Over time, the iconic American cowboy has been romanticized in American folklore and throughout movies and television, and as such has become widely associated with the well-known image of John Wayne and the like. But cowboys are not a stereotype. Rather, they are among the most essential of occupations—and have been for hundreds of years. Since the early 1800s, cowboys moved massive herds of cattle from state to state undergoing unforgiving trails and environmental conditions, helped develop frontier towns, and became stewards of the land. And one in four of those iconic cowboys were Black, a fact seldom attributed with The West.
Today, many individuals strive to educate, inform, and celebrate the significance of Black cowboys and cowgirls and their contributions to The West, as well as Black Western Heritage which remains strong today. Among those archiving and documenting Black cowboys and their influence on today’s culture is Bri Malandro, a pop culture analyst.
Bri Malandro coined the phrase The Yee-Haw Agenda last year as a play on words to describe the trend of western wear in pop culture that saw a resurgence in late 2018, 2019, specifically Black pop culture. “Today,” she told us, “it has grown into a movement to highlight and celebrate the influence on black cowboys that a lot of people felt had basically been erased over the years.”
We connected with Bri Malandro to learn more about The Yee-Haw Agenda and how it helps to connect people with a part of Black history that has been drastically underrepresented.
Can you describe why it is important for people to change their perception of what they believe the western look is and what they associate with it?
“I think it’s important that history is not erased. It was shocking to me that so many people claimed to have never seen black cowboys before so creating a place where all of that history could be archived was something that was missing. I believe it has opened up the mind of a lot of people already, based on some of the messages I receive.”
What can The Yee-Haw Agenda teach us about our history?
“I believe it should teach everyone to look deeper. As times are showing now, a lot of history has been manipulated and if you don’t take the time to do your own research, you may miss something incredibly valuable.”
How is The Yee-Haw Agenda important in the reclamation of the Black Cowboy and Cowgirl in western history?
“Once the phrase [The Yee-Haw Agenda] made its way to so many popular publications, I felt like it was my responsibility to go deeper than just the aesthetics. I started showing more men and women who were active in rodeos today and some historical figures that people may not have heard of before. History can’t truly be reclaimed unless all of it is taught.”
What is the mission of The Yee-Haw Agenda?
“The mission at this point is just to keep going and keep being a hub for the culture. I want to highlight as many different black people and organizations as I can and use the attention the phrase has gotten for the betterment of everyone; Equestrians, Photographers, Stylists, Directors, Artists, everyone.”
What inspired the name The Yee-Haw Agenda and why?
“The name was inspired by the phrase “The Gay Agenda.” I consider myself queer and that term has been used a lot in the media as kind of an attack on the LGBTQ community and our presence in entertainment. When I started using “The Yee-Haw Agenda” it was meant to be ironic because obviously I loved seeing the look start to trend again.”
As a visual storyteller and content creator, can you talk about your art and what inspires you, and what specifically about The Yee-Haw Agenda are you drawn to?
“I definitely am a visual person so it was the aesthetic that originally inspired me. Creative direction may actually be my strong suit. Over the years I’ve spent building a following online, I believe the admiration I’ve received has always been for being able to spot something hot and make it hotter. I also really love when worlds clash and stereotypes are broken which I think is a big part of why The Yee-Haw agenda became so popular.”
How would you describe The Yee-Haw Agenda fashion? Where does the inspiration for the aesthetic come from?
“I would describe it as fun and collaborative. My favorite time in fashion is the early 2000s and when I was in my early teens, I saw so many celebrities with over-the-top looks in their music videos and on red carpets. To this day I pull a lot of my personal style from how dramatic those looks were. Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, and even N*SYNC come to mind first. If you look back at what they were wearing in those times you’ll see a lot of cowboy hats, bedazzled tank tops, fringe jackets, and western themed belt buckles.”
How do the aesthetics define The Yee-Haw Agenda?
“The aesthetics are the introduction and what catch your eye first: the belts, the chaps, the hats, the boots, etc. This has highlighted those aesthetics in music, television, film, and art but once you get into the talent and history behind them the real fun starts.”