A Princess in a Cowboy Hat

Pendleton native hopes to pursue Round-Up Queen after holding Princess title



Brooklynn Been running in the grand entry at the Pendleton Round-Up.

JOSIE GOODRICH, Reporter/Copy Editor

With the eyes of 65,000 people on her, Brooklynn Been entered the grass arena from the West gate on her bay horse, Captain. The roaring and chanting of the sold-out performance was electrifying, but Brooklynn could not hear a thing. 

“The bombs went off, I heard all the girls get called and then I was the last princess out,” Brooklynn said. “I just remember walking up to the gate and starting to run in and that’s all I remember. I blacked out.”

At 19 years old, Brooklynn was one of five faces representing the largest and most distinguished professional rodeo of the year. The Pendleton Round-Up celebrated its 112th anniversary this September, a rodeo that attracts contestants and spectators across the country to participate in the week-long western event. 

The Pendleton Round-Up exemplifies tradition and the western lifestyle, a production that holds the highest of honors amongst cowboys and cowgirls. The four princesses and queen of the Round-Up court represent not only the cowboys and cowgirls competing, but what it means to be a part of the true western lifestyle. 

As a Pendleton native, Brooklynn had all that it took to be a Pendleton Round-Up Princess. 

Growing up, Brooklynn was introduced to the sport of rodeo and horses at a young age. Her father, Curtis, was a professional steer wrestler, and had Brooklynn riding and competing herself by the age of 5.

Although her older brother, Blake, carried more of the natural horseback abilities at a young age, he could care less about the horses themselves, Curtis said. Brooklynn, however, spent her days with the big creatures that stood feet above her, brushing and taking care of them with all of the joy in the world. 

“Brooklynn always really liked ‘em. She was always out cleaning their feet, brushing them and petting them,” Curtis said. “And you know, she never really got off of that.”

2022 Pendleton Round-Up Court in Reno, Nevada

By the time Brooklynn entered high school, she was competing at rodeos for the Oregon High School Rodeo Association. At one of the last rodeos in 2016 in Hermiston, Oregon, her rodeo life completely changed, she said. 

Brooklynn was pole bending on her roan horse, Ira. As the two weaved and glided through the set of eight poles, they were putting together the best run they had ever had together. 

Brooklynn’s heart was racing as Ira sped through each pole, staying close to the inside, grazing his white and red hair against the beige poles, but never close enough to knock them over. As they turned the final pole, the two sprinted towards the finish line, but Brooklynn knew she had won the rodeo before the announcer even gave her confirmation.

After the run, Emily Sorey, a 2015 Pendleton Round-Up Princess, approached Brooklynn to congratulate her and offer her some help with her techniques. From there, Brooklynn’s drive to become a princess herself grew stronger, fueling a fire deep within her that she never knew existed. 

Following high school graduation and attending college at Washington State University, Brooklynn’s heart was still in her hometown. During the fall of her sophomore year in 2021, Brooklynn decided to try out for one of four spots as a princess on the Pendleton Round-Up Court. 

Concluding a rigorous try-out process that spanned the length of four days, testing all of the applicants on abilities in and out of the arena, Brooklynn received the call of a lifetime. 

“I definitely was anxious the entire time and it was all I thought about every single day until I got the call,” Brooklynn said. “When I got the call [saying I was selected], I immediately called my mom crying because I was so excited.” 

The next 10 months required her full-time attention and effort, ultimately forcing her to leave the Pullman campus, enroll in WSU Global and move back to Pendleton. Brooklynn, three other princesses and the queen, then became the faces of the biggest rodeo in the world.

With a light in her eyes, she explained that those months consisted of traveling across the Northwest having luncheons with other rodeo committees, participating in parades, speaking at events on behalf of the western world, preparing for the Round-Up rodeo itself, and simply being treated like royalty. 

The Pendleton Round-Up Queen, Addie Kilgore, spent an abundance of time with Brooklynn, guiding her through the year and watching her grow as a princess. She described Brooklynn as a presence people gravitate towards, carrying tradition and confidence that represents Pendleton phenomenally. 

“She’s a good talker, so in the role of being an ambassador, she can absolutely chat anybody’s ear off about anything that she’s passionate about. Luckily, rodeo is one of her passions,” Addie said. “She represented the Pendleton Round-Up in basically the best way possible. She always had a smile on her face and always looked the part, of course.”

Brooklynn Been with brother Blake, father Curtis, and mother Jaime

During her time as princess, Brooklynn transformed into a new person. From public speaking in front of sponsors to excelling in her horsemanship, her growth levels skyrocketed, she said. Amidst the chaos and day-to-day royalty duties, Brooklynn never lost sight of what was important to her: being a role model to the younger generation of cowboys and cowgirls. 

After a long day of running around between luncheons and taking care of Captain, Brooklynn experienced her first grand entry of the Pendleton Round-Up on Sept. 14, 2022. 

As exciting as it all was, Brooklynn was exhausted. She was decked out in her handmade leathers, a set of custom oxblood, silverbelly and agave green leather chaps and vest. From chest to toe, Brooklynn was covered in fringe, wearing her Tony Lama boots and a silverbelly felt cowboy hat, a traditional outfit for a Round-Up Princess, she said.

As Brooklynn waited in line for a refreshment, she noticed a little girl with wide eyes, admiring her leathers and lighting up the way Brooklynn did as a child herself. The young girl gravitated to Brooklynn and hugged her leg, grinning up at her saying, “I really want to be like you someday.” 

“That really stuck with me. Obviously I know she means as a Pendleton Round-Up Princess, but it just is super cool to see you’re making that type of mark on someone,” Brooklynn said with goosebumps. “When someone says they want to be just like you, God, it really gets to you.”

Brooklynn officially concluded her time as a Pendleton Round-Up Princess on Sept. 17. She is now finishing her fall semester online, and will return to the WSU Pullman campus in the spring. She plans to reactivate herself in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and finish out her psychology major.

However, Brooklynn’s sparkle has left her smile with the ending of her term as a Round-Up Princess. With that, she has a new goal in the back of her mind: Pendleton Round-Up Queen. 

“I literally [felt] like I’ve accomplished what I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m like, ‘well, now what?,’” Brooklynn said. “I thought I would be happy to get back to my life again, but honestly, I miss [court] so much. It’s definitely something that I’ll remember till the day I die.”