Foreword by Judy Cheung-Wood, Founder of skinB5™
We are extremely proud to announce Holly Dexter, Miss Universe Australia National Finalist as our new brand ambassador!
Holly is a super inspirational young person who simply glows from the inside out. We loved hearing Holly’s story of how she persevered and overcame personal challenges and family heartaches.
Holly’s personal journey to self confidence is one that resonates with all of us and makes her a great role model for our young customers. Her story and attitude to life speaks to the skinB5™ brand values – transforming lives through innovative, effective and ethical skin care products that support wellness and confidence.
Supporting good mental health, particularly in young people who face ever-changing challenges, has become more important than ever in recent times.
We believe that Holly’s story can show young people that no matter how bad things may seem, there is a path to recovery and a way to thrive. By digging deep and finding courage to face your fear and insecurities, and finding your inner strength, you can learn to make choices that will build your resilience and create a stronger, better, and happier you.
My Journey to Self Confidence by Holly Dexter, Miss Universe Australia National Finalist
Where do I begin when talking about my journey to self-confidence. I’ve had many experiences that made me the person that I am today, but I’ll start by saying I have no regrets in anything I’ve faced.
The good, the bad and the embarrassing, because without them, I wouldn’t be who I am.
I mean I wish my mum hadn’t married someone so short, because I might have been a Victoria’s Secret Angel by now, but that’s just something I have to live with. Thanks dad.
I’m a pretty confident kid
I’ll start where it all began, when I was about four and my mum enrolled me in dance lessons. The style of dance was called Calisthenics and for the non-Australians reading this, calisthenics is pretty much what you get if you were to blend up every single dance style in a Nutrabullet.
I was almost always put up front as the one leading the dance routines. Not because I was a good dancer, but because I was an extremely overly confident kid. When we had song and dance routines, the feedback I would hear from audience members was that I had the loudest singing voice. Not good, loud! Nothing could tear my confidence down. I knew I was fun and entertaining and I was going to make sure everyone knew it.
Who am I now?
When I was five, my parents split up and mum began making the move back to Ballarat where her family was from. Dad went off to Melbourne, while my three sisters and I went with mum.
With moving towns, came the challenge of moving schools for eight year old me. Mum decided to enroll us in the most expensive private school in Ballarat and boy, was that a change. My two younger sisters weren’t in school yet, but my older sister and I had come from a public school and switching from that environment, to a school where all the housewives and doctors sent their kids was very different from what I was used to.
My family is privileged, but mum always drilled into us the importance of humility. My classmates would often be doing activities outside of school like horse riding, Aus Kick football and little athletics, but unlike everyone else, I was doing a dance style that no one even heard of.
I found it very hard to fit into this school at first, but after a while I got used to it. As I moved into high school years, the kids gave me a new, and not so kind nickname which they would use to pick on me, “Ranga!” For a kid, this kind of bullying was pretty traumatic.
I still am very insecure about my red hair and have a bit of an identity crisis when too much of my regrowth shows through.
Then they called me“Himalaya”, because like most teenagers, I got acne.
Now that I think about it, that kid had a pretty creative imagination to compare something like acne to the Himalayan mountain range.
Fast forward to year 10 of High School, and I began seeing an educational psychologist – woohoo! Mum realised I had fallen behind a lot in school and needed help.
I was diagnosed with a learning disability, which helped to explain why most verbal information goes in one ear and out the other. Unless I’m learning about something I’m interested in, my brain literally refuses to absorb any information and stops listening.
Once that happened all my peers thought I was stupid and school put me in the too hard basket.
Not long after, I moved from that school to an all-girls catholic school that my mum had attended, because she was tired of wasting money on a school that wasn’t going to adapt to support my learning disability.
I loved this school. They focused a lot more on helping us girls become good people and learning life values, and not so much about producing the smartest kids in Ballarat so they could have bragging rights over all the other schools.
Then my world fell apart.
When the world comes crashing down
It was 2014, I was seventeen years old and my mum had asked my two younger sisters and I to gather around the dining room table. Mum walked over to the table with a box of tissues, her eyes filling with tears, and I thought “shit, the dogs dying isn’t he”.
My mum sat down at the table and the next three words out of her mouth changed my life completely.
“I’ve got cancer.” Cancer? What do you mean you have cancer? Families like ours don’t get cancer, that’s only for movies, that’s not real, especially not to families like ours.
I remember clearly that first week after mum broke the news. I felt completely isolated, I had never felt so different in my life because everyone around me had a mum that was completely fine. I remember going into the school psychologist’s office almost every morning before school and just crying. Not crying over the fact that my mum might actually die, but because I felt like I was stuck in this little bubble by myself and no one knew what it was like.
Have you ever seen your mum shave her head because her hair was falling out from chemotherapy? Have you ever helped your mum choose a wig? Have you ever woken up and been told your mums in hospital? Have you ever had that conversation with your mum to work out if you’ll be financially stable if she dies? Have you ever gone through it all that at seventeen?
I can’t even put into words how hard that time of my life was, but it gave me a purpose.
Finding my purpose
Instagram wasn’t that big then back then and no one was really that open about their life struggles. So, I made it my mission in life to be a beacon of hope people could look to when they were going through the same thing. I’m very open on my Instagram about this experience because I want people out there to feel like they’re not alone, and know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
After I graduated from school, I spent a year working in my mum’s childcare centre in Ballarat. There I got my early childhood qualification, before moving to Melbourne in 2017. After a year of working in childcare in Melbourne, I changed careers and suddenly got the drive and passion to really work on my Instagram and see where it could take me.
Before I knew it, I was working with so many well-known brands and meeting so many well-known people in Melbourne. I finally decided to pursue a lifelong dream of mine and apply for Miss Universe Australia 2019. I made it as a state finalist and I absolutely loved the experience and couldn’t help but apply again in 2020.
This time around I was determined to become a national finalist. There are around 20,000 girls that apply Australia wide and only 30 from each state make it through to the state finals, then from that 30, about 6 go on to be national finalists.
I made it as a state finalist again and I truly believed I had it in the bag this time. I was only one of three girls from Victoria that had come back from last year to compete again, and everyone was telling me how much I deserved to be a national finalist.
Miss Universe aligned with my life values perfectly and I just knew the experience of being a national finalist was meant for me, and could really help me excel in life.
The day of the state finals came around in early March and we were all waiting with our friends and family to find out who the six national finalists were. My name didn’t get called.
I was absolutely heartbroken and I think what made it worse was that afterwards, so many people were messaging me, telling me how shocked they were I didn’t make it through. No matter how heartbroken I was though, I still had this feeling inside of me that knew the Miss Universe Australia program was for me, it just aligned so perfectly with everything I wanted to do in life.
A few months’ passed and Melbourne went into full lockdown because of COVID-19.
I received an email from the Miss Universe Australia director, saying that to make the best of a terrible situation, they would conduct a little isolation experience and a few girls will be selected to be a wild card.
(Here comes my favourite part.) After 2 months of the isolation experience, the first of 4 wildcard spots get announced.
It’s a Friday night, 5 minutes to 7.30pm when the wildcard spot was due to be announced. I’m waiting in my car (because for some reason it’s peaceful for me), I’m on the phone to my friend who was also a state finalist and I’d asked her to tell me the results as I wasn’t sure if I could handle the heartbreak again if it wasn’t me.
It’s a few minutes past 7.30pm now and a notification popped up on my phone that Miss Universe Australia had tagged me in something on Instagram (it hadn’t hit me at this moment).
I log in to see what they’ve tagged me in, and it’s a random modelling shot. As I read the captain,I burst into tears. I’ve done it! I made it as a Miss Universe Australia national finalist!
I’m balling my eyes out at this point so much that I’m wailing. I was so over the moon and proud of myself because I achieved something I had dreamed about as a kid.
That was my moment in life, the moment where I felt like I fit in and people could finally see me and accept me for all that I am, and believed in me more than I ever thought possible.
I still have days where I really don’t feel confident and some things still get me down. But if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this story, it’s to keep getting up. If you fall down seven times, make sure you get up eight.