Before I met Sara, I assumed all pageant girls were self centered, shallow, and superficial. Like someone whose biggest problems in life are flying coach class or waiting to be seated at a 5-star restaurant. But after meeting Sara Axness, a strong and courageous woman who is using pageantry to share her story and impact others, I’m kind of embarrassed I thought of pageant girls that way. I was so inspired by Sara and her story, I invited her to share it with you.
In Sara’s first year of college at the University of Minnesota, she was sexually assaulted at a house party. To say, “it ruined her” would be an understatement. She stopped going to class, she quit the diving team, stopped eating and slept most of the time. She drank to try and forget the pain. She explains in our video interview that it was the most unbearable experience of her life.
The sad news is that sexual assault happens 97,000 times to college students like Sara every year on college campuses in America… and alcohol is the number one ally.
After the video shoot we were chatting some more and she reflected on how strange is was that alcohol contributed to her agony and yet she dove deeper into it to try and escape. When she looked at her bank account and saw how much she was spending on alcohol and partying, she knew there was a problem.
Competing in beauty pageants was the activity that helped her survive all of this, but she wasn’t very enthused at the idea right away. When her friend told her that she should compete in a pageant she said, “I am totally not what they’re looking for! I live in a frat house, I wear sweatpants and I don’t wear makeup.”
Being in pageants became a way for her to become a better person. She developed good habits, became more social and developed a drive to accomplish big things.
Sara’s trainer is Nick Kernstock, the founder of The Winning Edge – a fitness company for women who compete in body shows and beauty pageants. We got him to talk in the interview and he told us how much he admires Sara’s drive to succeed. He also told us “off the record” that she’s pretty stubborn too 😉
What I loved most about Sara is her motivation to help others that have been sexually assaulted or deal with problems with drugs or alcohol in college. She told me how pageants are just tools for great women to change people’s lives.