What You Didn’t Know About Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

What You Didn’t Know About Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

June 24, 2021

Ree Drummond has been a household name for some time. In 2011, she launched her Food Network series, “The Pioneer Woman,” which has won multiple Telly Awards and New York Festival Bronze World Medals, not to mention Drummond’s devoted audience of 3.7 million Instagram followers. “The Pioneer Woman” invites the viewers at home into the host’s world, a sprawling Oklahoma ranch and a kitchen full of legendary recipes. 

And before she arrived on Food Network? The Pawhuska, Oklahoma-based star was known for her food and lifestyle website, but she’s not your average mommy blogger. In fact, her background and previous ambitions might be surprising in light of the path she’s on today. The home cook-turned- entrepreneur has created quite a hub for herself and her fans, some of whom have visited Drummond’s establishment, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

From her sunny mornings on the small screen to her famous cinnamon rolls and her business empire, Ree Drummond has become an instantly recognizable food celebrity. What don’t people know about this woman and her life on the ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma?

How she became Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

Casual fans might not know that “Ree” is a nickname for Ann Marie Smith, the Bartlesville, Oklahoma native who eventually married Ladd Drummond. As for “The Pioneer Woman,” that title was actually a joke in the beginning. Per The Pioneer Woman website, Ree Drummond’s family and friends teased her with the now-famous nickname when she announced that she was going to marry a cattle rancher and live on a ranch. Drummond recalled on her website, “I was literally THE last person anyone ever pictured moving to the country.”

Like other good nicknames, Pioneer Woman became an even better fit for its subject as time went on. Ree Drummond truly earned the sobriquet when she retrieved and boiled her own water after losing water pressure at home for four long months. Drummond regaled her online readers with the tale, saying, “A neighboring ranching friend, upon hearing of my plight, called and told me I was a real Pioneer Woman — only this time it wasn’t a joke! If I hadn’t been so busy hauling water at the time, I might have stopped to revel in the title a little more.” 

Ree Drummond had a comfortable upbringing and loves Oklahoma

Motherhood and marriage weren’t Ree Drummond’s introduction to Oklahoma. Drummond grew up in Bartlesville, a city about 25 miles east of Pawhuska. Ironically, the tourism site for Bartlesville now suggests on its homepage that visitors travel to Pawhuska to see the Food Network star.

The New Yorker painted Ree Drummond’s upbringing as a privileged one: “Her life revolved around ballet classes, her parents’ country club, and summer trips to Hilton Head, South Carolina.” Her father was an orthopedic surgeon, her mother a stay-at-home mom, and she grew up with three siblings.

The Pioneer Woman seems to be a nostalgic soul. At her 20-year high school reunion, Drummond spoke about the little things that defined the class of 1987 — card catalogues, trapper keepers, mixtapes, art class ashtrays, and even mimeograph paper. In 2021, she posted a picture on Instagram of herself and her friend Joanie in the ninth grade. Drummond wrote, “We’re still friends, she’s still amazingly cool, and I don’t know…I turned a year older this week, I’m taking my third kid to start college tomorrow, and this is just a time that I’m appreciating sweet old friendships from the Pat Benatar days.” Though she didn’t return to live there intentionally, Drummond clearly has affection for the Sooner State. She told News on 6 in 2011, “I love Oklahoma so much. I love the kindness here and the openness. People are drawn to that.”

She once lived in Los Angeles and loves the city life, too

Ree Drummond didn’t waste any time as an eager high school grad. She packed up and moved to Los Angeles, California, where she attended the University of Southern California. Drummond told The New Yorker, “I wanted to be Jane Pauley.” However, she changed her mind and switched from broadcast journalism to gerontology, which is the study of aging and issues pertaining to the aged. 

The future Food Network fixture later dreamed of moving to Chicago, Illinois. As the Los Angeles Times noted, Drummond planned to go to law school there. Fate had different plans for her, however, as she ultimately ended up back in Oklahoma. 

Drummond seems to have a special place in her heart for her big city days. Reflecting on a visit to Bartlesville in “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story,” she wrote that she “missed the conveniences, the coffee shops on every corner, the bookstores open until midnight.” She “missed the nightlife,” “the culture,” “the restaurants,” “the shopping,” and “the city.”

How Ree Drummond met her Ladd

During that trip home, Ree Drummond first laid eyes on Ladd Drummond in an Oklahoma bar, and the rest is history. She wrote in “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels,” “Gracious, but he was a vision, this Marlboro Man-esque, rugged character across the room.” Before making her move, Ree “needed to see his hands” and was satisfied with what she found: “They were big and strong.” Enough said. The couple married on September 21, 1996. 

Speaking of the “Marlboro Man,” why does Ree call Ladd that? Well, on her website, Drummond mentioned the old-fashioned Marlboro Man from cigarette ads before recounting the story of a baby shower she threw at her ranch for Hyacinth, her BFF. “Ladd was on the porch, and as guests were arriving, I heard one of them say, ‘My gosh, who is that Marlboro Man sitting on the porch?'”

Here’s what Ladd said to The New Yorker about his nickname: “I catch a lot of grief from all the cowboys about that. We’ll go to a ranch rodeo or somethin’ and they’ll all go…’Oh, there’s the Marlboro Man!'” Even though the rancher is teased for his nickname, Mr. Marlboro Man is an established piece of the folklore surrounding the Pioneer Woman brand.

When did Ree Drummond start blogging?

Ree Drummond kicked off her blogging career all the way back in May 2006. When asked about her motivation in a 2007 Q&A on her website, Drummond wrote, “I had some pictures of my kids I wanted to show my mom, and our email was slow and mean. I sat down and started a blog in five minutes and had no vision, plan, or idea. It was a total accident and still is.” As she told PopSugar, a step-by-step guide to cooking steak was the first recipe the future host of “The Pioneer Woman” ever posted.

Drummond’s award-winning blog has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and is now a full-fledged Hearst Digital Media publication with an editorial staff. Drummond addressed the changes on the site in 2020. “Blogging has always been my first love, but as my kids have gotten older and life has gotten busier, it has become harder and harder for me to pull this off by myself,” she wrote. “So I’m very happy (ecstatic!) that this new version of The Pioneer Woman is here.” Additionally, Ree Drummond has a popular print vehicle in The Pioneer Woman Magazine.

The Drummonds have four biological kids and one foster son

The Drummond family grew rapidly after Ree and Ladd tied the knot. Ree Drummond wrote in “Frontier Follies: Adventures in Marriage and Motherhood in the Middle of Nowhere” that she and her husband “had a really awful first year of marriage.” Still getting used to her new life, Ree learned that she was pregnant five weeks after her wedding date. The Drummonds’ first child was Alex, then another daughter, Paige, and two sons, Bryce and Todd. Food Network fans might think the Drummonds have been a family of six since Todd’s birth, but there’s more to the story.

In 2020, Ree revealed on her website that she and Ladd have a foster child named Jamar. The Pioneer Woman calls Jamar her “bonus kid” and said she refrained from mentioning him previously due to state agency rules concerning social media. The Drummonds are there for all of Jamar’s milestones, with Ree sharing her congratulations on Instagram for his high school graduation and posting about another huge event: Jamar signed on to play football at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2021. According to Ree’s site, Bryce is also committed to the sport and plays football for the University of North Texas at the time of writing.

Alex got married in May 2021, so Ree has a son-in-law, too. As the birds fly away from their nest at the ranch, there’s still a lot of love in the Drummond family.

Ree Drummond's net worth is sky high

The Drummonds display their simple but comfortable existence on television week in and week out. Curious fans who have done their research know that Ree Drummond is a wealthy lady. Her net worth is $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, and Ladd Drummond’s is at least $200 million. Suffice to say, cattle ranching can be a lucrative business. Though the report is no longer active, The Land Report previously placed the Drummonds at 23rd on a list of the 100 largest landowners in America (via Daily Mail). The family reportedly earned $23.9 million from the United States government between late 2006 and 2017. That’s some serious moolah from the Bureau of Land Management for Drummond Land & Cattle Co to protect wild horses and burros. 

In addition to their prior wealth and 433,000 acres, the Drummonds have plenty of business ventures going on around the ranch. “The Pioneer Woman” fans don’t have to sit at home and wonder about Pawhuska anymore. They can traverse afar to eat and shop at The Mercantile, with quite a few lodgings to pick from, including The Pioneer Woman Boarding House.

The many books of Ree Drummond

What all does Ree Drummond sell these days? It’s a long list that includes household wares, a clothing line, and, of course, her book collection. Yes, the collection does include cookbooks, but that’s not all. Want to read a juicy romance? Check out “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.” A memoir-esque essay collection about various aspects of Drummond’s life? Go with “Frontier Follies.” In addition to these volumes, the Pioneer Woman has branched out with a couple of children’s book series. There’s an homage to Drummond’s deceased Basset Hound called “Charlie the Ranch Dog” and “Little Ree,” a series that covers its author’s “experiences, as seen through the eyes of a little girl named Ree,” Drummond’s website states.

It makes sense for a long-time blogger to try her hand at longer volumes, and Ree Drummond has succeeded in her market. On top of everything else she does, Drummond is a #1 New York Times bestselling author.

The Pioneer Woman…the movie?

Naturally, compelling stories can become must-see movies. In 2010, Deadline reported that Columbia Pictures had the rights to make a romantic comedy based on Ree Drummond’s material, with Reese Witherspoon to play the Pioneer Woman. As the same outlet noted, executive producer Laura Ziskin died in 2011, and the project was put on hold after her passing, and because writer Robert Harling took on another project. Sony Pictures brought on Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer to rewrite the script in 2012, but nothing has happened at the time of writing. Deadline stated that the film was to “explore the fantasy of trading big-city living for a wholesome, simpler life.”

Ree Drummond flew out to Los Angeles to meet the potential movie version of herself. Drummond remembered how much taller she was than Reese Witherspoon but told News on 6, “She was completely beautiful and lovely.” So, what about that feature film? Perhaps it was too demanding for “The Pioneer Woman” host’s already-full life. She explained to News on 6 that “everything has to be put through the filter of my life, as a homeschooler, as a wife and mother, and as a resident of a remote cattle ranch.” 

This beef-cooking chef was once a vegetarian?

Making dietary changes can be tough, but Ree Drummond left behind her meat-free lifestyle long ago. Readers will learn on her website that the cook spent seven years as a vegetarian. Almost halfway through that time span, the Food Network personality slipped up and ate a burger. Little did she know, she’d be whipping up plenty of those on a cattle ranch someday.

In a 2019 CBS Sunday Morning special about the star of “The Pioneer Woman,” reporter Alina Cho mused that Ree’s former vegetarianism “could have been a dealbreaker” for Ladd Drummond. He agreed, “It probably would have been, ’cause there’s just no way we could have survived 25 years with her not eating any steak!” When Ree enters the kitchen of The Lodge (the family’s guest house) to film her show, she’s certainly working with meat. It seems to be a necessity for the hungry cowboys.

You won't find her talking politics much

Food Network viewers won’t find out much about Ree Drummond’s politics by watching “The Pioneer Woman,” and there was a time when she explained her reticence to discuss certain issues. Speaking to Forbes about her blog in 2010, she said, “It is a positive place on the Web. It may not be Susie Sunshine all the time, and I definitely have a sarcastically slanted sense of humor, but I think people know that when they come to my site they’re not going to see griping or political debate.” Similarly, The New Yorker observed in 2011 that “Drummond doesn’t discuss politics or engage in cultural criticism; she doesn’t even gossip.”

But in 2020, the Pioneer Woman published a post called “Looking Forward” with a surprising note at the end. She stated that George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer was “tragic” and “senseless.” She also said 2020 “could actually turn out to be one of the most important years of our lifetime, when real growth, progress, and change begin to happen.” Drummond continued, “To me, it feels very different now, this collective desire to make things better. I know I want to do what I can do to grow and learn so I can be a part of that change… I can’t help but feel hopeful.” The site published a resource called “Incredible Black Artists to Support Today and Forever,” as well.

Ree Drummond is inspired by her own story

Over the years, Ree Drummond has been reminded of how unbelievably fortunate she is. The food star doesn’t deny it, and she wants her followers to believe that they “can embody the pioneer woman way of life,” too, as her website says.

In the intro to her Food Network series, Drummond calls herself an “accidental farm girl.” She told The New Yorker, “I’m as flawed as the next person. But maybe I inspire women because I’m an example that you should never assume that where you are in life or what you’re doing is going to remain exactly as it is forever. If this can happen to me, who knows what you might be capable of doing?” 

Ree Drummond doesn’t make too much of her place in the world. She’s too busy living it and keeping her creative wheels turning. She told BookPage, “I contend that I am not an extraordinary person; there’s nothing extraordinary about me or my story. I think everyone has a story — I’ve just found a fun way to tell my story and convey my day-to-day life.”

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