The Pioneer Woman's real name isn't what you think

Everybody knows who the Pioneer Woman is. She's like Martha Stewart's country cousin, showing us all how to live our most fabulous lives on our ginormous cattle ranches, complete with our own retail empires, lifestyle magazines, luxury hotels, and Food Network reality TV-meets-cooking shows

Most of us even know that her first name isn't "The," nor is it "Pioneer." No, this paragon amongst ranch wives is also known as Ree Drummond, beloved spouse of Ladd, the non-Marlboro smoking Marlboro Man, who she originally met in the 1990s. 

As it turns out, though, "Ree" really isn't Mrs. Drummond's true first name. Oklahoma girl that she is, she was actually christened with a typical Southern double first name, Ann Marie. Her childhood nickname of Ree, however, suited her so well that it's stuck with her for the past half-century.

How the Pioneer Woman got her last name

After graduating from high school, Ree moved out to California where she earned degrees in journalism and gerontology from USC. She then intended to enroll in the University of Chicago's law school, but was sidetracked when she met her soon-to-be husband, a "cowboy" from one of the nation's largest ranching families.

Ree's and Ladd's love story began one evening at an Oklahoma dive called the J-Bar, where Ree sat sipping Chardonnay with several old friends. Across the room, her eye was caught by a "tall, strong and mysterious" stranger who reminded her of Cary Grant in North by Northwest. She got up the nerve to walk over and strike up a conversation, and they chatted into the night. 

Unfortunately for Ree, this mystery man made an abrupt departure, telling her he had to go cook turkeys for the needy (always a good excuse to exit a conversation). Ree was confident she'd be hearing from him again, and obviously she did, but it took him four long months in which she didn't even know his name. Eventually, Ladd finally remembered to give her a call. Their first date must have gone pretty well, though, since in 1996 he vowed to share his name, as well as his 433,000-acre spread, with the former Anne-Marie Smith.

​So how did Ree Drummond come to be called the Pioneer Woman?

Ree's other well-known nickname actually started out as a bit of teasing — Pioneer Woman was something her friends called her to kid her about how differently her life turned out from the one she'd initially planned. While Ree is from Oklahoma, she didn't exactly grow up in the sticks — her orthopedic surgeon father owned a home right next door to Bartlesville's country club, and Ree had always considered herself more of a "city girl" at heart — hence the plans to move to Chicago.

"When my friends heard that I was marrying a cattle rancher and moving to the country, they literally could not believe it," she told AOL. "They started calling me the Pioneer Woman as a joke." She decided to use this name when she began blogging, and... several million dollars and one trademark later, it turns out that the joke's on Ree's friends, since Pioneer Woman is no longer just a nickname, but a brand to be reckoned with. 

How the Pioneer Woman grew her brand

While one could hardly call Ree's success a rags-to-riches story, it's still pretty impressive how she transformed the simple blog she'd started in 2006 just to keep friends and family informed of her doings into an entire lifestyle.

Ree's domestic goddess career kicked off when she started adding cooking tips and recipes to her blog — obviously very popular ones, since five years after it launched, "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman" was getting a whopping 23 million views per month. In 2010, Ree appeared on TV for the first time in a cooking contest judged by fellow Oklahoman Trisha Yearwood, but a year later was offered a Food Network show of her own. 

Bestselling books soon followed, as did a Walmart exclusive line of kitchenware. Finally, 10 years after she started her blog (and 20 years after she landed her Marlboro Man), Ree opened the 25,000 square foot Pioneer Woman Mercantile in formerly sleepy Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Nor was she done launching new business ventures at this point — her lifestyle magazine began publication in 2017, and the eight-room "cowboy luxury" Pioneer Woman Boarding House opened in 2018.

What does the Pioneer Woman have planned for the future? There's no telling, at least not yet. True to her nickname, though, it's likely she'll continue to explore new frontiers.