One of the speakers in today’s encouragement is Deshauna Barber, the titleholder of Miss USA 2016, a motivational speaker, a teacher at Howard University and CEO of non-government organisation Service Women’s Action Network.

Before these accomplishments, Barber was commissioned as a quartermaster officer and logistics commander in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Captain and worked as an IT analyst for the United States Department of Commerce.

When Barber was 19 years old, she worked at a Target retail store where she was once approached by a white woman who would later turn out to be a pageant coach. The pageant coach asked Barber, “Were you born in this country?” Barber felt offended. Little did she know the reason behind it. The question wasn’t asked because of her skin colour or race, instead, it was because of her beauty that Barber herself didn’t recognise at the time.

The pageant coach asked her more questions, and by this time Barber was already frustrated. “What do you want ma’am,” she asked the woman.

The pageant coached shocked her by saying, “I think you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, and I think you could be the next Miss USA.” The statement was hilarious to Barber when she heard it – Army brats don’t do pageants.

However, the coach was convincing enough that Barber met her the following day in a Starbucks coffee shop. Also, there to greet her was a high stack of pageant books. That’s when it all happened.

Three months later, Barber competed in her first pageant and lost. She went back in the second year and lost again. She went back the third, fourth, fifth and sixth time and lost. By this time, Barber’s motivation for success in the pageant was non-existent, so much so she called her coach frustrated.

“You told me I could have won!”

Her coach pushed her some more and told her to keep working. By this time, most people would have already quit. What made the situation 10 times worse was that her pageant coach died after succumbing to leukaemia in June 2015.

Six months later, in December 2015, Barber won Miss District of Colombia, USA.

Six months after that, in June 2016, she became the first soldier to win Miss USA.

It doesn’t matter how many times you have tried and failed. No one ever said hard work only brings success. Hard work brings failure too, but that isn’t grounds to give up, it’s grounds to rise and start over — start over a different way until you succeed.

In Barber’s words, “do not fear failure, but be terrified of regret, as giving up is the birth of regret”.