This Positive Mantra Will Change Your Life

A simple 5-word affirmation will motivate you

A positive mantra changed Deshauna Barber’s life.

When Deshauna Barber was getting ready for work, she didn’t know that her life was about to change. At 19, she was working a summer job at Target in the women’s department. While she was working, she noticed a white woman staring her down. She tried to ignore her, but then the woman worked her way toward her. She then asked her a question that offends all people of color.

“Where you born in this country?” the woman asked.

“Yeah, I was born in this country,” Deshauna replied.

“Do you have any kids?”

“No, I don’t have any kids.”

“Are you married?”

“No, Ma’am, I am not married.”

“How old are you?”

Tired of the personal questions, Deshauna said, “19. May I help you find something?”


The meeting that changed a life

And then the persistent white woman who had been interrogating the young, black Deshauna said something that changed her life forever.

“You look like you could be the next Miss USA.”

Deshauna realized the questions weren’t to denigrate her. The woman was asking personal questions because she was a pageant recruiter and wanted to know Deshauna’s qualifications. Even though Deshauna was skeptical that she could ever win a pageant, she agreed to meet at Starbucks.

Over a cup of coffee, the woman, named Leslie, convinced Deshauna to enter a beauty pageant.

Deshauna and a bully

When she was in high school, Deshauna was bullied by another girl. In the hallways, she would say to Deshauna, “Skinny, skinny, orangutan.” And “Wow, look how big your feet are.”

Because of the constant bullying by this girl, Deshauna says that her self-esteem was very low. She didn’t view herself as a beauty who could win one of the biggest pageants. She thought she was thin with long arms and not a beauty queen.

Looking in a mirror as she shopped for clothing for her first pageant, she had an anxiety attack.

Entering pageants

Leslie rubbed her back and said, “When I saw you in Target, I saw something in you. And I see you glowing right now. I think you look amazing. And I think you could easily win this competition. And I think you could easily win Miss USA. You just have to believe in yourself, because if not you, then who?” Those five simple words, “if not you, then who?” became Deshauana’s positive mantra.

Leslie encouraged Deshauna to at least try. It was a state pageant, and she told Deshauna that she could win. Believing more in Leslie’s words than in herself, she went on and competed in her first state pageant.

She lost.

The next year, she competed in the state pageant again.

And lost.

The third-year she competed, hoping to win.

And lost.

She competed in the same pageant for the fourth year.

And lost.

Back again, she put herself into the competition for the fifth year.

And lost.

Undeterred, she went back and tried again in the sixth year.

And lost.

Time to quit being a pageant contestant

After watching his daughter compete and lose six years in a row, her dad told her it was time to quit.

Hearing her dad say that he believed in her, but he didn’t know if the pageant judges would give her the crown she had worked hard to win. She felt ready to stop competing. But before she called it quits, she called her mentor, Leslie.

On the phone, Deshauna said to Lesle, “You told me I could be the next Miss USA. I’ve been at this for six years and this is failing epically.”

Leslie replied, “Deshauna, keep trying, keep trying. I have a good feeling.”

Disgusted, Deshauna said, “Your feeling is garbage. I’ve been at this a long time.”

Leslie said, “Keep going.”

Death of a mentor

Another pageant was coming in two months. This was for the title of Miss USA. So Deshauna texted Leslie to ask her to come to the pageant. She was competing for the District of Columbia. She would be in another pageant, maybe for the last time, and she wanted Leslie there.

When she didn’t get a response from Leslie, she went to Leslie’s Facebook page. Line after line in her timeline was RIPs from friends and family. The comments were from 3 to 4 months earlier. Deshauna was never told that her mentor had died from Leukemia. No one knew that she and Leslie were friends. They didn’t run in the same circles, so no one knew about her.

Deshauna competed for Miss USA. For two weeks prior to the pageant, she thought about Leslie and how she had encouraged her to keep going. She wanted to prove that Leslie was right about the 19-year-old girl that she had seen in Target. That she could be the next Miss USA.

On the night of the pageant, she could hear the thousands of people in the arena. Filled with anxiety, she looked at the other contestants and thought how beautiful and talented they were.

The positive mantra that changed her life

Deshauna looked in a mirror and remembered the positive mantra that Leslie said to her many years before.

“If not you, then who?”

“If not you, then who?”

“If not you, then who?”

At the end of the pageant, it was Deshauna and Miss Hawaii that were left on the stage. Holding hands with the beauty from Hawaii, Deshauna knew that she was going to lose. She said a prayer thanking God that she was the runner-up and she thanked him for giving her the opportunity to compete.

And then the announcer yelled out the winner.

“District of Columbia!”

Looking out over the crowd, she saw thousands of people cheering, her family and friends embracing and jumping in joy.

And even though Leslie wasn’t there, she could hear in her spirit Leslie, her mentor, saying, “I told you so. I told you you could be the next Miss USA.”


Deshauna has said something that we should all take with us.

“Do not fear failure, but please be terrified of regret. As giving up is the birth of regret. You will have a hundred moments that will be filled with someone telling you, “No.” The reality of life is that we will all hear more nos than we hear yeses. And we will fail a lot, and I mean a whole lot. But what I ask of you today is to not take no for an answer. Don’t be afraid of nos. Be afraid of the possibilities of a yes that you have prematurely destroyed because you decided to quit before the clock strikes 12.”

When you don’t feel like continuing, repeat the positive mantra that Lelie gave Deshauna.

If not you, then who.


What positive mantra do you have that changed your life?


If you would like to see Deshauna’s speech, you can see it here: https://youtu.be/qYfl–elU9U

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