Give Her Wings


LINCOLN -- Getting their hair done just right is another part of the package for rodeo queens.

Current royalty and this year's contestants work to draw fans at the Miss Lincoln Riding Club Rodeo pageant supporting the hard work and determination that goes into the 68th annual Lincoln Rodeo Aug. 12-14.

Lincoln Riding Club Secretary/Reporter Sherry Smith isn't asking royalty contestants to do anything she wouldn't do herself. Smith pours her heart into attracting quality cowgirls to enter the pageant and preparing them to succeed. Lincoln annually crowns a queen, junior queen and princess along with a Lil' Mister and Lil' Miss during its rodeo.

Smith recently posted several video tutorials on how to achieve perfect wings from various state rodeo queens and Miss Rodeo America contestants on the LRC social media account.

"It's very important that the rodeo queens look the part and part of that is the hair and the wings. It becomes a talent trying to get that achieved, but appearance is a big part of it. They need to look the part," Smith said.

Own Personal Stylist

A cowgirl frequently becomes her ownj stylist out of necessity because she doesn't always have extra time to fit one more appointment into a busy schedule.

The wings project begins with a curling iron, blow dryer, extra strength name brand gel hair spray to help hold the curl, an aerosol hair spray, brush, comb and hair extensions.

The process involves a lot of backcombing and the cowgirl gets going by putting extensions up through the top near the hat line to add volume. The extensions assist cowgirls, whose hair isn't long all the way around their head, and add volume to layers to offset damaging effects of rodeo queen hair. They also project more blonde without damaging a contestant's own personal hair.

"That's a big part of it and learning how to apply their makeup properly so that their skin stays in good shape and their hair, how to take care of their hair and their health, their physique and how to be a healthy young lady," Smith said.

If a cowgirl can master that hair styling at a young age, she's better equipped in preparing for competition and public appearances.

"It helps a lot. A lot of the young ladies wear hairpieces and extensions to help them so it doesn't matter if they have short hair or long hair, they can have that type of hair if they want to," Smith said.

Hair Spray Up, Cowgirl

The cowgirl pins about half of hair up behind her head, then starts with the curling process. She applies hair spray, uses a curling iron about halfway up to add volume to the curl, then works her way down.

At this juncture, cowgirls are cautioned against using too much hair spray, which can make the hair go flat, and let each curl dry before using aerosol hair spray, then work each curl out away from the face, a technique which helps hold the hair in place.

A cowgirl's hair will not define her, but it boosts her confidence level when she feels like she's got beautiful, clean hair.

Tips emphasize trying to match a cowgirl's everyday hair with the same style and appearance used in competitions so that judges will know what the contestant will look like when making appearances.

Styles change and curls may appear softer or harder than a decade ago, but either way can showcase beauty and the decision comes down to the contestant's personal preference.

Contestants aim to project wholesome, natural poise to make oneself "presentable."

Curls All Around

Once curls are completed all the way around extending out away from the head, the cowgirl takes a brush and works from the bottom up, which appears to contradict what she just accomplished with her styling.

It looks like she's brushing out those curls she just spent all that time arranging, and the front bangs tend to look funny for a moment, but the cowgirl stays after it, brushing all the way up slowly just like she'd brush out a horse's mane from the bottom to the top.

This way, she brushes the curls out instead of pulling them out to soften them up, and the hair spray helps hold those curls, allowing them to be brushed out.

Then pulling the bangs or layers over her head, she pins them back, exposing the forehead.

Ten minutes into the process, she starts styling the wings by applying aerosol hair spray and using a tease brush.

Forming the wings can be the hardest part and every cowgirl experiences days when her wings feel awesome and her hair just so beautiful and there's days when she's not so confident in her wings.

The key comes from making a persistent effort to transform a cowgirl's personal hair styling into a work of art.

Crown The Hat

Nearly 12 minutes into the process she places her hat upon her head. With the hat slightly lifted, she works at building the wings out from under and away from the hat.

Cowgirls are again cautioned if they build wings without the hat, they're going to look different.

This is where the blow dryer comes in. Set on high heat and low blow, she holds the hair at a 90 degree angle from her head and uses the blow dryer to form that angle necessary for wings. She applies hair spray, then allows the curl to bring the ends back towards the face, uses the blow dryer again, then brushes the hair down her shoulders.

Next she fluffs the curls, not lifting them up, and adds more hair spray.

The wings start forming, using her own hands, lots of hairspray and a comb. She prefers to flatten the bottom of her hair so it tends to lay flat against her body.

Thus far, she hasn't used a hand-held mirror, but nearly 16 minutes into the process, she uses a hand-held mirror to check the back of her head.

This is where it gets difficult. Cowgirls often must manipulate the back of their hair by themselves. She pulls the hair to the side, fluffs it out with her hand, trying not to have curl that completely separates down the center.

Check Her Hat

Gripping a chunk of hair, holding it at a 90 degree angle away from the face, she completes the finishing touches. The process takes less than 20 minutes.

In public she won't remove her cowgirl hat because the wings flare and she looks silly without a hat on. This is never how she would do her hair for going to the Tastee Freeze, but, as a rodeo representative once she puts her hat on the hair falls into place and forms very pretty curls.

A typical thought is that rodeo queen hair should be behind the back while riding in the arena, but some queens like to pull a little bit out to the side, especially for photos. Getting a little bit out front can reveal a long, luscious curl. Cowgirls don't spend all this time on styling their hair just for kicks and don't mind putting it on display.

Cowgirls get teased for their big hair, hair spray, jewelry, glitz and glamour, yet take pride in in their real cowgirl skills basking within the unique blend of beauty, confidence, femininity and competitiveness, very much aware of who they are and where they come from.

When not in the arena a top-notch royalty contestant always tries to present herself as a cowgirl, in addition to modeling graceful womanhood and ladylike behavior, but it all starts with her hair.