Beauties and the Beasts

By: Andrew Giangola
May 13, 2017

Miss USA contestants visited bull housing in Las Vegas Friday afternoon. Photo: Andre Silva

LAS VEGAS – They train for years to prepare for a few fleeting, career-defining seconds.

Crunch time is a solitary endeavor. It’s just you and your churning adrenaline, relying on muscle and brain memory that, when properly channeled, turns nerve-wracking moments in front of unforgiving TV cameras into a championship performance.

Adding to the challenge, that performance is judged by humans, who can be as harsh and unforgiving as the HD cameras chronicling every move.

We’re referring to professional bull riders, of course.

And also to Miss USA contestants.

Miss USA and PBR are competing in Las Vegas this weekend virtually across the street from one another on the famed Vegas Strip, and when the contestants got to meet the cowboys and the bulls prior to their big night on Fox, the beauty and brawn shared a lot more in common than anyone had imagined.

“There’s a lot of training for big moments in intimidating situations in front of millions of people,” said reigning Miss USA Deshauna Barber.

“Pageantry is definitely a sport,” added Miss Nevada Lauren York.  “You have to dedicate to preparation and mental focus, and it’s all about being brave and putting yourself out there.”

Just as riders like Matt Triplett and Stormy Wing, who shot fun social media content with the contestants, will help one another in the locker room and chutes even as they are separated by just one spot in the PBR World Standings in vying for a million-dollar championship bonus, cooperation and camaraderie also runs deep within Miss USA.

“We may compete on stage, but we don’t see it that way,” said Miss Arkansas Arynn Johnson. “We are friends who help one another and genuinely wish each other the best. We are up there trying to do our personal best. We see it as competing against ourselves.”

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As they visited PBR bull housing at South Point Casino a few miles from The Strip, the talented and beautiful young women heard about the punishing athletic nature of bull riding.

They were surprised to learn how success in the sport is mostly mental.

“I’ve personally had to work on my confidence so I can really relate to that part of bull riding,” York said.

Most of the contestants were intrigued by PBR’s unique formula in which both rider and bull contribute to every score.

“I didn’t know the bulls were scored and that the riders strategically pick the bulls to improve their scores,” said Miss Texas Nancy Gonzales. “What makes it fascinating is that the rider can decrease his chances of getting any score by picking the hardest bull who might throw him off.”

“That’s where confidence comes into play,” she said. “Any top athlete or performer needs to know his or her strengths and weaknesses and create the right strategy and game plan to succeed.”

As stock contractor Chad Berger introduced the women to top bulls such as Pearl Harbor, Crossfire, Smooth Operator and Beaver Creek Beau, the women were comforted by the way the bulls are treated.

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Miss Nevada, who is a member of the NSPCA and has rescued animals – most recently a pair of greyhounds – took great comfort in the sport’s care and compassion for its star bulls.

“I love animals, and it’s really nice to see PBR take such good care of these animals,” she said.

Sunday night on Fox, Barber, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, will pass her crown to the organization’s next extraordinary representative.

Barber, who joined the Army Reserve at 17, has come to admire PBR, which is a sister company of Miss USA under IMG, after attending the season-opener at Madison Square Garden which began 2017’s Celebrate America Tour.

“It’s so important to do things to bring our communities together, inspire our youth and honor those who serve,” Barber said. “PBR has done a great job with Celebrate America.”

Miss USA has worked hard to show the diverse talents and whip-sharp intelligence of its contestants. A big part of Sunday’s televised event will be hearing them speak.

Putting the shoe on the other foot, Wing, a native of Dalhart, Texas, was asked by Miss Texas the perennial question: “If you could do anything to change the world, what would it be?”

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The 27-year old bull rider adjusted his cowboy hat and said: “I wouldn’t change much. I’d work to change myself.”

It was the kind of response – profound, simple, and unexpected — that would have put a crown on Mr. Wing’s head, making it even more apparent how the Miss USA contestants and PBR bull riders are similar competitors and kindred spirits.

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