What started off as a dream, has become a reality for Danamarie McNicholl (’17).
On July 1, McNicholl competed for the job of a lifetime and won, being crowned Miss Washington. Now she is preparing to compete for the title of Miss America.
She’s been working toward the Miss America pageant since she was 14, when she started competing in pageants.
“I find myself constantly smiling,” McNicholl said. “I am finally starting to feel ready.”
After graduating from Gonzaga McNicholl got a job at KREM 2 News as a TV news reporter.
During her time as a news reporter McNicholl was able to represent the city that grew into her second home. Now, she is given the opportunity to represent the state of Washington.
For McNicholl, the moment of coronation was surreal. She said she’d get goose bumps watching a crowning and this time, it was her moment.
“I dropped to the floor and all of the emotions were there,” McNicholl said. “This Miss Washington was an out of body experience.”
The contest in September will be the last time McNicholl competes for the Miss America association.
What she has learned from this whole experience is to embrace the failures and learn from them, she said. There were a lot of setbacks, but getting to where she is, was worth everything. She learned to trust in the journey.
“Every failure is just another opportunity to better yourself,” McNicholl said. “Losing is one of the best preparations.”
McNicholl is very particular when it comes to preparation for the competition. Whether that is making sure every stitch in her outfit is perfect, or practicing piano for the talent portion. Although there is no bathing suit competition this year, McNicholl still puts emphasis on working out. She wants to be in the best shape of her life for Miss America.
“You must be mentally and physically strong,” McNicholl said.
McNicholl said her family has been a big part of her success. She’s had her mom and younger brother, Collin (’19), there with her every step of the way. As a single mom, her mother has sacrificed a lot for her and made sure that she had everything she needed to succeed, she said.
One of the biggest experiences that prepared McNicholl to compete for the title of Miss Washington was the year of work she had under her belt.
Her experience as a news reporter taught her to always be ready for challenges and unpredictable opportunities.
“Working at KREM helped me control my nerves,” McNicholl said.
During her last days at KREM before Miss Washington, McNicholl didn’t know if it was going to be her last goodbye. What she did know is that what is meant to be, is meant to be.
“The best going away gift was all of their support,” McNicholl said.
Her first stop after winning the title of Miss Washington was to the KREM studio.
Curiosity for people and the want to tell their stories is McNicholl’s No. 1 goal as a reporter and she plans on using her Miss Washington platform to continue that.
McNicholl said she would not be able to be in this posistion without the support of her GU family.
“It was the most special thing to share with them,” McNicholl said.
Her friends helped from the beginning by hosting mock interviews and giving her encouragement and support to balance school and preparing for Miss Washington.
McNicholl graduated with a degree in broadcasting from GU and praised the skills that she learned from there for preparing her to be a TV reporter and for Miss Washington.
“Professor Dan Garrity and my classmates pushed me to work to be the best student I could be,” McNicholl said. “Gonzaga gave me so much support, confidence and drive. I wouldn’t be where I am without GU.”
One of McNicholl’s biggest motivators is her platform: Roll With It.
With her platform, she focuses on being an advocate for adaptive sports. In Spokane, she worked with ParaSport and now is on its executive board.
High school students who competes in wheelchair adaptive sports have no opportunity to continue their sport into college. Eastern Washington University is the first university to offer these athletes an opportunity to continue their sport at the collegiate level. This is something that McNicholl wants more kids to know about and to raise awareness about their potential.
In her role as Miss Washington, she is given more of an opportunity to use her platform to continue to grow her love and share it with the world.
As this lifelong journey for McNicholl comes to its final stage, she hopes to always be a role model for young women and to always be open and inviting. Miss Washington lives her dream every day and come September, her title might change.
Brianna Vasquez is an A&E editor. Follow her on Twitter: @itsmeebrii.