Khalilah Smith is the 24-year-old daughter of Carnethia Goldsby. Being raised in the inner city of Detroit, Mich., she did not let the inner city hinder her exposure to opportunities outside of her urban community. Growing up she was taught hard work and lives every day to educate others about conservation and the humane treatment of animals.
On Jan. 1, 2023, she started her reign as Miss Rodeo Michigan 2023, and will spend the next year representing the professional sport of rodeo.
In 1958, Jan Porath became the first woman from Michigan to earn the title of Miss Rodeo America. At the conclusion of 2023, Khalilah will be the first African American from the state of Michigan to compete in the Miss Rodeo America 2024 Pageant in Las Vegas Dec. 3-10.
At a young age, Khalilah was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Her mother found horses was the best kind of treatment for her daughter and helped her focus on school.
“Being diagnosed with (ADHD) is what led me to horses,” she shared. “It was what got my foot in the door, but I grew up an animal lover and always had animals.”
Her grandparents are from the “Southern Hospitality State,” so, Khalilah explains when she was growing up, she was always around animals and dogs as her grandparents were avid hunters.
As a former member of the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA), competing in numerous rodeo events during her youth, Khalilah found a passion for the rodeo and equine industry.
“When I was competing in NLBRA rodeos, I always saw the rodeo queens, but I didn’t really know how to get involved,” Khalilah explains. “It wasn’t until I attended Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to study animal science that I really got my start in rodeo queening.”
Prior to being crowned Miss Rodeo Michigan 2023, she held the titles of MSU Rodeo Queen 2018 and Miss Latting Rodeo Productions 2021 in which she went on to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo USA 2019 and 2021, respectively.
While at the Miss Rodeo USA competition in 2018 she was awarded the Facebook Fan Favorite Award, and in 2021, she was awarded the Never Quit Award.
During her time as the MSU Rodeo Queen, she notes she would talk to youth who didn’t feel they had a place within the industry. For Khalilah, paving the way for others who don’t see themselves within the industry is one of her main goals.
“It’s okay to be the first person to do something, because my hope is, others will follow,” she mentions.
She explains she is excited to be able to mentor others the way others have mentored her and is looking forward to overcoming barriers and encouraging others that anyone can rodeo.
As Miss Rodeo Michigan 2023 Khalilah will travel the state of Michigan and country representing the sport of rodeo, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), Miss Rodeo America, Inc and sponsors. She will educate and advocate for the sport, while teaching youth about agriculture and the Western industry. She will do this by attending rodeos, doing school visits, through radio and TV interviews as well as visiting nursing homes.
Thus far, she has traveled to Dallas, Texas where she was able to spend several days at the Dallas Market Center, which is the most complete wholesale trade resource in the world. While here, she was able meet several of the Miss Rodeo America sponsors. She was able to visit with Wrangler, Justin Boot Company, Bex Sunglasses and Montana Silversmiths.
“Dallas was really nice and everyone welcomed me with open arms,” she notes. “All of the Miss Rodeo America sponsors we were able to meet with were really nice and it was awesome we had the chance to thank them for everything they do to support state titleholders and Miss Rodeo America.”
She adds, “Being able to attend the Dallas market really puts everything into perspective and of all the things they have to do – it’s a lot.”
After Dallas, Khalilah traveled to Denver, Colo. to attend the National Western Stock Show Jan. 7-22 where she was able to attend several PRCA performances and participate in the 48th Annual Cowboy Downhill.
“Participating in the Cowboy Downhill was quite interesting,” she mentions. “I had never snowboarded or skied a day in my life and I guess I picked the harder of the two, which was snowboarding. I came tumbling down the hill, but I had a lot of fun.”
State titleholders from across the country will travel the U.S. to represent an industry they love. At the conclusion of their year, they will all travel to compete for the coveted title of Miss Rodeo America. Kennadee Riggs of Queen Creek, Ariz. currently holds the title of Miss Rodeo America 2023.
Khalilah is looking forward to traveling to places like Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo., Prescott Fronter Days, Inc. – World’s Oldest Rodeo, Prescott, Ariz. and the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimme, Fla.
“The title of MSU Rodeo Queen gave me opportunities and opened doors that I want to open for other women of color,” she says. “I’m on a mission to push every person I see to be their best potential self.”
At the conclusion of her rodeo queen career, she looks forward to serving in a mentoring role and continue to make a difference and inspire others to follow their dreams regardless of the color of their skin.
“I’m excited to bridge the gap between rural and urban America, because there’s been such a disconnect,” she says. “I want to make sure everybody is connected and bridge the gap between our inner cities to agriculture. I want kids to know they don’t have to grow up to be basketball players or football players to be successful, they can go into the agricultural world and do amazing things.”
One of her favorite quotes is “You cannot see your reflection in boiling water. Similarly, you cannot see the truth in a state of anger.”
She shares many minority people she comes across are reluctant to get involved in rodeo and agriculture, but she isn’t afraid to take the first step.
As Miss Rodeo Michigan 2023, she’s looking forward to paving the way for others and helping them discover the rodeo industry and Western way of life, because for Khalilah, the world needs more cowboys and cowgirls, especially rodeo queens.
Brittany Gunn is a former rodeo queen who enjoys writing stories of the West, promoting agriculture and sharing stories of the men and women who represent rural America. is a former rodeo queen who enjoys writing stories of the West, promoting agriculture and sharing stories of the men and women who represent rural America.