Adjust Each Others' Crown

Every year Project Pageantry sponsors the Caldwell Night Rodeo Queen contest’s Miss Congeniality award. Even before Project Pageantry started, we’ve been involved with this award (five years now, actually!). We could just as easily have sponsored the speech award since those career-focused soft skills are in our advice-giving wheelhouse. But, we don’t! Why?

Meridian Lions Rodeo  Queens high-five a mutton buster. Photo courtesy of Curtis Yanskey.

Meridian Lions Rodeo Queens high-five a mutton buster. Photo courtesy of Curtis Yanskey.

We Care About Congeniality

In life and in work, collaboration and cooperation are the most efficient ways to get work done. Each of us have skills that allow us to contribute to a team, and most of us aren't THE BEST at every thing we do. The beauty is that we don't have to be. Ever heard the adage teamwork makes the dream work? This is the value in a well-rounded team. If we each contribute in the area we're good at, we're able to achieve something much greater than if we're alone. 

Competition, while important for a host of reasons that we won’t get into here, can negatively impact this collaborative spirit. It's isolating. It says, there's one of us who wins, and I want to be that one. Congeniality on the other hand, promotes a team mindset. defines congeniality as someone (it’s an adjective) who’s agreeable, suitable, or pleasing in nature or character. Does this sound like a rodeo queen? People who get along with others understand that everyone has a role to play and their own unique story to tell. This perspective comes through in a young woman's interactions with fellow competitors, with the judges, and more importantly, the public. Because she likes to play nice with those around her and is inclusive throughout the contest. Notice the nice girl usually wins this award. There's nothing wrong with being the nice girl.

2016 Caldwell Night Rodeo Queen  and Miss Congeniality winner Bonnie Crisci at a pre-rodeo promotional event. Photo courtesy of  Hal Coburn .

2016 Caldwell Night Rodeo Queen and Miss Congeniality winner Bonnie Crisci at a pre-rodeo promotional event. Photo courtesy of Hal Coburn.

When each of us shares why we want to be a rodeo queen, we often talk about the public and about promotion. So what happens when we're unapproachable and we’re unable to relate to that external audience because we’re cold or standoff-ish? We can’t do the job we were chosen to do. Meaning, if we can’t talk to kids and get them excited about rodeo and horses then we aren’t cut out to be a rodeo queen. If we can’t approach strangers in a friendly manner to raise awareness and sell them on the event, then we shouldn’t be the judge’s choice. If we can’t maintain respectful relationships with our sponsors, our board, our queen coordinator, our fellow queens, and those who disagree with us (think, PETA), then we should consider a different hobby.       

Shift in Perspective

It doesn't matter where you're from, the duties of rodeo queen is the same. Photo courtesy of Curtis Yanskey.

It doesn't matter where you're from, the duties of rodeo queen is the same. Photo courtesy of Curtis Yanskey.

As global communication becomes easier through a phenomenon described in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, our ability to connect with one another on a local, national, and global level increases. This flattening means that we have greater access to information, educational resources, cultural experiences, and friendships than any generation before us. This is great; it’s also a huge responsibility. We’re forced to connect, so we’re also required to be empathetic, to understand, to educate and be educated. Because we must be global citizens if we’re going to act like it. And, this starts in our own backyard.

The sport of rodeo and the smaller subset of rodeo queen competition are communities. Our communities are also our way of life. Our friends ride or compete and our family rides and competes. But, rather than just meet people on the road or at an event, we’re now able to develop relationships with people who share our passion for the sport across nations and across seas.

Follow  Project Pageantry on Instagram  (@projectpageantry).

Follow Project Pageantry on Instagram (@projectpageantry).

The #CommunityOverCompetition hashtag prevalent in these two communities, and in the rodeo queen world especially represent a shift in perspective. It’s like bringing this all-inclusive global mindset to the queen world. As a group we’ve begun to understand that we’re all one big tribe rather than many, many local groups. I’ve noticed that with this shift in mindset, there’s started to be a change in how girls relate to one another. We’ve started to adopt those global-citizen traits mentioned before of empathy, understanding, and education. Instead of, “Well, if you win the Congeniality award it means you’re not very good,” we say, “We all enjoy this and do this together, so let’s encourage and challenge each other to be the best that we can be.” This is change. Change is scary, but it’s also good. It helps us grow.

Quotes that make you catch feelings

"You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar." – English Proverb
"Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness." – George Sand.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity." -Nathaniel Branden
"A little consideration, a lot of thought for others, makes all the difference." – Pooh

If we think about why we do this, aside from the prizes, the fun, and the love of the sport, it’s about opportunity. Committees, coordinators, “villages,” pour their heart, time, and resources into this to give girls the chance to learn and grow. At the time, this effort is focused on the next logical step in competition: a larger pageant, a state pageant, or Miss Rodeo America. But, eventually we all age out. We enter the professional world and are a part of teams, work side-by-side, and grow within a profession or organization.

It Pays to Be Miss Congeniality

Aside from being unsuited for the rodeo-queen role, there are a number of other downfalls of being disagreeable, or not congenial. A 2015 research study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that cynical individuals, or those who are less hopeful and optimistic, actually earn less in their lifetime. They’re also more likely to suffer negative health factors, such as increased risk of negative heart condition. Remember, if we think about rodeo queening as an opportunity to create lifelong skills, this congeniality award and ability to earn it begins to sound a lot more appealing. Our nice-girl factor actually affects our long-term health and career and earning goals. Who’d have thought?

So, if we know it’s important to be kind, agreeable, and have a collaborative spirit, how do we start to develop that? The most-effective method comes from an approach adapted from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, an oldie, but goodie that’s listed on most must-read lists.

Here’s a quick run-down of how to be more congenial. (See, you knew you’d learn something to take back to a rodeo-queen pageant.)

  1. Avoid criticizing, condemning, and complaining. No one is perfect and neither are you. Have you tried to help the situation or person? If no, then don’t point fingers or whine.

  2. Praise others’ achievements. Give compliments freely and genuinely. You’ll actually feel better, too.

  3. Be empathetic. Don’t assume you know where others are coming from. Try to understand.

  4. Smile. Because it takes fewer muscles.

  5. Get people to talk about themselves. People loosen up when you care to listen. Be quite and get to know the people around you.

  6. Suggestions vs. direct order. Give yourself and others an opportunity to try. Maybe you’re right about how your friend should change leads on their horse, or maybe they know their horse better? Don’t be bossy; make a suggestion.

  7. Own your own mistakes. If you admit when you’ve made a mistake, you have an opportunity to fix it and you allow others to own their mistakes, too.

  8. Respect others’ self-esteem. Don’t embarrass or belittle anyone. You never know where you may meet again in this small, flat world.

  9. Don’t try to win an argument. You can’t force someone to think what you do. Remember, if they agree and give-up, you haven’t actually brought them to your side, they just want to be done with the confrontation.

  10. Be friendly. When you’re angry, you act irrationally and say and do things you regret. Be calm even when others aren’t; always let the emotions settle before you react.

  11. Reach common ground. People want to relate to each other. Look for similarities not differences as you approach a conversation or argument.

  12. Get others to come to your conclusion. Have two-way discussions with people to try to reach a place where you both understand. Maybe you already knew the conclusion, but why get there alone when you can go with a buddy?

So, as you approach competition, always think about your next goal, but also think about the end game. Ask yourself:

  • How do your interactions within the rodeo queen community get you closer to your long-term goals and development?
  • What skills are you cultivating for your future?
  • Are your habits conducive to or detrimental to your success as an individual professional, as a team member, as a future manager?
  • Do you represent what it truly means to be a rodeo queen, and have the skills to be a successful promoter and representative?
  • How can you be more congenial?

Who do you know that’s won both the pageant title and the Miss Congeniality award at a local, state, or national contest? Email us at We want to celebrate them (page soon to come), too!