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Darcy La Pier may be a model, actress, producer and the star of A&E’s hotly anticipated show “Rodeo Girls,” but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten where she came from. This award-winning barrel racer and former Hollywood it-girl is still an Oregon girl at heart.
Growing up in a small town in Clackamas County, Darcy learned a love of all things rodeo at an early age, from her father. As Darcy grew older, she decided to give Hollywood a try and soon became famous as the face of Hawaiian Tropic. She quickly became a tabloid staple following her marriages to celebrities Jean-Claude Van Damme and Hawaiian Tropic founder Ron Rice. But it was the tragic end to Darcy’s third marriage that caused her to leave the Hollywood scene. Mourning the loss of her husband, she returned home to Oregon to heal. Darcy embraced her roots and used her love of equine sports to help her cope with her loss. Living on her Oregon ranch with her three children, Darcy trained to become an award-winning professional rodeo barrel racer. In 2004, her hard work paid off when she earned the most money as a rookie after barely starting to compete.
This Hollywood girl-turned-rodeo queen is now showcasing her cowgirl side and Oregon roots on A&E’s new show debuting in December, “Rodeo Girls.” Portland Family connected with Darcy to share more about her family, friends, Hollywood life and this place she calls home.
Many may not be aware of the dual lives you have led. Ranch life and Hollywood life are two different worlds. We can certainly talk about each, but first, can you tell Portland Family readers a bit about your upbringing?
I grew up in Molalla, and went to Rural Dell Elementary School. I grew up on 40 acres with my dog. I raised a sheep and showed it at the Clackamas County Fair. I learned to cook and sew in 4-H, and ultimately that’s how I learned how to model, because you had to wear and model what you sewed. That was my taste of walking on a stage.
What were some of your favorite things to do growing up as a child in Oregon?
Playing with my dog, going to Multnomah Falls and Kah-nee-ta, listening to my dad play music at Tippie Canoe and a restaurant in Troutdale. I loved going to the Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo. 4-H was something I loved doing.
Do you think ranch life has changed? If so, how?
I think that the costs have gone up and the cost of what is sold has gone down. It’s harder for farmers and ranchers to break even anymore.
For those who have never experienced it, what would you want people to know about life on a ranch?
I never lived on a working ranch, but I grew up around it. I feel it’s good for your soul to be around the animals and the peace of the outdoors.
How did you get involved with rodeos?
I went to a rodeo with my dad and saw fast horses, bad-ass chicks flying in and out of the arena, and I was hooked. Dad said “That’s barrel racing,” and I said “No, I want to rodeo.” I didn’t realize they were the same thing.
Do you think there are misconceptions?
I think the misconception of rodeo cowgirls is that they are uneducated; put into a box. That’s just not the way a modern cowgirl is. Modern cowgirls have children and businesses. They’re doctors, lawyers, etc. Inside of everyone is a little cowgirl.
Why did you leave Oregon? How did you transition from ranch life to Hollywood?
I became a medical assistant and x-ray technician and worked for various doctors in the Portland area. On the weekends I started entering pageants and bathing suit contests, including Miss Hawaiian Tropic. I married the owner of Hawaiian Tropic and I continued working. My first job was the NBC “Desperado” Series.
Who is one of the coolest, most famous people you’ve ever met?
Were you able to relate to the movie stars?
Yes, I related to them because it seemed they were just people doing a job.
What were some things you loved about Hollywood — or not?
The world is surrounded by entertainment in Hollywood, and everything all happens at a different pace — FAST! In Oregon it takes longer to get some things done. It’s like Hollywood has perfected personal service, due to the amount of entertainment people living there.
Why are you doing this show?
Because no one has ever been able to see the inner workings of the real rodeo world and to bring our sport into the limelight. It’s never been done before.
How old were you when you had your first child?
How did becoming a mother change your life?
It made me less selfish.
What are some of your favorite aspects of motherhood?
Now that my kids are 23, 18 and 10, seeing what I taught them at a young age come out at an older age is rewarding. It’s nice to see them developing into successful people. I was mother and father to my kids and it was difficult at times.
What do you think is important to teach kids?
Religion, integrity, manners, empathy, and work ethic.
Do your kids get involved with the requirements of being on a ranch?
Yes, they all have animals — a ferret, barn cats, dogs, strays, etc. All the vets call me to take in rescued animals.
What do you think the values are of ranch kids, versus kids who grow up in Hollywood among the rich and famous?
I think they can be the same if they are well. It depends on what is valued in each family.
What do you hope your kids learn from you?
That you can do anything — and I mean anything — you set your mind to.
Do you get a chance to spend time with them engaging in some of Oregon’s great outdoor and natural activities?
Yes. You can’t beat Portland — an hour from the beach, the desert, and the mountain; 30 minutes from the airport. It’s great place to raise children because it’s a very diverse city. I love to go to the Indian reservations and river rafting, and I love to visit all the small towns when I rodeo.
How will you and your family spend the holidays?
We like traditional holidays. Christmas Eve we go to candlelight service and then come home and put out cookies, milk, lettuce, and water for Santa’s reindeer. Christmas morning I make biscuits and gravy. We exchange presents and go see a movie.
Rodeo Girls premieres Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 11PM and Thursday, Dec. 12 at 10PM and continues every Thursday at 10PM.