Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
So how does a nice, animal-loving, Midwestern girl grow up to become Ms. Oregon State Leather?
"I can't even begin to tell you how it happened," laughs Shawna Clausen, the jovial brunette who won the title last year.
Shawna's story begins in Minnesota, makes a stop in Nebraska, and eventually lands on farm in Salem, Oregon, where her lifelong love of animals took root.
"My mom raised chickens, ducks, geese, a pig, and a cow named Celia who ended up being a pet," she says. "I had dogs and cats and I was always wanting to save this one or that one."
One dog she saved became her best friend through her early teens: a sweet St Bernard-German Shepherd mix named Bandit. "He was my buddy, went everywhere with me," Shawna remembers. "When my chores were done, I'd sit up in a tree and read books all day long and he would lay at the base of the tree just waiting for me and our next adventure."
Shawna's adventures took her next to Klamath Falls, where she became involved in animal rescue through the Klamath Humane Society.
"I was their bottle baby foster home for felines for quite a few years — that's where I got my Scottish Fold, Elvis — and I also ran transports," she says. "I would stuff my Explorer full of any animals that needed to get up to the Portland and Seattle area twice a month, so they'd have a better chance of getting adopted."
Now based in Portland, Shawna remains committed to helping animals and people in the Northwest's smaller communities, still occasionally transports from southern Oregon shelters. She’s also made bringing the leather subculture's message of acceptance and education to those towns her platform as Ms. Oregon State Leather.
Which brings us to how she wound up on a stage wearing a kilt, leather corset, 20-eye Doc Martens and a pageant sash last year.
While always interested in military uniforms and gear, it was her current boyfriend Wendell—a leather enthusiast with a few titles under his belt—who introduced Shawna to the community. Shawna says it's where she found her family, who encouraged her to pursue the title.
The contest doesn't include a talent or swimwear competition, but it does involve an intense interview session with the judges — who are often leather community celebs and well-known drag performers.
"They want to know that you are well-rounded, that you're a confident speaker, that you're open to sharing your knowledge about the lifestyle with others who have questions," explains Shawna. "We're not scary people. We participate in these activities through consensual negotiation."
She's been invited to hold a class in southern Oregon, and plans to run for International Ms. Leather in 2016. In addition, Shawna holds a full-time managerial position with a healthcare company, and is a runner who tackles the hills and stairs at Mt Tabor Park four to five times a week.
"I'm pretty darn lazy," she jokes. "The time that's left I love to sit and read and eat chocolate peanut butter ice cream."
Her busy schedule has necessitated some sacrifices. Shawna recently rehomed Raven, her beloved 8-year-old Border Collie with a close friend who lives on a horse farm in Tukwila, WA.
"Gradually over the last couple of years, I've struggled wondering if I was giving her everything she needed because she is extremely smart and high drive," Shawna explains. She visits Raven often and reports that the dog is integrating well into her new pack and is much loved.
"I want to tour Scotland and Ireland, and most especially Germany," she says. Invitations to visit from European members of the leather community will likely make that a reality before too long. Also on the horizon is a possible trip to the Steens Range in southeastern Oregon with a group of photographers.
"We'll be camping out, hiking down into the canyons about 9-10 miles every day and photographing wild mustangs," she says with excitement.
Most likely, she'll leave her signature shoes at home when she goes on that expedition. The footwear Shawna says is really "her"? A pair of sky-high, open-toed stilettos. "They make me feel so pretty when I'm walking around in them," she gushes.
The fact that they're partially made of leather is just a plus.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.