Photographs: Miss Rodeo New York
Any way you look at it, Noelle White is daring. A New York native, Noelle is a rodeo queen and the reigning Miss Rodeo New York.
Growing up, Noelle loved horseback riding, but it wasn’t until college that riding became Noelle’s main passion. While earning her B.S. in Wellness Management and Health Promotion at SUNY Oswego, Noelle found a working internship at Baker School of Riding in Phoenix, NY. There, she learned English riding in exchange for working in the barn and caring for the horses. After that, she joined the equestrian team at SUNY Oswego and competed in the Western Division while simultaneously working as the team’s public relations officer.
After her internship at Baker School, Noelle learned about the competitive sport of rodeo queening, and that there was a competition for Miss Rodeo New York. She connected with former Miss Rodeo New York, Paige Santino, and the two became fast friends. Noelle was a quick study, instantly taking to rodeo riding. Having previously participated in pageants, Noelle was excited to be able to merge two things she loved — pageantry and rodeo riding.
Noelle entered the Miss Rodeo New York competition, completing components such as horsemanship, a fashion-forward runway show, a prepared speech, and a personal interview. She won, earning the titles of Miss Congeniality and Miss Personality as well as the grand title of Miss Rodeo New York 2019. By the end of this year, she will have travelled to two countries, twelve states, and over 48,000 miles as the face of professional rodeo to educate the public about the events of rodeo and New York State agriculture.
We spoke with Noelle about her daring story and the upcoming Miss Rodeo America, where she will compete during the first week of December in Las Vegas, Nevada against rodeo queens from around the country for the national crown.
New York Makers: When did you first start riding?
Noelle White: I started horseback riding in 7th or 8th grade, that’s when I took my first lesson. I was playing softball as well and it came down to the decision of riding or softball. I actually gave up horseback riding at that point and it wasn’t until college that I picked it back up. I always thought to myself, ‘you know what? I’ll be a cowgirl someday, I know I will be.’ It wasn’t feasible when I was smaller but I got a little bit older and that’s when everything started to fall into place.
NYM: When did you learn about rodeo?
NW: I’ve been riding consistently since college and the past two to three years is when I’ve really started to learn more about the sport of rodeo. I’ve experienced English riding, Western riding, and now rodeo; and I love it all, but my favorite so far is definitely rodeo! It’s competitive and also family-oriented, which I love, and I’ve met some of my best friends through it.
NYM: How did you get into rodeo queening?
NW: Rodeo queening is kind of foreign to the East Coast but if you go South or West, people eat, sleep, and breathe rodeo queening, and kids start as young as 8. When I started learning about it, I knew right away I wanted to be a rodeo queen. I heard about the Miss Rodeo New York pageant and found out that the two years prior they hadn't had a queen in New York. I reached out to the director and she gave me an application in order to compete for the pageant.
I had only just started learning about rodeo at this point so I was really going out of my comfort zone. I competed in 2018 and got first runner-up, then worked hard the whole next year and, in 2019, competed again and won the crown. I ended up becoming really good friends with Miss Rodeo New York 2018 and we’ve really supported each other along the way.
NYM: Was there a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone during the past year?
NW: I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone! It’s something I really like. Everytime I do it, I learn a lot about myself. The first example that comes to mind was my first out-of-state trip as Miss Rodeo New York. I travelled to Kissimmee, FL for the Silver Spurs Rodeo and I just wanted everything to go well. Luckily, it all went off without a hitch!
NYM: Do you ever get scared when you’re rodeo riding?
NW: Riding is my passion. Of course it can be dangerous in the same way that any other sport can be dangerous and in the same way that most of the things people do can be dangerous. But there’s more reward than risk. When I feel nervous, I remember one thing: that God is never going to give me more than I can handle. God’s with me. I believe that with all my heart.