FORT SMITH, Ark. — Ever since Ja’Dayia Kursh was a little girl, she knew exactly what she wanted to be, a cowgirl.
“I fell in love with horses when I was six years old, and it just kind of stuck with me. I have a hoof print on my heart," she said.
Ja’Dayia became involved in rodeo at the age of 13, doing pony express riding for the Arkansas Seven, followed by two years with the Old Fort Days Dandies, bringing diversity to the sport.
“I remember I was nervous because the horses, they go a thousand miles an hour, but I was ready for it," Nishawn Horton, Ja’Dayia’s mom, said.
In 2017 she was crowned Miss Rodeo Coal Hill of Arkansas on her 17th birthday. It was later confirmed that this made her the first Black rodeo queen in the state.
“It wasn’t something that I went to that pageant and competed that day and was expecting. It’s just as shocking to me as it is to other people because I was just doing something I loved," Kursh said.
While Ja’Dayia loves being a part of the western industry, she says she has dealt with bias throughout her career.
“It comes with trials and tribulations, and I did face ridicule just joining this industry, even being on a team with 19 other girls, it was difficult because I’m Black," she said.
Ja’Dayia says the challenges she has faced have only made her stronger.
“Never allow someone else to mute you,” she said.
Ja’Dayia is also a model for Wrangler jeans and other western apparel companies, but she insists she is still just a cowgirl from the River Valley.
"More than anything, I just want people to know, just be you, and do you, and be yourself out loud," she said.
She’s set to graduate from the University of Arkansas in December and has plans to go to law school.
She is headed to Texas soon to train with a well-known saddle bronc rider.