Story by Troy Taysom – Photographs courtesy of Truesight Media
Browning, in conjunction with The Sportsman Channel, is launching a new reality television show called The Most Wanted List. The show will star Browning personality Kristy Lee Cook and her two best friends from Oregon: Jessie Jo Stanfill and Jess Hull. The idea is a family-friendly, adventure reality show with these three young ladies who will be traveling the country and checking off wild adventures from their bucket lists. I had the pleasure of catching up with Kristy while she was on a horse ranch in Texas.
If the name Kristy Lee Cook sounds familiar to you, then you might be a country music fan. You might also be a fan of American Idol or barrel racing; maybe even big game hunting. You see, Kristy has made a name for herself in all of these areas. She jumped into the nation’s spotlight while competing on the immensely popular TV show during its seventh season.
She worked hard and made it into the top 10 (coming in seventh place out of hundreds of thousands of contestants), went on tour, launched an album, and most of us might assume she’d have it made in the shade, but it’s still an uphill climb once Idol is over.
I asked Kristy if the show helped or hurt her career. “Well, both,” Kristy said. “I gained thousands of fans and a lot of national exposure, but on the other hand, radio stations and other music industry insiders see Idol contestants as having broken into the music business the ‘easy’ way and are reluctant to play their music. I had a record contract at the age of 17, several years before I was on Idol so I did it the hard way, but I still had to fight to have my music listened to.”
The sting of the loss can still be heard in Kristy’s voice, but she didn’t let radio stations or doubters stop her ambition and drive. She turned the loss into motivation and ultimately victory. In 2008 Kristy released an album titled Why Wait. The album debuted at No. 8 on the US Top Country albums chart and No. 49 on the Billboard 200, with sales just under 10,000 in the first week. Since the album, Kristy has become heavily involved in the song-writing process, making sure that she has and maintains creative control over her music.
The move has proved to be genius. She released singles such as “Airborne Ranger Infantry” and “Lookin’ For A Cowgirl,” which have both been hugely successful, receiving attention from publications like Rolling Stone and websites Bustle.com and Countrymusicrocks.com. The reviews are all positive and it seems, according to her fans, Kristy is writing and performing music that actually speaks to them.
“Airborne Ranger Infantry” is a tribute song to her father and all the other Vietnam-era veterans who came home to protests, insults and hatred. Kristy felt these men and women deserved better, and with her song, tries to gives them the respect they deserve. The lyrics are based on poems her father wrote about his and his friends’ experiences in the war. They are powerful in their simplicity and will ring home with anyone who has ever been at war, not just Vietnam. The song is blunt, direct, truthful and representative of what happened some 50 years ago in Southeast Asia.
“Looking For A Cowgirl” is simply about being a country girl. Kristy has matured and is now very comfortable with who she is and this song is a reflection of exactly how she feels about herself and her life. “I am who I am,” said Kristy when asked about the song and its meaning.
As if music weren’t enough, Kristy is an active barrel racer and winning on the circuit. Shasta, her mare, recently passed away, leaving a large void in Kristy’s heart, but Kristy has continued on, choosing to remember Shasta by racing her colt, Tazer.According to her, Tazer looks “just like his momma.” She is also racing a young stallion named Venom that Kristy says, “shows big promise and has been in the money for most of his races.”
Kristy doesn’t seem to live by the same 24-hour clock the rest of us do, because not only does she find time to sing and race, she also loves to hunt. To her every animal is a trophy, whether it’s a New Zealand stag or a Midwest whitetail.
This love of hunting and her desire for everything adventurous led her to pitch the idea for her new show. The execs at Browning and The Sportman Channel agreed it was a great idea. This idea was so popular that it even attracted a host of other companies and organizations, such as Caldwell, Winchester, Bog Pod, Tenzing, Anderson Bean Boots, Nose Jammer and the Mule Deer Foundation. The Most Wanted List premieres this July and Kristy intends for the show to be different from other reality TV programs. According to her, many reality TV shows are risqué and take the approach that the more scantily dressed the participants are, the better. “That’s not what this show is about; this is a show the entire family can watch,” Kristy said. “We want parents to be able to watch the show with their kids and trust that we won’t be cussing or inappropriately dressed.”
This show will feature Kristy hunting with her trusty Browning Stalker rifles chambered in .300 WSM and .270 WSW, as well as her Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun. She may even have her new Browning 1911-.380 hidden somewhere on her person but she’s not telling, for the record.
Kristy, Jessie Jo and Jess will be hunting mountain lions and alligators, just to name a few, but she realizes that many of her fans and TV audiences aren’t hunters. “This show isn’t just about hunting. We are going to be flying in a Navy fighter jet, skydiving and deep sea fishing. There will be something for everyone,” Kristy assured me.
The show will also be more than just the adventures. A large part
will be about the comedic relationship between these three long-time friends.
As if that were not enough, Kristy also is heavily involved in humanitarian efforts and is a board member for the Dutton Foundation, which includes Heavenly Hope Ministries. The foundation works in the African nations of Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia helping to form and run orphanages for children. The foundation primarily keeps children safe from child sex trafficking. John Dutton, co-founder and president, is also a former NFL and AFL (Arena Football League) quarterback who works with these children to pursue athletic dreams instead of being trapped in the hopelessness that is so prevalent in Africa.
Kristy Lee Cook is a lot of things: Country music star, accomplished barrel racer, avid hunter, TV star and quiet humanitarian. But if I had to boil it down and place one label on her, it would simply be, country girl. Kristy is what is right about America. She is living the American dream on her terms and doing a fantastic job of it. ASJ