Exclusive: Beyoncé announces clothing line inspired by Black cowboys, Houston Rodeo memories – Houston Chronicle

Beyoncé’s latest frontier with her Adidas x IVY Park collection tells the often-forgotten story of Black cowboys and cowgirls.

The native Houston superstar, who donned cowboy boots and fringe for the Houston Rodeo as a child, is using her athleisure brand to honor the Black Americans who helped create American cowboy heritage and the Western frontier. With this collection, like much of her art, she continues to use her talent to stir social consciousness and educate.

In an exclusive statement to the Houston Chronicle, Beyoncé said, “The Houston Rodeo is a gumbo of family, connection, delicious food and eclectic genres of music. I grew up seeing artists like Selena and Frankie Beverly and Maze and today it is just as eclectic with artists like Kacey Musgraves to Mary J. Blige. I remember the trail ride, with people riding from all over to the Houston Rodeo.”

Her new IVY Park Rodeo collection, which goes on sale Aug. 19, at adidas.com/us/ivypark and select Adidas stores, includes nearly 60 pieces and features Houston rappers Tobe Nwigwe and Monaleo, Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, and actor and real-life cowboy Glynn Turman in the glossy campaign. The collection merges fashion with Western tradition and features buckles, chaps and a cow print in an unexpected purple-and-brown mix. There are wide-leg denim pants and bodysuits, a denim track suit and bucket hat, a canvas waist bag and even a cowboy hat, among other pieces. 

“After understanding where the word ‘cowboy’ came from, I realized how much of the Black, brown and Native cowboy stories are missing in American history,” Beyoncé said. “I am proud to represent Houston culture, my roots and all the people who understand fried Snickers and fried turkey legs.”

Nwigwe, who is from Houston and studied fashion merchandising at the University of North Texas, said he was honored to be tapped by the superstar to be a part of her new collection.

“She’s a fan of what we do, and she really wanted us to be a part of what she has going on. That was an extremely momentous occasion,” said Nwigwe during an interview at Gatlin’s BBQ. He arrived wearing an IVY Park Rodeo sweatshirt and shorts in an ambient blush color, which he said complemented “dark chocolate” skin tones like his. The rapper will make his big-screen debut in “Transformers: Rise of the Beast” next summer and is also part of the Emmy-nominated team for outstanding commercial for “You Love Me” for Beats by Dre. He narrates the two-minute commercial, released late last year.

Though Nwigwe said he learned little about Black cowboys and cowgirls in school, he remembers seeing Black men on horses on the streets in Fifth Ward.

“I never really saw Black cowboys in action, other than in Fifth Ward. I’ve always wanted to know where they kept the horses,” he said. “I’ve ridden a horse two or three times, but I’m solid. I’m not Indiana Jones, but I can maneuver.”

Though Black cowboys are often absent from the popular Western narrative, historians estimate that 1 in 4 cowboys was Black during the early-19th century. Being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color after the Civil War, according to William Loren Katz, a scholar of African American history and author of “The Black West.”

Today, their influence can be seen in the rodeo circuit and even in Hollywood, with films such as Netflix’s “Concrete Cowboy” with Idris Elba. Also, Black cowboys and cowgirls across the nation have joined protests for racial justice.

Paying tribute to Black history runs deep in Beyoncé’s family. Her sister, Solange Knowles, celebrated Black cowboys with her 2019 album “When I Get Home,” and Jay-Z, who is married to Beyoncé, is producing the upcoming film “The Harder They Fall” with Oscar winner Regina King and Elba, based on real-life cowboys and historical figures of the American West, including Bill Pickett, Stagecoach Mary and Cherokee Bill.

Knowles Lawson said the rodeo culture was an integral part of her childhood growing up in Galveston.

“When I was little, we went to the prison rodeos in Huntsville to the Houston rodeo, but learning about the West and how it was built, Black cowboys are omitted from that story. So just to see them being acknowledged when we know how big of a part they played and how many Black cowboys there are really warms my heart,” said Knowles Lawson, who recruited her friend Turman to bepart of the IVY Park Rodeo campaign.

Turman, the Emmy-winning actor who recently played in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” with the late Chadwick Bosman, is an advocate for Black rodeo culture and history. He also has a nonprofit organization that hosts a horse-riding and outdoors camp for children from inner-city communities at his California ranch.

“I had offered the use of my ranch to Beyoncé any time but was surprised and flattered that she wanted to include not only my ranch but also me and my beautiful granddaughter, Melinda, who’s been riding horses since she was a toddler,” Turman said.

“Black cowboys have played such a huge role in building the West and the legacy of the cowboy history. But like other aspects of the building of this country, we were not included in the story. So it brings such joy to see that finally they are honored and acknowledged for their contributions to the history of the cowboy.”

joy.sewing@chron.com