Nine months into sobriety, Danielle “Dani” Buhl auditioned for a TV fashion show competition.
Buhl, 28, originally from Annapolis, is living in a Westminster recovery house. She just celebrated 10 months of sobriety and is participating in Carroll County Drug Treatment Court, a months-long course designed to help people get out of addiction.
During recovery, Buhl came across an advertisement on social media for a Canadian TV show called “The Fashion Hero.” The website describes it as a international competition for men and women, regardless of appearance, who want to disrupt the fashion industry. Buhl likened it to “America’s Next Top Model.”
Thirty-two contestants are judged in a series of competitions, according to the website. Four will be chosen to participate in an international brand’s advertising campaign, and one will become the spokesperson/influencer of “The Fashion Hero” and travel the world.
Buhl saw the show’s desire to highlight different types of beauty and felt she fit the bill.
Buhl stands 4 feet 9 inches tall, is half Colombian through her mother and has a large scar on her back from scoliosis surgery when she was 16. She also sports a number of tattoos that represent places she’s lived. Maryland is represented with an Oriole feather, blue crab, the capitol building, a pink flamingo with a beehive hairdo, and the Latin slogan on Annapolis’ flag, “Vixi Liber Et Moriar.”
However, there is more to Buhl’s story than her physical appearance.
She has bipolar disorder and has struggled with suicidal thoughts. Buhl said these thoughts, coupled with her addiction to alcohol, were factors that led to five DUIs in four months.
“I was on a huge suicide mission,” Buhl said. “I’m really glad that I didn’t hurt anyone, especially because that was the most selfish part of me ... I didn’t care who was around me. As long as it got me to that literal dead end, then I was happy.”
Buhl got most of her DUIs in Carroll County, but it wasn’t until after she was jailed in Frederick that she had her “foxhole prayer” moment.
“It’s where you’re at your lowest and most desperate point and you just pray to God like, ‘I’m never gonna drink or do anything again if you can help me out of this,‘ ” Buhl said.
She felt “lucky” to be in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center because she said it offers programs to help women. She said the center provided her with a mental health adviser and made her feel like she could call on the correctional officers at any time.
Buhl heard other inmates talking about rehabilitation. She said she hadn’t thought of rehab before, picturing it as a program for people struggling with opioid addiction, not alcoholism. After 56 days in jail, Buhl asked the judge to place her in a rehab program. She went to Right Turn-IMPACT, a recovery program in Eldersburg. Buhl spent five months there and then entered drug treatment court, which led her to the recovery house in Westminster, where she says people have been very supportive.
“Everyone in drug court is also like a support family, which is crazy because you don’t think of that for a court system, to want to help you get better. You think they just want to punish you, but they definitely believe in a second chance at life,” Buhl said.
She described Judge Fred Hecker, who oversees drug treatment court, as a second dad. Hecker wrote in an email that Buhl has been working hard every day since she started the program in early March.
“She exudes a positive attitude and approach to life, and uses those qualities to her advantage in Drug Treatment Court,” Hecker wrote. “As long as Danielle continues to work hard and stay focused on making good choices, the sky is the limit for her. The Drug Treatment Court team is excited for Danielle and happy to play a supporting role in helping her pursue her dreams.”
Buhl also recently enrolled at Carroll Community College, which she hopes will be a launch pad to a music degree at Drexel University in Pennsylvania.
She hopes her story and look will land her a spot in season three of “The Fashion Hero.”
“I can show other young women if you have a horrible past, from dysfunctional families to dual diagnoses, any type of mental health, you can bounce back and become better,” Buhl said in her audition video.
People can vote for Buhl by going to thefashionhero.com, clicking on the “vote for a contestant” tab and entering Buhl’s name. Voting is ongoing and tallied at the end of each month. As of Friday evening, Buhl was ranked 49th out of the top 100 candidates.