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At 57, ‘Mrs. Missouri’ Wauneen Rucker Still Finds New Adventures

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Lance Tilford
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Mrs. Missouri America
Wauneen Rucker became the second-ever Black Mrs. Missouri in 2020.

Last week marked the end of Wauneen Rucker’s nearly 40-year-long journey in pageants. Crowned Mrs. Missouri last September, Rucker represented the state in the Mrs. America Pageant held in Las Vegas, Nevada last month.

And while she didn’t win, Rucker has plenty to be proud of. After starting in pageants at age 14, the 57-year-old St. Louisan became the second-ever Black Mrs. Missouri. She is also the first to win the title over age 50. She competed one last time in honor of a childhood friend who died last year.

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Wauneen Rucker is the first to win the Mrs. Missouri America title over age 50.

The community cause she highlighted in this year’s competition was the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, an organization she first learned about through her son. He was helping the diaper bank as part of the community service requirements for his high school curriculum.

“It was refreshing to know that somebody finally gets it,” Rucker said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, “because I used to be one of those single parents that had to make the hard decision of, ‘Do I buy diapers or do I buy food?’ And that’s a very hard decision to make, especially when you’re not making a lot of money.”

In conversation with host Sarah Fenske, Rucker discussed other twists and turns in her life journey.

She noted that she was actually a tomboy growing up, and still is. But in eighth grade, her interest in football led her into cheerleading, and her cheer coach encouraged the idea of pageants.

“She’s the one that actually approached my family [about] putting me in pageants, hoping to get some of the tomboy out of me,” Rucker said. “But what it actually did was showed me how to put makeup on and a pair of sweats.”

She joined the U.S. Marine Corps at 18 and later became a St. Louis police officer.

“I really did enjoy that job, but due to some things that happened to my son’s godfather who was a fellow police officer, it took a large toll on my son,” Rucker recalled. “And going into the police department, my one thing was that when it started to affect my family, I would have to walk away. And that’s what I did.”

From there she entered the world of banking, took a job as an investigator and eventually went to culinary school.

“So now I’m a certified pastry chef,” Rucker said. She’s also gotten into real estate.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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