At 26, Miss Montana USA Tahnee Peppenger has accomplished one of her biggest goals, to become a public figure.
“I’ve always wanted to be a representative of Montana, and this is such a unique way to fulfill that goal,” she said.
Though Peppenger’s reign as Miss Montana USA is largely ahead of her, she has “quite extensive goals.”
The Great Falls woman and C.M. Russell High School graduate wants to connect veterans and the community, to visit military facilities and to visit all the college campuses in the state. She also wants to enrich her community through volunteer work.
“I want people to see that being a humanitarian be can be done next door, in your neighborhood,” she said.
Deep pockets and exotic travel aren’t requirements for doing good in the world. Instead, just “connect with people, help them. Enrich other people’s lives.”
Peppenger is pursuing public speaking opportunities and has a message of empowerment and celebrates the importance of reading.
By the end of her year in the spotlight, “I know I will have gained a whole new level of experience,” she said. “I have a grand vision for what I want to accomplish, and I’m excited to see what I can get done.”
Peppenger has been speechless at times as she’s seen her dreams come true through the pageant.
“It’s a surreal experience when it all comes to fruition,” she said. “I can’t believe I accomplished one of the big goals of my life. Vision is where it starts.”
The pageant drew together outstanding Montana women, she said.
“I experienced a great sense of sisterhood. We all strive to be the best representative of Montana and have a big vision,” she said. “To be among them made you have a great sense of humility. Every girl there was deserving of the title.”
The title is about responsibility and how it makes others feel, she said.
“I love making little girls smile as they touch my sparkly crown,” she said. “I hope to brighten life for others. That’s what it’s all about. We’re put on earth for one another. I hope to enrich one person’s life every day.”
Peppenger is a fashion entrepreneur and owns Pink Spurs & Co. She’s a Montana State graduate, helped with Republican campaigns and worked for the state speaker of the house during the last legislative session.
“I worked in politics, pursued medicine further and then it wasn’t what I had envisioned,” she said.
So, Peppenger reshaped her life and “decided to pursue my creative side,” she said.
For the pageant, Peppenger designed her wardrobe, including her evening gown.
“It’s uncharted territory, but I’m extremely excited,” she added. “I feel like I can communicate my vision and design as something unique. I’m confident in my style.”
Peppenger competed in two rodeo pageants a few years ago.
“Those were great learning experiences,” she said. “This was my first traditional pageant.”
The Miss USA pageant gave her room to express herself on many levels and to set herself apart.
“It’s a unique feeling, and you take a lot of pride in what you accomplish,” she said.
And, no horse requirement — although that was her favorite part of the rodeo pageants. She’s a team roper, and she fly-fishes, hunts, hikes and enjoys exploring the culinary secrets of the state.
“I love my ponies,” she said. “I’m a cowgirl at the end of the day.”
Peppenger’s next competition is for the title of Miss USA in the spring. Last year, 5.5 million viewers in 70 countries saw the pageant. Getting ready has involved a great deal of training, fitness and nutrition. She works out five or six days a week and said a healthy lifestyle “comes easily to me.” She competed in track and volleyball at CMR.
“I may be the only beauty pageant contestant who has to gain weight,” she said. “I’m petite, and you need an impeccable athletic body for the pageant.”
Interview practice and choreography training are part of preparation. And, she’s been wearing heels a lot to get ready for the classic pageant stage walk.
“I’m extremely competitive, and everything I do I do with serious intensity. I’m ready to go for Miss USA,” she said. “Here I am a living testimonial to a Dr. Seuss book my mom gave me at graduation, ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”’