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Darcy LaPier: Sweetheart of the Rodeo

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See how this savvy Hollywood mama has reinvented herself.

Darcy LaPier sweetheart of the rodeo

Darcy LaPier once lived for the Hollywood fast lane. A former Hawaiian Tropic girl, she got tabloid ink when she married her boss, Hawaiian Tropic kingpin Ron Rice. Her next husband was none other than Belgian action film star, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Her third marriage to Herbalife founder Mark Hughes met a tragic end when she found him dead less than a year after they took their vows. Today, LaPier, a mom of three, has transformed herself into an award-winning professional rodeo barrel racer in her home state of Oregon, and scored herself a reality TV deal to boot. Momlogic's Vivian Manning Schaffel gets the skinny on how LaPier pulled it off.

VMS: How did you get into barrel racing?

Darcy: I'd stepped out of the Hollywood scene, moved home to Oregon, bought a ranch, and just fell in love with horses. I went to a rodeo with my dad after moving from L.A. with two of my three kids, saw women's barrel racing, and just loved the pageantry -- including the fancy dress shirts and color-coordinated protective boots! Barrel racing is the only sport in pro rodeo for women. It's always the second-to-last event in front of bull riding, and it's the second most-anticipated sport. Everyone wants to see the women!

Anyway, I've been riding since 2004. At 36, I had my third child, and she's 6 -- my barrel racing baby. I found a barrel horse trainer up in Washington, which is 125 miles one way from me, and I drove there 2 to 3 times a week with my horse. I learned to drive a truck and pull a horse trailer, which is 43 feet nose to tail, and is 24,000 lbs when loaded. I get my music going and feel pretty darn strong!

Each arena is different, and it can rain a lot up here. I've fallen a number of times [she's been through extensive disc-replacement surgery, suffered broken arms -- and even had a broken finger as we were speaking], but I work really hard at training. I ride every day, whether for 15 minutes or an hour and a half. That's my meditation, my "me" time. It's hard for me to explain to my kids that I need time to myself.

VMS: Tell me why you made the choice to leave Hollywood. Did you have kids at the time?

Darcy: Each of my kids are spread out. They each think they are only children. Sterling is 19, and she's a sophomore at UCF this year. Nicolas is 13, and in 8th grade. I was living in Southern California when my husband passed away. I'd found him and lost my mind for about a year.

It got me thinking -- when you live away from your family, it takes a village to help raise kids when they are small. I always found myself having to hire that tribe. I got tired of that, and I started thinking what it would be like if I'd moved home. I'd lived in L.A. for 15 years, and spent all my formative years there. I moved there when I was 18 and stayed until I was 33. I miss it, but now I go back about two to three times a week because of my upcoming reality show. So I've got a good balance going now.

VMS: Do you prefer raising your kids in Oregon or L.A.? Do you prefer country life to city life?

Darcy: We're 25 miles south of Portland, but we live next to a river where it's still only about 2,000 people in our town. We have 40 acres, and I have four dogs and 12 horses, ponies, and baby horses, which is awesome. But what I really miss is the energy where everyone is on the move. Here, there are not as many movers and shakers. I miss that because it's so stimulating. Being around a bunch of really intelligent movers and shakers leads to the kids being more "on it." Here, we're kind of big fish in a small pond. In L.A., you swim in such a great big ocean.

VMS: Tell me about your reality show.

Darcy: I've won a lot of rodeos, buckles, and saddles. I won the NPRA Rookie of the Year back in 2004 when I first started. I can outride most any guy and outdrive them, and most girls can't.

I took my son to Disneyland, and we were sitting on the club level. I sat down next to this guy and he's also from L.A., so we started chatting. He sees me reading all these rodeo magazines, so he asks if I'm a horse trainer. I explain that I barrel race, and tell him what it is. And he's an executive producer for Ryan Seacrest!

He said that they should do a show about me and the rodeo, but I didn't really take it to heart. We exchanged cards. So, we get back to L.A. a week later, and he invited me down to see him. I brought my book of rodeo photos and met everyone there. Everyone was excited, but they realized that they would have to shoot up here at the rodeos, and they don't have the budget to shoot outside of California. This was right after Christmas -- and the economy started tanking.

So I figured that was that. Then, out of the blue, this woman who used to produce a show called "Jockeys" calls and says she got my number from one of the Hawaiian Tropic girls. She heard I was serious about barrel racing, and asked if I'd be interested in doing a show. It was so weird. I think people are strategically placed to guide, help, and encourage each other. It just all fell together.

VMS: What do you hope your kids learn from your life's example?

Darcy: Not to be afraid of anything. Live each day fully, and have faith. Life is like an apple. Just take a bite.

next: Extreme Mom Brain
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mary August 27, 2009, 10:49 AM

Looks like this will be great exposure for barrel racing, which is a great sport and needs some real sponsors, like Cover Girl!

Alyssa August 27, 2009, 6:08 PM

I am all for promoting the sport of barrel racing and rodeo. However, if a former producer of “Jockeys” wants to do a reality show about rodeo, why wouldn’t they pick some competitors to follow who are actually at the top of the world standings? “Jockeys” is successful because it shows successful jockeys who have been in the sport for years and a few up and comers. Just because she has money to go buy a nice horse and Hollywood connections does not mean there should be a show about her. How about featuring Lindsay Sears or Brittany Pharr who are well known in the rodeo world and DESERVE the recognition outside of it.

Anonymous August 28, 2009, 12:28 AM

There is no mention of husband #1 or husband #5, what happened? Is Darcy using LaPier because she is divorced or because she trying to distance herself from lawsuits againsts her in the small pond of Oregon? I feel bad for her kids.

corky August 28, 2009, 11:38 AM

The author of this article should check there facts. I dont remember darcy winning any rodeos or a rookie of the year title. I cant believe she would lie and say she has won all that stuff.

little fish big pond August 29, 2009, 10:19 PM

WOW….the most intelligent hard working folks I know are from a tiny pond in the middle of nowhere…those big fish in the pond of L.A. are not so much intelligent as they are concerned with appearing intelligent…as evident by the author and subject of this article….what a poor example of what rodeo folks are…hard working, HONEST, intelligent and family oriented……

Ted March 9, 2010, 1:31 PM

she is about to get sued. lawyer up and saddle up, cuz hell’s coming to breakfast.

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