Interview with Ciara Diaz – future Rodeo Queen!

Interview with Ciara Diaz – future Rodeo Queen!

As part of our next Sunland event: The Cowboy Zeitgeist, we interviewed Ciara Diaz. Ciara is a Reno-based cowgirl, heading straight for the title of Miss Reno Rodeo 2021.

Tell us about the process of becoming Miss Reno Reno. What do you have to know or learn? What are the steps? How does the competition work?

You have to put in an application with a headshot and then have to get accepted. After that, you have to give them passwords to literally everything – your phone, Facebook, any social media that you have, because they want you to be perfect. You can’t have any drinking or bathing suit pictures up…you also can’t have a boyfriend, be living with a boy, or have ever been engaged.

Wow, that’s intense!

It is intense, it’s very intense.. After the application process, you go through three different stages – you do speeches in front of everyone, there’s a modeling component, and then there’s the coronation. They ask you political questions, or questions about current events, what you think about the various topics presented, everything like that. And then you get officially crowned on coronation night. You don’t ride until the 10th day of the Rodeo, which is the last day.

So the actual rodeo piece of it, the riding, doesn’t happen till the very end?

It actually does, we have “horsemanship” – you have to ride (you get two patterns and then you get a freestyle pattern) and you have to know everything on the horse from nose to tail, top to bottom, as well as every piece that goes into a saddle. 

 Do they test you or do they just gauge your general knowledge?

They ask you questions and if you can answer, you’re good. To apply, you kind of have to have a pretty good working knowledge of horses, all the pieces of a saddle, the different kinds of riding and all of that, but you don’t have to know everything. There are workshops, training cards that help you, and people that can support or mentor (I’m actually living with a former Miss Reno Rodeo who has been really great).

Why do you want to be a Rodeo Queen?

I think it’d be really fun. I also recently learned I have some Reno Rodeo history in my family – my stepdad’s grandma, Betty Burke, rode in the Rodeo parades in the 50s. 

ed. note! Mikey Burke’s (Ciara’s stepdad), great uncle Howard Doyle was Reno Rodeo President in the 1940s and 50’s, and their grandma Betty’s brother, Kenny York has also been heavily involved over the years. This year, Ciara’s uncle, Erik Burke, painted the 1800 ft long mural on Sutro and Oddie celebrating Reno Rodeo’s 100th Year. Check out Reno News and Review’s Saddle Up: The Reno Rodeo at 100

That’s amazing! It’s destined to be.

It’s destined! I also want to do it for my mom, she really wants me to be Miss Reno Rodeo. 

Stills from Erik Burke’s Centennial Rodeo Mural on Sutro and Oddie

Is it true that you’re gunning to be Reno Rodeo’s first Latinx queen AND queen of color? 

No, the finalist for Miss Reno Rodeo this year is Native, so I won’t be the first rodeo queen of color in Reno, but I will be the first Puerto Rican Queen! (check out this year’s finalists HERE).

Has the fact that up until now, there have been no rodeo queens of color in Miss Reno Rodeo’s long history (the contest dates back to 1920) affected, driven, or inspired you?

It actually hasn’t really affected me. Until recently, I just think no one of color really wanted to run or did run – I don’t really know.  I think it’d be really cool just to stand out and show people that the Reno Rodeo is for everyone and it doesn’t just stick with what it feels is safe. They are OK going out of their comfort zone, in a way. 

Miss Reno Rodeo 1972 and 1978 from

As these changes take place, do you feel like it’s a pretty welcoming environment and without a lot of the tension that sometimes comes with change?

It is pretty welcoming, yes!  Honestly, the bigger deal this time around with the current queen is that she’s from California, not Nevada. She’s very sweet and very hard-working and I think she’ll do great. But yeah, there’s a lot of pride about about being from here and of this place – knowing Nevada and reflecting more of a hometown/homegrown feeling. 

I know you love horses, but what else about cowboy/country culture do you love?

Well, cowboys are really good looking! I just think it’s a good way to live, personally.  I’ve never really been a big city person, and if anything goes south or sideways, I know how to farm, I know how to hunt, I can take care of myself. I like the lifestyle and it fits me – you’re always outdoors, you’re always doing something, you’re always working with different animals and you never get bored. 

Have you always felt this way or was there a moment where are you sort of leaned into this world or felt really like this is where you wanted to be?

As far as I can remember, I’ve always kind of felt like this. 

You were raised mostly in Reno, but also spent a lot of time in Florida – how do these two places differ in terms of a cowboy vibe? Or West coast vs East coast cowboy vibe?

They are so different. West coast is definitely my favorite. In Florida, there’s a distinct cowboy vibe – as there is on the West – but it’s just not as big or neat, in my opinion. You can go to rodeos and what not, but they are smaller and you kind of know everyone. In the West, the culture is much bigger. At rodeos here, you’re meeting and engaging with people from all over the world. It’s a culture that’s ingrained here. 

Random Q, but what do you think of the current Lil Nas X moment and in general, the mixing of hip hop and country worlds? 

I think they should stay separate. It [Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road] is not country music and it’s not rap music. We have the two different genres for a reason – someone wants to listen rap, cool, listen to rap, want to listen to country, listen to country! I just don’t think we should be mixing them – it just doesn’t sound good to me, personally. 

Still from Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road (Official Movie)

As a young 20 year old – you’ve sort of been culturally at the center of these worlds as you’ve grown up (hip hop and country), right? In terms of the music you listen to and the culture that shapes you. Do you feel more comfortable with one side, or equally a part of both? What do you personally feel like each offers you?

I feel equally comfortable and inspired by both. Having played music too, it’s definitely opened my ears and I can listen to anything. It’s mood-based for me, certain days I prefer country, certain days I prefer rap. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll listen to rap – it makes me feel better, hypes me up. I like country when I’m at the lake, or going camping or going on a long drive. It really just depends on the day, they really differ. 

Of the top of your head, what’s your favorite country song at the moment:

Tyler Childers, Shake the Frost

Favorite hip hop song, at the moment:

Let’s go with Talk by Khalid. 

If you had to pick one, what’s the key cowboy accessory – boots, hat, jeans, buckle?

My first instinct is to say buckle, but you can easily go buy a buckle, so I definitely think it’s gotta be the hat. The hat is a statement. It can be very hard to find one that matches your outfit or fits perfectly, but I don’t think it’s too hard and it’s the must-have. 

Top: art from Solange’s ‘When I Get Home’ visual album, Bottom: Vintage Cowgirls

Anything else you have to say about this world or this culture?

I just want to say – I didn’t come from a rodeo family, or have any immediate family that was into this world – and if this is something you love and want to do, you gotta do everything you can to do it. It hasn’t been easy (I definitely went behind my mom’s back and bought a horse), but now I’m part of one of the biggest rodeos in the world. If it’s your dream, you shouldn’t give up on it.