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DaNae Couch Photo courtesy of the Miss Texas Organization

After placing in the top 10 at the Miss America pageant on Saturday, Jan. 12, Miss Texas and Coppell native DaNae Couch took a few moments from her busy schedule to answer some questions from BubbleLife:

BubbleLife: What was the first thing you ate after Miss America? 

DaNae Couch: Mexican food, of course! 

BL: Did all of the contestants for Miss America stay together during the competition?

DC: We stayed together for 10 days. My roommate was Miss Oregon, and she was fabulous. She was a very calm person and very organized and very chill. When we got back to our room at night, we could just be real, which was important because you don’t want to have your game face on all the time.

BL: Are the contestants really friends or does the competitive spirit take over?

DC: There’s certainly a little bit of competitiveness, but at the end of the day, we all know that only one person gets to move on as Miss America and the rest of us go back to our states and get to accomplish great things there. We all want to remain close. 

One thing that people might not know is that we have a secret Facebook group. We’ve written more messages to each other post-Miss America about wanting to visit other states or having a reunion than we did before the competition.

BL: How close is the movie Miss Congeniality to real life?

DC: Not close at all. During the preliminary competitions, we only had one hour to do hair and makeup. I joked with my hair and makeup artists that I felt like I was in the Miss Congeniality scene where she’s getting all of her beauty regimen done because they were both working on me at the same time.

Other than that, it’s really not so much like the movie. You have the rehearsals and the bonding experience with the girls, but there wasn’t anyone catching an international criminal at Miss America. And I know for a fact that my twirling part is so different from the twirling they have in Miss Congeniality, but it’s still a funny movie – it’s just not really the same as what we do at Miss America.

BL: Follow-up question: Is it ever difficult not to answer “World peace” in the Q&A sessions?

DC: There are so many questions that are asked during the onstage question portions that are about problems in the world, and it would be really simple if you could say, “World peace,” because that’s really what everyone wants. For me, I always try to find something that I think is a reasonable solution to a problem.

You won’t hardly ever hear someone say, “I hope we can get along and just have world peace.” I imagine if you got a question about international diplomacy and the crisis in the Middle East that it would be really nice to say because that’s a pretty hard question to tackle.

BL: How do you prepare for the Q&A session in the pageants?

DC: That’s actually one of my favorite parts in the competition. It is partially because I’m in law school, and we get put on the spot all the time. The most important thing for that to me has always been having a familiarity with what’s going on in the world, having an opinion on it and being able to articulate it in a way that shows your opinion solidly.

There’s nothing wrong with someone stating an opinion that I don’t agree with so long as they say it well and reason it well. You only have about 30 seconds to do that, and that’s where it gets tricky. If you concisely say what you think, then you’ll be fine.

BL: Has a question ever caught you off guard?

DC: I had a question one time where the person who was reading couldn’t pronounce one of the words. That caught me a little bit off guard, but I eventually caught on to what the person was saying. The word was “Wikipedia.”

BL: Do you have any traditions before you walk out on stage?

DC: I’m normally a huge music playlist kind of person. I like to make different playlists for the different areas of competition. For swimsuit, I have fast, upbeat songs that get you pumped up. For twirling, I switch into my actual music selection. Evening gown, I like to have songs like One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” – stuff like that.

At Miss America, we couldn’t have any electronics backstage, so my 16-year-old brother made me this book of inspirational quotes. Before the night of the competition, I would just read some of the pages and get inspired because Miss America is such a long competition and you really have to focus on the journey that you’re going through and keep your stamina up. That’s what I use the inspiration book for – to keep me in the right frame of mind.

BL: How do you stay in shape? 

DC: The most important thing that I would say to anyone who is trying to get in shape is to be really nice to yourself and don’t think so much about your final result. Think about how you can take a step to reach that result every day. 

Sometimes one of the steps you might need to take is rewarding yourself with a cheat meal. You just have to make sure you’re not doing it in such excess that you can’t ultimately achieve your goal.

BL: How long have you participated in pageants?

DC: I started competing in the Miss Texas program when I was a junior at Baylor, which was four years ago. I got involved because I had found out that Miss America was the largest scholarship provider for women in the world. I knew I wanted to go to law school and that was going to cost me some money. When I started competing, I really fell in love with the program, what it offered for women and what the girls can do for the community. The rest is history.

BL: How old were you when you won your first pageant?

DC: I was 20 years old.

BL: How long have you been twirling (batons)?

DC: I’ve been twirling a lot longer than I’ve been doing pageants. I started when I was 8 years old, and I started competing when I was 9 years old. I’m 24 now, so it’s been quite a while. 

BL: What made you want to start twirling?

DC: I actually started twirling in Coppell because some of my friends had started with a local instructor and they really wanted me to take twirling lessons with them. You know how girls are. We like to do things together. 

Eventually, all of my other friends decided they didn’t like it very much or didn’t want to do it or liked other things better, but I stuck with it. I twirled in high school and at Baylor and then the Miss Texas stage.

BL: What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever twirled?

DC: I’ve twirled knives and I’ve also twirled fire. Those are probably the ones that people would consider the most dangerous. Other than that, there’s not too much danger in twirling.

BL: Can you take us to that moment when you won Miss Texas? What was that feeling like?

DC: I was the fifth person called into the top five. So that was a little nerve racking. I just remember looking at all the other girls and thinking what and honor and privilege it was to be amongst such great women. And then they started calling people. I had always placed in the top three. My first year, I was first runner-up and my second and third year, I was second runner-up. When I got to the final two with Miss Houston, I thought, “This is awesome!” That’s when I started thinking, “Maybe I could do this.”

When they announced that I was the new Miss Texas, it was so overwhelming and humbling because everyone that competes in Miss Texas is worthy of the title. To have sparked something special in the judges to have them select me was an incredible blessing. I try to keep that image in my mind as I go through my journey as Miss Texas because I really want to make sure that I represent all the contestants and the judges well. It’s been incredibly rewarding this whole year.

BL: What has been the most memorable moment being Miss Texas so far?

DC: I would say most of my memorable moments come from speaking to students because they have no filter with what they ask you. They ask you things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of, but they’re thought-provoking.

I got asked by a student, “Why do bullies bully?” I thought, “Wow, that’s a pretty profound question, coming from an elementary school student.” It’s when they come up to you afterward and want a picture with you or want to talk to you or want to say something about what you said – you realize you really have an opportunity to make a difference.

BL: So why do bullies bully?

DC: What I told them and what I wanted them to remember is that sometimes people feel bad about themselves and they think the only way to feel better about themselves is to make everyone else feel bad. That’s why it’s important for students to always be nice to one another. If they see someone struggling, help them get help because you don’t know what everyone is going through, and if you say something hurtful, you don’t know how that’s affecting them in the long run. It’s really crucial for students to make sure that everything they say or post on social media is uplifting and not tearing someone down.

BL: Did you ever have a favorite place to hang out while you were in Coppell?

DC: This is a little nerdy, but when I was growing up, I spent most of my time hanging out at the Coppell Public Library because I love to read and experience different things through reading. Pretty much most of my summers growing up I spent back and forth between my house and the library because I was reading things so quickly. I don’t know if that’s a necessarily a cool hangout spot, but that’s what I did.