Before Suzi Dent gave pageant life a good go, she was working as a television and advertising hair and makeup artist AND wardrobe stylist. She created the miniature wigs and wardrobe for the upside-down talking chin characters for World's Greatest Shave and has also worked with the Leukemia Foundation, The Cancer Council, Look Good Feel Better and The Starlight Children's Make-A-Wish Foundation. So, you could say she was already killing it.
Although Suzi worked in what seems like a glamorous world, her tomboy-ish ways meant shorts or pants and baggy tops or t-shirts were her go-to clothes of choice. Plus, dressing for practicality and comfort has always been Suzi's normal for decades, where working in a job where you're always on the go or in not-so-glam locations is your average work day. Armed with a whole lot of 'frock fear' and always feeling uncomfortable, insecure and exposed when trying on a dress meant being a dressed-down tomboy was her safety net.
But with life comes twists and turns, usually the kind you least expect. For Suzi, this meant being approached to compete in the Mrs Earth Australia pageant (which she won!) - which was a shock to her, but a clear sign it was time for change in her life.
A truly inspiring story, Suzi Dent was kind enough to let me ask her some questions about her journey to self-love and acceptance, her charity work and her advice for fellow Gold Coast women who are wanting to find confidence within themselves:
Winning the title of Mrs Earth Australia is such a huge achievement. What made you participate in the pageant?
I am very grateful that I am a naturally positive and joyous person, but in August last year I wasn’t in a great personal space anymore, as my husband and best friend of 26 years has been battling with depression and anger management issues for the last five years and to be quite honest, I wasn’t coping with our lives very well anymore. I desperately wanted to help my husband and get my best friend back for us and our son. There was an element of “sameness” and almost daily gut-wrenching angry negativity in our lives that I needed to change, for all three of us, to save my family and our marriage! I did a lot of soul-searching and started watching and listening to motivational things all about having a positive mindset and manifesting the life and dreams you desire. One of the things I do know to be true about this life journey that we are all on, is that life will send you journeys to go on and it will throw situations in your path that will change your destiny, you just have to pay attention to the signs life sends you.
So, it was a huge surprise to me to be approached by the Mrs Earth Australia pageant to compete, especially at my age and it was so far out of left field, that after I picked myself up off the floor from laughter, checked out the pageant website and saw that they supported the charity Soles4Souls, I knew life was sending me a message and I was at the crossroads of having my very own “sliding doors” moment. If life wanted me to embrace wearing frocks and high heels to raise awareness for Sole4Souls to change my life and bring some positivity and change into my family, well I just had faith and trusted that that was what I should do and that’s what I did!
What positive changes have you noticed within yourself since taking the leap to participate in Mrs Earth?
Entering into the pageant world, apart from supporting my charity, has allowed me to kick some personal goals and overcome some personal fears and grow as a person. It provided me with a goal to work towards, a new world to be interested in and study, work experience opportunities and amazing and inspirational people to meet. Completely changing myself and my tomboy ways and embracing and experiencing wearing dresses, practicing and learning to walk in high heels for the first time in 30 odd years and having my self esteem lifted, experiencing looking glamorous with beautiful dresses and hair and makeup has been an amazing experience! I can’t say that I am a tomboy anymore! Being a confident woman is something I have always been, however confidence and self-esteem are two different things. I now feel whole inside, like everything is all caught up with my soul and I am very grateful for this gift that life has given me.
How did your husband and son react when you told them you would be taking part in the pageant?
My husband has always believed very strongly in my intuition and when I told him what I was doing and why, he was a little skeptical in the beginning, but as I was picking up sponsor after sponsor who believed in me and my journey, he knew, as did I that what I was doing was so much bigger than just me as a person. He is so proud of me and my journey and the fact that I now see myself how others see me. He is thrilled for me that my self esteem is at an all time high - without any ego attached - and he loves seeing me shine.
How proud are they now that you came 3rd in Mrs Earth?
My husband and best friend of 26 years, Don, and our 15 year old son, Jack, are thrilled for me. It has changed the narrative of my marriage and saved our relationship. Embracing the pageant world and being able to bring something new and positive into our lives with my work for Soles4Souls has changed his mindset and our family dynamic for the better. He is very supportive of my journey and the positive self-esteem changes I have been going through and loves the new dress-wearing me! He has also scored brownie points from his mates for being married to a Mrs Earth Australia Beauty Queen!
What makes you so passionate about Soles4Souls?
One of my passions is helping and educating humans about how to be eco-aware and charitable. Soles4Souls really appealed to me as it is such an easy way to teach people about eco-awareness and charity by donating their used or new shoes to go to another person to give them the ability to go to work so they can feed themselves and their family and for children to be able to go to school to receive an education.
Can you imagine walking around outside barefoot in a January summer in Australia, in a heatwave? When you can fry an egg on the footpath and can’t walk on the sand to get to the surf to cool off? Without shoes you can’t work or go to school! Did you realise that your old clothes and shoes, if not recycled, are one of the largest sources of landfill, take ages to break down and add to the pollution of our planet? This charity is so easy to donate to, we all have spare shoes tucked away that don’t get worn.
For parents, how quickly do your kids grow out of their shoes? What a great way to teach your kids or your elders about charity and eco-awareness all at the same time! Soles4Souls were struggling financially and I knew that with the support of Bartercard Australia, opening up the doors of their offices around Australia to provide drop spots for people to donate their shoes was a great way to spread awareness about this very worthy cause and maybe help them to keep their doors open. I am ever so grateful to have had lots of press and public donations of shoes to support their cause by using my Mrs Earth journey. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save the charity.
What’s next for you now that you have more of a fan base?
My personal platform is ageing with a positive mindset. I am looking forward to my new career as a motivational speaker inspiring others to not pay attention to their age number and stop putting the brakes on their goals and dreams because all of a sudden they have reached a “certain age” - society dictates that it is all down hill from there! Age is just a number! I have just proved it by winning against women, including professional models, who I am old enough to have given birth to. Let’s face it, 55 years young is perceived as pretty old to be competing in my first-ever beauty pageant!
I believe that age and the wisdom that our life journey brings should be celebrated, not scoffed at. The words we use to describe the ageing process and ourselves does have an effect on our minds and our attitudes towards ourselves and this is a generational attitude that must be changed. The women in my family all live until their late 90’s, so I am barely halfway there!
I am hoping to inspire other women to stop paying attention to their age number and to be fearless about making changes in their lives! Advertisers should be using the over 50’s who look fabulous! When you get to your fifties there are no fashion ranges specifically for us, no advertising for the over fifties and pre and post-menopausal women can often feel invisible and overlooked, old and used up. Not surprising really, as this demographic is barely visually represented in mainstream fashion advertising. We live in an ageist society and it’s time to let women over fifty know that they can change their lives, they are not old - age is a state of mind. Women age themselves out of life with a mental attitude. If you continually say to yourself I’m old, then you will be old and you will get old!
I feel joyous, young and in the prime of my life and at 55, I want to help other women celebrate and embrace their age number too. I’m a natural beauty, not a user of botox and fillers, and try to embrace a healthy mind and body, with regular exercise and good nutrition. I believe women shouldn’t feel that to be accepted into society and be perceived as beautiful, that they need to have unlined skin. I believe that a positive ageing mindset is the most powerful ageing gracefully tool that anyone needs.
I am so proud and humbled to announce that I have just been named as the national Australian Ambassador for the charity Friends With Dignity! They are a national non-government funded organisation who proudly support victims of domestic violence rebuild their lives with purpose, dignity and hope by transforming houses into sanctuaries by relying on the generous donations of household and personal care items from the community.
The primary goal is to create a welcoming home for survivors of domestic and family violence who have literally left behind their entire lives (and everything they own) when they leave refuge and want to rebuild their lives. Their volunteers start collecting donated beds, bed linen, towels, crockery, basic kitchen appliances, white goods, TV, pantry items and toiletries etc. With these donated items that are received, by using call outs on social media, they are able - in just seven days - to transform an empty shell into a welcoming home and sanctuary for families to rebuild their lives with hope and dignity.
Finally, what advice would you give Gold Coast women who might be lacking in confidence?
To just go for it, whatever you want to do! Have faith in yourself and trust your intuition. Don’t let the perception of others or society stop you living or achieving your dreams. Come to one of my seminars and I guarantee you will feel on top of the world after two hours with me! One of the things I love about the Gold Coast is the community here, there are so many different women's groups to belong to and Facebook groups where strangers just want to help you be alive and shine! You just have to believe in yourself and have faith that the universe will deliver.