Every young girl has dreams and questions. What to be when they grow up? What career do they really want? For Paige Duke, a southern girl with an overachieving attitude, the right education, a strong work ethic, and the will to get out there and make things happen have brought her dreams to fruition—and then some!
By Ken Amorosano
The meticulously bred quarter horse is backed into the corner of the roping box, anxiously waiting for the inevitable cue from his rider. After a nod of his head, the rider and horse explode into the arena on the heels of a mad-dashing critter whose only desire is to get away. As the rider peels off his mount, his right arm goes under the right horn, his left grabs the other as he twists with all his might and body weight, slamming his catch to the ground. Trotting back to the chutes, the rider enters a sea of high-fives and congratulations for winning the round. He heads straight over to the logo banner to describe his winning run. On comes the camera lights and in steps Paige Duke, the sideline reporter for the new Elite Rodeo Athletes (ERA) on the FOX Sports Channel.
“A lot of people think it’s easy, but it’s not. It’s really hard to come up with unique questions that are going to draw a good answer out of somebody who just wins a round,” says the 29-year-old reporter who’s all-American southern drawl compliments her smart good looks and infectious smile.
To stay in tune with the long view of competition, Paige relies on research of her own. “I keep my own notes. I keep a spreadsheet of all the stats I think are interesting. If they’re rough stock, who they rode, what they scored. For the timed event guys, I keep their placing so I have a quick reference to look back and see ‘oh—this is the first time this guy placed in the top five the whole year.’ It helps make my questions a little more unique.”
A Dream Since High School
“It’s the most amazing job. It’s been a dream of mine since high school and what I have been working for my whole career since graduating college.”
Paige has always had her mind set on goals—and horses. Growing up in Lancaster, South Carolina, a small southern town south of Charlotte, NC., with her fighter-pilot father and his high-school sweetheart and two younger sisters, Paige remembers having an amazing childhood.
“Lancaster is where my grandparents and great grandparents grew up. My whole family lived there. My grandmother lived in an old historic plantation home on 500 acres. She was the one who introduced me to horses. She got me into riding lessons when I was five, and I fell in love with horses. I showed hunter under saddle and hunter jumper in my teen years.”
Growing up Paige loved to hunt and fish and was very involved in activities at school being student body president, homecoming queen, and captain of the varsity soccer and swim teams.
A consummate Clemson Tiger fan, Paige achieved her goal of attending Clemson University on a full academic scholarship where she majored in animal and veterinary sciences. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in May of 2009.
Along the way, the sweet-home southern girl attitude, curvaceous figure and comfortable candor in front of the camera did not go unnoticed. After winning the Hawaiian Tropic Model Search in Myrtle Beach, SC, Paige signed with a modeling agency and the work began to flow in.
Traveling the southeast, Paige worked bike rallies, NASCAR and NHRA events, and became a favorite with the fans. She modeled for national brands including Wrangler and Montana Silversmiths and appeared in a number of music videos, television shows and commercials, including several seasons on the CMT reality show, Sweet Home Alabama.
After college, Paige found it difficult to find a job in the equine field that paid well. While working as a vet tech and continuing to model, her agent suggested she audition for Miss Sprint Cup for NASCAR and she got the job. “That’s where I got the background in communications and reporting and TV hosting skills and I loved it.”
It was while working as a pit reporter for NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway she was approached by RIDE TV who offered her a job at the network. The new gig was the perfect segue into the field of equine media Paige had always wanted to pursue. At RIDE TV, she covers events such as the mini bucking horses and mini bull riding championship, among other activities during the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Southern Fried Skinnyfied
Before long, Paige was presented with a new project—her very own show.
“RIDE TV knew I loved to cook and that I loved to cook healthy. They said they wanted a cooking show so we came up with the idea of Southern Fried Skinnyfied. We’re cooking a lot of our favorite comfort foods but making them healthy. It’s teaching people how to incorporate whole foods and nutritious ingredients instead of processed foods that have taken all the nutrition out of it.
The inspirations are from my childhood but the recipes aren’t. I didn’t know anything about nutrition or eating healthy when I was growing up. Everything was fried and everything was sweetened with sugar.
In college I became passionate about eating healthy and I taught myself about nutrition. I started researching and learned to create these foods that I grew up eating, say for example biscuits and gravy, and I made them healthy by using whole-wheat flour, almond milk, and turkey sausage.”
The Cook Book
“I already had a cookbook but it was just something I made for my family and friends. When the show came out we decided to redo my cookbook to make it specific for Southern Fried Skinnyfied adding some of the recipes we had used in the first two episodes.” Southern Fried Skinnyfied, the book, was released after the show’s premiere.
A New Man in Her Life
Paige met Ty Murray, the 9-time World Champion Cowboy and co-founder of the PBR, at the 2014 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas at a contestant after-party.
“I was there and I saw Ty and thought, if I’m going to be in Vegas I’m sure my boss, the president of RIDE TV, would be happy to get Ty’s email for future collaborations, so I asked for his email and he left.
The next morning my friend Carly Twisselman told me she got a call from Ty and he had invited her to dinner. We were so confused. She said, ‘I didn’t talk to Ty, I think he thinks I’m you. But I kind of pretended I was you and he asked you to dinner.’”
Ty, not remembering her name called Craig Morris, the president of RIDE TV, and asked about his employee. “I don’t remember but she kind of has blond hair.” Craig gave him Carly’s contact information.
The two finally got it sorted out and had dinner that evening.
“We hit it off and had the best conversation. He was easy to talk to and he was a good listener. I loved the way he talked about horses. How much respect he has for them and how much time he’s put into his horsemanship. And I just thought he was so handsome, so strong and manly.”
After several more dates, it was clear the two were made for each other. Paige now lives with Ty on his private 2,100-acre ranch in Stephenville, Texas. The couple travel extensively for both work and pleasure while pursuing their shared passions in rodeo arenas across America.
“I feel so blessed to enjoy life with Ty. He makes it really fun and he’s very adventurous. With the ERA’s fixed schedule and the flexibility of RIDE TV I can work around my schedule to go on all kinds of trips with Ty.
We love to take motorcycle rides. On our first trip he took me on a 50-mile ride to Austin to see if I would like it. We had a great time. The second time he took me on a 2,000-mile trip out to Ruidoso and Santa Fe. I have no desire to drive my own bike, but I love riding on the back. I take videos and just zone out while Ty concentrates on driving.
We also love to ride horses together, and he helps me with my horsemanship big time. I fell in love with one horse at the ranch named Call. He’s my new go-to horse.
The fun thing about both of our jobs is we can go with each other. I go to the PBR’s with him and he’ll come to the ERA’s with me and then we have to make trips back home to South Carolina to see my family. Once a month we’ll go see his son and make a fun trip out of it. We’re always trying to do something.”
As for her future, Paige feels she’s in the right place. “I absolutely love my job as an ERA reporter and host of a cooking show and I’m hoping my cooking show will keep growing and the ERA will pick up a lot more events next year.
I’ve been dating Ty for a little more than a year-and-a-half and we’re serious. I’d like to start a family soon.”
Paige Duke set her sights on a dream career and it looks like she is well on her way to achieving it. When asked about what advice she would give to a young girl who wants to pursue a similar path, Paige replies: “Be patient. Be humble and take job opportunities that come your way that can help you. A lot of it is about the connections you make. I would say to not turn your nose up to any job in the field. Get your experience and don’t get discouraged if a job isn’t there. You never know when an opportunity might come along to fulfill your dreams.”