Sunday, June 5, 2016

How LeeAnne Locken Went from Working at Carnivals to the Elite Charity Scene
People say, "Everything is bigger in Texas," and Bravo's newest reality show, The Real Housewives of Dallas, certainly doesn't challenge the idea. From the McMansions to the diamond rings, the charity function guest lists to the Botox bills, it seems like everything in Dallas is pretty goddamn big.

Cast member LeeAnne Locken's personality is no exception. From slapping moving trolleys—this is not a euphemism, but literal—to telling rival Housewives that their "charity world is going to go down the toilet," Locken has already sealed her place as an iconic Housewife across all franchises.

Part of Locken's appeal is how she is able to deliver on the unbelievable things she says. The tagline that introduces her before each episode is "I grew up a carny kid. Play games with me, and you're gonna pay," and it's true: Though Locken's grandparents raised her, she spent the summers with her mother, who remarried a man who was in the carnival business. Every year when school got out, Locken said she would fly to wherever her mother was and work at the carnival. At age three, she started working at the duck pond game. After a few summers, she graduated to the balloon game, where it was her job to sit behind the board and blow up balloons to replace those participants popped.

"Blow 'em, wrap 'em, tie 'em, hang' em," she told me. "You had to be able to blow up 20 balloons in ten minutes. I got really good at it."

When she was 11, Locken purchased her first game so she could have her own business. For the next five years, she said she bought and sold games, and even had adults working for her.

But everything changed when she turned 16 and started noticing boys.

"Early on, I was like, [working at the carnival] is normal, it's no big deal," she said. "Then I got to high school and was like, why is everyone calling me a circus freak? It was very painful."

Locken quit the carnival to be more "normal," but she was quickly swept in another direction, probably as equally eccentric: the world of beauty pageants.

Her neighbors secretly submitted her application to Miss Houston USA, and soon after Locken received a call inviting her to participate. She spent the next few years repeatedly placing as a finalist in both the Miss Texas and Miss Houston USA pageants and even going on to win the latter.

In the late 1980s, she moved to Arizona to take care of her mother, who had lupus and was getting very sick. Her mother begged her to enter the Miss Arizona pageant. Locken did, and won.

"The bad part was that the girl who crowned me was the older sister of the first runner-up, so I kind of destroyed their pageant legacy," Locken said. "It wasn't very well received—everyone kept calling me Miss Arizona from Texas." She would go on to place sixth in the Miss USA pageant (and to appear as Miss Nebraska in 2000's Miss Congeniality, which she told Bravo she "loved").

Both of these experiences have helped her become an influential member of the Dallas charity scene and, indirectly, a member of the Real Housewives cast. From the carnival, she says she learned to be good with money and an amazing sales person, making "a tremendous amount of cash every summer."

"That was my job," Locken told me. "I came home [from first grade] and was like, OK, I learned how to make change, so now I don't have to go back to school. I thought that was what they sent me to school for."
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