Photo via: Sherry Anderson
Natchez, Mississippi native LaBrelah Hutchins’ life-long dream is to become the first African-American woman to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo. At the tender age of eight months, Hutchins first mounted a horse in the arms of her mother on their family’s home farm. Now as a competitive barrel racer, the 23-year-old's historic journey has been chronicled by filmmaker Nathan Willis in a short film entitled "Cowgirl Up" that is currently competing in this year’s PBS Online Film Festival.
In an interview with the short film’s producer, Sherry Anderson, when asked why people should be interested in Hutchins’ story, she shared: "You should want to watch this film because it takes you into a world of which few of us are familiar. Rodeos, cowboys, yes we’ve all seen them on television and in movies. But what about a cowgirl? And one who is African American? And did you know that not one African American female has ever made it to the National Finals Rodeo? Her journey to break that barrier and her charming Southern family makes this a feel-good, worthwhile experience."
As a child, Hutchins attended numerous rodeo events alongside her father and eventually expressed to him her desire to train and ultimately participate. In total support of her aspirations, her father Larry bought her a horse, that she affectionately calls "Big Boy," and thus began her career as a competitive barrel racer on the southern circuit in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Once she began to win cash prizes from competitions, her interest in competing professionally began to grow as she set her sights on competing in The National Finals Rodeo.
The National Finals Rodeo is the highest level of competition for rodeo event participants. To date, there have been very few African American men to qualify to compete in this arena and no African American women. Hutchins is hoping that her hard work and dedication to the sport and rodeo culture will ultimately allow her to compete and potentially win at this level.
"It kinda gets a little hard because you know, some rodeos I’m like the only African-American female there actually competing in barrel racing, but I don’t let that get me down because, I mean, I know what my horse can do and I know my abilities and I just go in there and I’m confident and I run and compete with everybody else…if they can do it, I can do it," shares Hutchins in the short film. The 2018 National Finals Rodeo will take place in December in Las Vegas, Nevada. Qualifying competitions began last spring and will continue throughout the fall to determine this year's competitors.
"Cowgirl Up" is currently one of the short films being featured in this year’s PBS Online Film Festival. Voting ends this week on July 27th. Visit www.pbs.org/filmfestival and look for the "Vote" button beside this interesting documentary celebrating Hutchins' historic journey of hope and triumph. You may also vote via PBS's Facebook page and YouTube channel.