EMMA CAMERON GREW UP in Santa Fe riding horses as naturally as most kids ride bikes. By age four, she was already participating in the Santa Fe County 4-H program and then in junior rodeos, excelling at pole bending, barrel racing, and reined-cow horse events. When she was nine, rodeo pageants caught her fancy. A skilled athlete with a love for rodeo, Cameron was crowned New Mexico High School Rodeo Association Queen in 2016. The following year, she took home the title of National High School Rodeo Association Queen, the first New Mexican winner since 1969. In December, the 24-year-old lassoed her lifelong dream when she became Miss Rodeo America 2024. She’s only the third New Mexican to wear the crown since 1963. As the official representative of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Cameron expects to travel 50,000 miles and appear at 100 venues this year, including the Lea County Fair and Rodeo in August, as ambassador for the sport of rodeo and America’s Western way of life.

MY MOM gave her kids the opportunity to do whatever it was we wanted to do. Riding is what I wanted to do.

I’VE ALWAYS RODE HORSES, I’ve always been competitive, and I’ve always loved going fast.

WE ALWAYS HAD HORSES and animals around when I was growing up. We used to ride in the arroyos out back, behind our house, where we could get down to the Galisteo Basin. As I got older, I started taking it more seriously.

TO BE COMPETITIVE, you have to trust the horse to do the job that you want it to do. It’s kind of like letting your kid go out into the world.

MY MOM always tells me it’s a business relationship.

I MET MISS RODEO AMERICA at the New Mexico State Fair when I was 14. Paige Nicholson was so cool. She just handled everything with such grace. She’s naturally well-spoken and poised in a generally professional way.

TO THIS DAY, she’s so incredible and inspiring to me.

BEING PART OF A RODEO FAMILY goes back to those good, true Western culture traditions and values.

AS COMPETITIVE as we are with one another in a rodeo family, we support each other. Cowboys are competing for $70 million a year, but that doesn’t keep them from having each other’s backs.

THERE AREN’T MANY PLACES you can go where rodeo so purely relates to the life story as it does here in New Mexico. Everywhere in the country has rodeo, but in New Mexico, it truly translates to the people here and the life here.

PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY for Western values and traditions. In an era where being a cowboy is cool again, from Beyoncé to Louis Vuitton to Yellowstone, people are embodying the cowboy.

THEY MIGHT NOT WORK on a ranch anymore, but every community has a rodeo.

I’M OLD ENOUGH THAT THE KIDS I GREW UP rodeoing with are now in professional rodeos. Shad Mayfield, Bryce Derrer, and Pecos Tatum are all rodeo cowboys from New Mexico. We grew up together all the way from junior high to now.

I’M SO LUCKY. I have a lot of great horses, but I’m not attached to one more than the other. You can’t get too attached.

I DO HAVE A MINIATURE PONY that I am attached to: Sunshine. I love Sunshine. Her job is purely to be cute.

Read more: After becoming only the third Black rodeo world champion, the Clovis native continues to blaze a trail for others.


Follow Emma Cameron on Instagram (@missrodeoamericaofficial) and Facebook.