A previous version of this story was published Dec. 9, 2018.
A 23-year-old woman with long brown curls, chandelier earrings and a slight Southern drawl clutched a bouquet of roses. A gold belt buckle cinched the waist of her orange sequined dress, and she wore a white cowboy hat topped with a dazzling jeweled crown.
Taylor McNair, of Learned, Mississippi, was crowned Miss Rodeo America 2018 at the Tropicana.
As Miss Rodeo America, a role created in 1955, she hopes she will be remembered for building relationships with behind-the-scenes rodeo personnel.
“I’m a cowgirl through and through, and I hope they understand that Miss Rodeo America is here for them and that I’m a representative of them,” she said.
McNair, who grew up on a farm and has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business, won $20,000 in scholarships in the pageant, which she said she will use for law school.
As part of the weeklong pageant, McNair performed in a horsemanship competition and a fashion show and took a written test on equine science and rodeo knowledge. Two of the four judges who chose McNair said she exhibited “queenlike” qualities.
“She had a genuineness that was real apparent,” Parley Pearce said. “Her smile comes very natural to her.”
Fellow judge Joni James Smith, Miss Rodeo America 1990, lauded McNair for interrupting her own pageant preparation to help a fellow contestant sew a button back onto her outfit.
McNair was swarmed by the 27 other Miss Rodeos on the stage after her name was announced.
“That is the most incredible, extraordinary group of women I have ever met in my entire life, and they each would have done a great job as Miss Rodeo America,” McNair, Miss Rodeo Mississippi 2018, said. “Their support and their love – it truly makes a girl feel so so special.”
“The first time I went to the (National Finals Rodeo) I cried. I cried at the rodeo. It was a little embarrassing,” McNair said. “It’s just magic in there. It’s the Super Bowl of rodeo, and it’s like none other. To be able to be on the arena floor horseback and hear my name, oh I can’t even imagine.”
McNair said her platform during her reign will be to encourage individuality.
“I have always just said, ‘Be you. Be yourself,’” she said. “God only made one of you and he gave us each unique skills and each unique talents. Use that; don’t compare yourself to others. Be incredibly and uniquely you, and embrace that in everything you do.”