John Tolley, January 11, 2019
Khalilah Smith can tie a lasso, saddle a mount, and barrel race with the best of them. Now, she's a bona-fide rodeo queen to boot.
Where would you guess this bronco-bustin' cowgirl hails from? The West Texas plains? An expansive ranch in Wyoming's rolling grasslands?
How about the Motor City?
Smith, who is the first black Michigan State University Rodeo Queen, goes a long way towards proving that old adage of what happens when you assume. Of course, surprise at her provenance isn't all that surprising as Detroit isn't known for turning out rodeo riders.
"I love that even though I am not the typical 'rodeo queen,' I'm not looked at any differently by my peers or other people I come in contact with while I'm in my crown," Smith says, speaking with BLAC Detroit. "I'm just another rodeo queen to them. It's such a warm feeling to know that I'm changing the sport I love. In a good way."
It was a chance invitation to the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Center in Detroit's Rouge Park that got a young Smith hooked on working with animals. She started, as so many do, cleaning out stalls, but her genuine love for horses soon saw her roping and riding as part of the Little Britches Junior Rodeo Program.
Now a sophomore in MSU's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Smith is on a pre-veterinary track and hopes to follow her passion as a veterinarian working with and advocating on behalf of rodeo and other show animals. She is also fascinated with scientific field research, having completed internships with the university's Kellogg Biological Station and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
In addition to making appearances at rodeos and competing at the Miss Rodeo USA event in Oklahoma City later this month, Smith will be giving demonstrations at Detroit area schools. Her hope is to inspire children, especially little girls, to look beyond preconceived notions of what is unexpected of them and follow their own dreams.
To learn more about Smith's path to rodeo stardom, check out MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources' full article here.