I don’t think it’s any secret I have a weakness for beautiful blondes (who doesn’t?), but the judges at the Miss Rodeo American Pageant must have one as well considering who they selected as the 2015 queen.
Last Saturday, Lauren Heaton of Alva, Okla., won the title of Miss Rodeo America 2015, becoming the first state queen from Oklahoma to claim the honor and the 60th woman to wear the crown since the pageant’s inception. The Oklahoma State University graduate stopped by the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo press room Thursday night before the performance, and I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of her time.
We chatted about her dream coming true and her plans for the future, and I found Heaton to be sweet and engaging in addition to polished and poised. She had a lot of great things to say, and she will be a fine representative of the sport next year.
Q: How has your week been since winning the crown? Has it been a whirlwind?
LH: Yes, it’s been a whirlwind. But it’s just like the NFR – as the week goes on, you get a little looser and the cowgirls get a little calmer and more focused. That’s how I feel, and I’m getting a little more focused about what my year’s going to be like.
Q: Have you been able to digest everything and realized what you accomplished?
LH: Every time I meet somebody new or a person I’ll be working with this next year that I’ve been looking up to, that’s when it really starts to hit me about what I’m about to represent, who I’m about to represent and the type of people I’ll get to work with. That’s exciting.
Q: It must be pretty special to win this title as the Miss Rodeo America association celebrates its 60th anniversary.
LH: It’s very special, and I’m also the very first Miss Rodeo Oklahoma to ever win the title of Miss Rodeo America. So, tying that in with being the 60th Miss Rodeo America, those are two incredible titles and honors I’m excited to have. I hope to be able to do a lot with those titles this year and represent the best I can.
Q: What was it like to ride in the grand entry at the Wrangler NFR after you won the crown?
LH: It was surreal and adrenaline-packed. I must say, the most exciting thing about the whole run was when they announced I was from Alva, Okla. I had a large group of my supporters stay an extra day to be able to go to the rodeo that night, and I’m from such a small community and they’ve given me so much support throughout the year. That was one moment I got to have, and I just thought about how many people in the Thomas & Mack Center must have thought, “Where’s Alva, Okla.?” I was excited to be able to represent them that night.
Q: Saturday was a big day for you, but also your alma-mater, which beat Oklahoma in football. That had to make the day even more special.
LH: It did, and to top it off, coach (Mike) Gundy Tweeted me and said, “Congrats to Oklahoma State graduate.” I Tweeted back and said, “Congrats on your win, too.” He said, “You’re welcome any time at Oklahoma State football.” So, to be an Oklahoma State alumni and be such a big Oklahoma State football fan, that was another one of those sink-in moments when it hits you that you just won Miss Rodeo America. That was a really cool experience.
Q: The week of the pageant is long and grueling. Was it a grind, or did you enjoy the experience?
LH: We had a great group of girls this year, and we all became really close. Every day, we were just enjoying every part of the pageant, and it was a blast. I really just took it day by day, took it one event at a time and tried to put my best foot forward and make it through the week. I really enjoyed it.
Q: Are you ready for more than 100,000 miles of travel and being one of the sport’s top ambassadors next year?
LH: Oh, absolutely. This sport and this industry has given me so much in life, so I’m really excited. I also love traveling and meeting people, and it’s really combining my two favorite hobbies of traveling and rodeo. It’s going to be a great year.
Q: I hear you want to pursue a master’s degree after your year as Miss Rodeo America. What do you want to do with that degree?
LH: The Miss Rodeo America scholarship foundation is really phenomenal, and I received almost $28,000 in scholarships when I won. That’s phenomenal, not only for paying off student loans, but also for using it for future education that really gives something to Miss Rodeo America to be able to use after her reign. The business aspect of rodeo is really important, and it’s something I’m really interested in becoming more knowledgeable about. To be able to use that scholarship and become more educated to help the sport is important, and I hope to stay in this industry after my year (as MRA) and help give back.
Q: Did you grow up as a girl who wanted to be Miss Rodeo America or a Wrangler NFR barrel racer?
LH: I grew up with two older brothers, so I’m actually a team roper now. I did grow up barrel racing, but I have a high appreciation for team roping and love that. But you see Miss Rodeo America when you watch the NFR, you look up to her and it’s something I’ve aspired to since I first started rodeo queening. To see how much she does for the sport and how much she gives back to the cowboys in the events I love, it’s something every little cowgirl dreams of being. It’s an honor to be in this position now.