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22-year-old Kaylyn Mingues won’t roll with gender roles. In fact, she rolls them over in her 10,000-pound monster truck. Ahead of Mingues’ trip to Vancouver for Monster Jam on March 14 and 15, we got all the dirt (and the mud, and the dust) on what it’s like to be one of the Jam’s youngest monster truck drivers. Although she might not look like your average monster truck driver, she competes head-to-head with the male drivers, including her own father. She called us from Virginia Beach, where she works weekdays as a hairdresser—yes, she can kick ass on the track and give a mean balayage.
How did you first start driving monster trucks?
I’ve always been around them, since I was little. My dad Darren Migues drives the “Dragon” Monster Jam truck, and he’s been driving for 15 years. I never actually thought that I would drive a monster truck. We always thought that my brother would follow in my dad’s footsteps, which he did, but he just wasn’t a fan of the whole racing sport. But in the summer of 2016 when I was going into my senior year of high school, my dad asked me if I could drive a truck for one weekend. He didn’t have a driver, and he said he needed me to fill in, and that it was just a one-time thing. So he took me out to an open field and I drove around for two hours, that was my practice, and then four days later he threw me in my first show.
And how was that show?
It was a horrible show. There were six inches of mud on the ground, and when these trucks are in mud it’s like driving on ice. It’s hard for us to do anything. It was a horrible first show, but I still loved it. And now, in July, it will be my sixth year of driving. I do it every weekend, and honestly I wouldn’t change it for the world and I couldn’t imagine my life without it now.
How does one learn how to drive a monster truck? Do you practice a lot?
No, not really. All the tricks and stuff that we try to do—what everyone sees at the show — that’s our practice. We’re kind of just going out there and thinking, “Oh well, we’ll try this today.” If it works it does, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. If something goes wrong, hopefully someone gets footage of it. But I can come to my dad with any frustrations, and nine times out of ten we come up with a solution and a game plan. We do everything we can to try to make the truck do whatever I am trying to get it to do, and fine tune it from there. It can end up in me rolling over, which does happen quite a lot, but with all of our safety features we are pretty safe inside there.
Really? So you just get on the course and go?
Well, I did go to Monster Jam University for a week, after I had been driving for two or three years, just to fine-tune my skills.
Monster Jam University?! How do we sign up?
Monster Jam University is awesome, it’s powered by the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH). So if you go to UNOH you can apply to Monster Jam University. I didn’t go to UNOH, I was just working for Monster Jam, and I got in with them through my dad. It’s in Illinois in the middle of a corn field, and they have this track set up that you race on every single weekend and you have the 12-time world champion Tom Meents telling you what to do. We drove eight hours a day, non-stop, for three days. It was exhausting, we were in the midsummer heat, plus we’re in our fire suits and those are five layers thick. So you’re sweating out there, but you know you’re 100-percent safe. It really pushes you. Me going out there definitely made an improvement in how I race today.
What does your day-to-day life look like?
During the week I am at a hair salon here in Virginia, so I take clients during the week and race monster trucks on the weekend. It’s very polar opposite, but it’s a lot of fun.
It seems like you have a pretty busy schedule between hairdressing and driving trucks. Is that difficult to maintain?
Sometimes it can be hard to juggle. Some days I want to do hair and some days I just want to drive my monster truck. But I gotta find the balance of both of them. But since I’m with my dad and we both drive together, I think that makes it a little easier for me. He understands my schedule.
Mingues’ truck, the “Monster Mutt: Dalmatian.”
You mentioned that hairdressing and monster truck driving seem like polar opposites—do you find any similarities between them?
I think a similarity I find is in my drive. I’m very motivated-—I want to be successful in life, I want to be successful in the salon world, and I want to be successful in the racing world. Especially in the race world. Because people don’t think that girls can do it, or they don’t think that girls should do it. I’ve dealt with that a lot, especially during the first few years of driving. It was really really hard to push past what everyone else was thinking. But I just kind of ignored it and pushed through it. I think that’s where the two connect together; in my drive to be successful.
Are your clients surprised when they find out you also drive monster trucks?
Actually, I don’t really bring it up much—but we did a Monster Jam show here in January about 15 minutes away from the store. So people who went to the Monster Jam would come in and say “You look familiar,” and I said, “Well, you probably saw me driving a monster truck, and now you’re getting your hair done by me!”