GREAT FALLS — For the past 6 years pageant photographer Mariah Allen has captured photos of contestants for the Miss Rodeo Montana pageant.
But 20 years ago, she was a contestant in the Miss Rodeo Montana Pageant herself.
“I started in high school rodeo competing for district 5 High School Rodeo Queen...so that’s where I started competing...[I] fell in love with it just representing rodeo,” Allen said.
Four years after she started pageantry, she was crowned Miss Rodeo Montana 1999.
“I had about 5 or 6 pageants under my belt by the time I won...It was just something I always wanted to do,” Allen said.
Allen believes pageantry offers contestants much more than a crown.
“A lot of people look at pageantry and it’s beauty and fashion, but it really helps these girls build a career long-term,” Allen said.
Her experience onstage inspired her to start her own photography business.
“I just started dabbling in photography and taught myself,” Allen said.
Ten years after she tried her hand at the business, she’s now sought after by her sash sisters.
“Photography is very expensive, and a lot of these girls need those expenses covered,” Allen said. “I can’t give monetary. I didn’t have the money at the time, but I knew I could give my time back to the organization...My photography was a way I could bless the organization with professional pictures.”
Allen said if it weren’t for her rodeo family and the Miss Rodeo organization, she never would have believed she could build her own business.
“I would never have started my own business and ran a successful business had I not had that experience of being independent and being strong,” Allen said.
While her reign as rodeo queen might be over, her life in the pageant world is far from it.
“As long as they want me and need me ill be there to provide that for them,” Allen said.
To see more of Allen’s work, click here.