The Ride Star Lives Life Eight Seconds at a Time
Austin Gamblers bull rider Ezekiel Mitchell has become a streaming success
When Ezekiel Mitchell grasps that strap, and the chute door opens, and that bull goes flying, bucking, twisting and writhing into the arena, it's an experience he can't explain. But he can explain why he ended up in front of thousands of screaming fans as he risks life and limb as a professional bull rider. "I've always wanted to be a cowboy," he said, "and rodeo is just part of being a cowboy, and bull riding is just another event. I wanted to try them all, and just happened to have a knack for it."
Unlike many of the TV stars appearing at this weekend's ATX TV Festival, Rockdale native Mitchell won't have far to travel when he appears at the screening and Q&A for The Ride, the new docuseries from Prime Video. The eight-episode series follows the inaugural 2022 PBR Team Series tour, focusing on the debut season of Mitchell and his teammates as the Austin Gamblers.
In conversation, the soft-spoken Mitchell lacks the swaggering bravado that you might expect from a professional bull rider. However, that doesn't mean he doesn't take pride in his role in this American tradition. "Everyone thinks that cowboying's just part of rodeos, but cowboys built America, helped settle the West and keep people fed, and I think that's pretty cool."
While he said he saw himself as a cowboy first and not as a Black cowboy, he also acknowledged the undeniable history of the sport. "I know my history so well of African American cowboys, and that a lot of it was whitewashed. A lot of talented athletes that came before me and made it to the top, they didn't quite have the media exposure that I have."
And that's one area in which Mitchell has excelled, building up a social media presence and over 376,000 followers on TikTok, as well as a Snapchat series, Life by the Horns, which he launched in 2021 as a way to introduce himself to audiences. Mitchell credited his agent, mentor, and friend Max Maxwell for getting him online as much as he got on the bull. "He told me that my brand is something nobody can ever take away from me, and that if I wanted to make an impact and a statement that social media was the new way of establishing a brand." However, he insists, that brand and the man are the same. "It's just me right now, just the way I am right now. Never nothin' but."
That additional onscreen exposure helped him translate life on the bull and the stream into life in front of the camera for The Ride. "It's just another avenue and another outlet to help push the sport I love forward." And he has ambitions within that sport: Currently ranked 29th in the world, he's aiming for that championship slot. Yet as a member of the Gamblers, "It's just to be the best teammate I can possibly be."
The Ride Screening and Q&ASun., June 4, 10:45am
Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress