two, yes, two Miss Bullitt County Fair crowns, in 2004 and 2008.
As the reigning Miss Bullitt County Fair, Dafler will be competing for the title of Miss Kentucky County Fair 2009 this weekend at the Galt House Hotel & Suites in Louisville. County fair pageant winners from most of Kentucky’s 120 counties will all be competing for the top prize.
“I’m so excited. It’s like a new experience, you really build relationships,” said Dafler. “You don’t just build relationships, you build friendships. Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to win, but we like to have a good time and we’re friends because we have things in common.”
While many people consider pageants superficial contests that gauge little more than physical appearance, Dafler considers them much more and attributes her pageant career as a big part of her life and her growth as a person.
She explained how pageants have not only brought her family together and fueled her competitive nature, but have
encouraged her ambition and made her realize how important it is to help others.
As someone who grew up in what she described as a broken home, Dafler faced many trials coming of age. Her parents couldn’t always be there for her, so she relied on the support of her grandparents Ida and Roy Creek.
Dafler attributes all of her success to her family and her faith, and she realizes that not every child has role models like hers and she wants to actively mentor young girls.
“My family has given me enough love to get through the hard times, but not everyone has that,” said Dafler. “I’ve had my heart broken many times and I want to discourage girls from the three evils.”
Dafler is referring to drugs, promiscuity and alcohol as the three evils and insists that they are the basis of many of life's troubles. She said she would like to get involved in local drug prevention programs like Dare and so forth to help deter young people from the three evils.
To prepare for the event, Dafler has practiced walking on seven-inch heels in her garage while loud upbeat music played in the background. She’s practiced changing into and out of the eight dresses and swimsuits she has for the pageant. Her mother used to be a pageant judge, so she has been helping as well.
To stay in shape, Dafler goes to jazzercise, kick-boxes and cycles. She said she doesn’t change her diet in any way and she doesn’t train that often.
Though Dafler enjoys most every aspect of pageants, she doesn’t like political questions when she’s interviewed. She said that she feels her thoughts are her business and no one else’s.
“I think it should be more geared toward why you should win the pageant, not where you stand on political issues.”
To prepare for her interview she’s been brushing up on current events with the help of her nanny, who has been quizzing her on everything from world conflicts to presidential cabinet positions.
What this self-proclaimed Bullitt County tomboy enjoys most about pageants is getting fixed up.
“When I’m not in school or at work I like to run around in my pajamas, but when I’m in a pageant I love the makeup and the dresses and the swimsuits and strutting my stuff.”
While Dafler’s beauty has earned her a few crowns, she’s far from just another pretty face. She is in her fourth year of college in Elizabethtown and is pursuing associates degrees in business and communication as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in nuclear medicine. After she’s finished with her undergraduate studies, she plans to attend Sullivan’s pharmacy school, where she has already been accepted.
Not only does she attend classes full-time, she also works full-time as a pharmacy technician at the Walmart pharmacy on New Cut Road in Louisville.
Most everyone she works with knows how important pageants are to Dafler, especially her boss.
“She loves pageants and she does an excellent job, she’s a very vibrant person, she has a really outgoing personality, she loves engaging people and she’s got a servant's heart. She goes above and beyond to sacrifice for other people. She has her priorities right. She’s an all-around good kid,” said pharmacist Bill Adams.
When she’s not sitting in a classroom, working in the pharmacy at the Walmart on Newcut Road or walking on a pageant stage, Dafler enjoys shopping and calls herself a shop-aholic. She also enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, spending time with her family and browsing the Bass Pro Shop.
Family plays a major role in Dafler’s life and one of her most influential figures is her grandmother, Ida Creek, whom she calls nanny.
While her family is crucial to her life, Dafler considers faith her life’s driving force.
“I believe everything happens for a reason and God gives you strength. Faith plays a big role and I believe that
if you want something bad enough you can get it. I owe everything I am to my family and God."
Dafler is a member of Highview Baptist, where she has attended for about a decade. There she helps with Sunday school and attends services.
In the future, Dafler plans on competing in the 2010 Miss Bullitt County Fair Pageant and would like to compete in other pageants, but says her hectic schedule makes it difficult to find time to enter pageants.