When the Johnston Saddle Club committee asked 12-year-old Hailey Frederiksen to take on the princess title in Loveland, Colorado, they had no idea they had just launched her on a lifelong journey.
“I had no aspirations of becoming a rodeo queen,” Frederiksen admits. “I was just a horse crazy girl. My mom’s a barrel racer, and my dad’s a team roper. I hopped on horses and knew how to ride before I could even walk.”
While wearing that princess crown, young Frederiksen attended a luncheon in Estes Park where she met the reigning Miss Rodeo Colorado and Miss Rodeo America.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘wow, these girls are beautiful,’” she recalls. “They’re intelligent. They were well spoken. Most importantly, they were cowgirls, and they loved horses just like as much as I did. I thought it would be pretty cool to be them someday.”
Little did she know, Frederiksen would one day carry not just one but both of those highly esteemed titles.
“I was bitten by the rodeo queen bug that day,” she says. “And I never turned back.”
Dreaming of Queen
Fast forward to 2018. After several years of competitive dance that took her away from horses and a degree in animal science from Colorado State University that brought her back to her agriculture roots, Frederiksen found herself revisiting her rodeo queen dream.
“I held my second title in 2018, when I was Miss Rodeo Deer Trail,” Frederiksen recalls. “I took charge of that program in my year with the title. I realized this is something that I really want, and that’s when my journey seriously began for Miss Rodeo Colorado.”
As she neared graduation, Frederiksen began considering how the Miss Rodeo Colorado title could positively impact her future career path. So, in 2019, she tried out—and lost.
“When I didn’t win that first year, my parents tried to convince me not to do it again,” Frederiksen admits. “I’m the kind of person where when something doesn’t go right for me, I don’t get sad. I get fuel added to my flame.”
She took that fire and made it her mission to earn the title the following year. Frederiksen’s passion paid off when she was named Miss Rodeo Colorado 2020.
“This was what I wanted my job to be coming out of college,” she explains. “I think the judges understood what I was after. They entrusted me with the of job Miss Rodeo Colorado, and that was the beginning of my three-and-a-half-year career rodeo queening.”
An Unprecedented Reign
After being crowned Miss Rodeo Colorado 2020, Frederiksen dove into the duties of her new title with fervor. What she didn’t expect was for the world to turn upside down just a few months into her reign when COVID-19 swept the nation.
“It was challenging,” Frederiksen admits. “But I wasn’t scared or worried, I just thought to myself, ‘how can we reinvent the wheel?’”
That mindset led her to launch the Miss Rodeo Colorado Kids’ Corral, a weekly video series where Frederiksen shared interviews with various agricultural professionals on social media.
“Social media is such a powerful tool,” she reflects. “I did quite a few interviews with a lot of different people, rodeo personnel, local farmers, ranchers, someone who owns a custom feed lot, and my family’s vet. We had a lot of fun with them.”
Frederiksen’s ingenuity allowed her to make the most of a nontraditional year, but the challenges didn’t stop there. As the pandemic continued, Frederiksen faced a difficult decision.
“I remember the day that the Miss Rodeo America Committee announced a last-minute group meeting,” Frederiksen recalls. “My national director from Colorado called me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t want them to surprise you, but they’re canceling the Miss Rodeo America pageant this year. The committee wants to know if you would be willing to take on a second year to compete for Miss Rodeo America next year.’ Without hesitation, I said, ‘yes, absolutely.’”
That brave step set Frederiksen on the road to her next dream—the Miss Rodeo America crown.
About the Pageant
Each year, reining state queens compete during the Miss Rodeo America pageant held in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“It’s an eight-day long pageant at the South Point Hotel and Casino,” Hailey Frederiksen shares. “Contestants are judged on three major categories: horsemanship, personality, and appearance. The judges look at those three categories during a series of events.”
The first day starts with check in and a few questions to answer. Next comes the horsemanship phase, where riding skills are evaluated.
“From there, we do a horsemanship interview and a personality interview,” Frederiksen says. “Throughout the week, we answer two improv questions, whether they be rodeo knowledge or personality questions.”
The next phase is extemporaneous speaking, where queens have 10 minutes to choose from a selection of topics and prepare 90-second speech.
“It’s so important that we have those social skills, are intelligent while we speak, and what we speak about makes sense,” Frederiksen reveals.
The end of the week brings a fashion show where contestants model merchandise from sponsors, plus outfits designed by each queen.
“Sunday is the day where either everything goes right in the world, or everything goes wrong,” Frederiksen states. “That’s the final day of pageant where we find out who will be the next girl to carry on that Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold Creations crown.”
Aiming for America
Frederiksen spent 2020 making the most of a rocky first year as Miss Rodeo Colorado and felt more than prepared to take on the second half of her extended reign.
“I was given the perfect test in terms of my years as Miss Rodeo Colorado,” she shares. “I wanted to be the best Miss Rodeo Colorado that I could possibly be.”
As the world began to reopen, she hit the rodeo trail to fulfil her queen duties in 2021, all the while campaigning toward her goal of earning the Miss Rodeo America title.
“I was always hungry for that next crown,” Frederiksen says. “I had invested a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I wanted to give myself the absolute best position that I could to potentially earn the Miss Rodeo America title.”
Every day brought her one step closer to the pageant, and the Colorado native kept her eye firmly planted on her goal.
Frederiksen credits her family and her committee for helping her chase her dreams, despite the struggles posed by COVID-19.
“I had that support system behind me during those two years,” she shares. “Without my parents, I would not be where I am today. They have done it all with me, and I am truly thankful.”
When she arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Miss Rodeo America pageant held in conjunction with the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Frederiksen felt more than prepared to face the music.
“I was ready,” she asserts. “I knew I had some competition for sure, but I knew that I had the ability and the drive to show those judges that I was ready for another year.”
After eight days of fierce competition, Frederiksen’s goals became reality when she received the revered Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold Creations crown.
“Miss Rodeo America was my dream job,” she says. “To walk away with the title…I’m still on cloud nine, and it’s been over a year.”
Continuing the Legacy
Armed with a new title, crown, and sash, Frederiksen hit the road again in 2022 with lofty aspirations—and her time as Miss Rodeo America more than surpassed her wildest dreams.
“It has gone above and beyond what I would’ve ever expected,” she reveals. “It’s insane how fast this journey has been, but as cliche as it is to say, time flies when you’re having fun.”
After a year packed with rodeo appearances, speaking opportunities, public outreach, and more, it’s almost time for Frederiksen to close this chapter of her story.
“I’m about to end my year as Miss Rodeo America, but also end my rodeo queen career,” she reveals. “These have been precious memories that I’ll cherish for a lifetime and be able to share with my children someday.”
For Frederiksen, the Miss Rodeo America title brought more than just a year of rodeos. It opened doors to build a future for herself and help those who will come after her.
“A lot of girls just think about being under the crown and sash for that one year, but it’s propelling them for the rest of their life,” Frederiksen explains. “It’s amazing what this one year has done for me. This year hasn’t just been a year of opportunity, it’ll be a lifetime of opportunities for me.”
As she reflects on her reign, Frederiksen feels mixed emotions at the thought of passing on the crown and sash to the next woman who earns the coveted title.
“I will be sad, but it’s not going to just be sad tears at the [Miss Rodeo America] pageant,” Frederiksen explains. “It’s going to be tears of joy because I have achieved something that only so many girls can say they’ve done. I’ve gotten to do everything I’ve wanted to do under this crown and sash. It’ll be a happy celebration.”
Celebrations are certainly in order for Frederiksen after a three-year run under a rodeo queen crown.
“I’m grateful for what it’s done for me,” she says. “I am so excited to see the next girl who will get to not only do the same things that I got to do, but even more. That’s what it’s all about, right? Growing this organization and growing these girls into successful woman. I’m excited to see what that next girl achieves and how she goes even further with that Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold Creations Crown.”
The Cowgirl Way
That growth-focused mindset defines Frederiksen’s outlook on more than just pageantry. For her, it’s all part of the cowgirl lifestyle.
“If you look up what a cowboy or a cowgirl is in the dictionary, it says a person that is working cattle or livestock,” Frederiksen notes. “That’s very practical as a definition, but what I take from it is ‘working.’ Look at the western industry. The people in it don’t have a lot of things handed to them. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or what great horses or stock you have, you still have to work for it.”
That work ethic instilled in Frederiksen at a young age helped her achieve her rodeo queen dreams, too.
“With Miss Rodeo America, you only get one shot at it,” she continues. “I put in the work because I really, really wanted it. To me, that is what being a cowgirl and a cowboy means. It’s showing that I’m willing to put in the work, and I won’t stop until the job is done.”
Although she did accomplish her goal—making her one of an elite group of women who’ve earned that esteemed title since the pageant’s initiation in 1956—she remains true to her roots and thankful for the way she was raised.
“Hard work comes being humble, too, and thankful for what you’re given,” Frederiksen asserts. “If you want more, or if you want better, that’s when the work comes into play. You strive for better. Those traits are really what attracts people to our industry.”
Learn more about Miss Rodeo America at missrodeoamerica.com or on Instagram at @MissRodeoAmericaOfficial.
This article about Miss Rodeo America appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Western Life Today magazine. Click here to subscribe!