By: Jennifer Sheppard
Kiana Clay wiggled her left glove with her teeth, biting down to get it over her hand, before moving to pull her motocross helmet over her head.
“Need any help, baby?” Her dad asked. “I got it, Dad,” Kiana told him. She placed her goggles over her face one-handed and adjusted the strap around the back with one hand before heading out toward the track at Sam Boyd Stadium for the 17th and final round of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross series in Las Vegas.
If she was nervous and or afraid, I couldn't tell. With her right arm strapped in a brace, she ripped a few laps down the start straight at Sam Boyd Stadium on her modified CRF150F dirt bike, and the crowd went wild. “When people see me ride, their responses are, "Wow, if she can do that, I can do absolutely anything I want to as well,” Kiana told me.
Encouraging females to live life to the fullest was the driving vision of the Toyota Makeup2Mud movement: to spotlight the many ways women are impacting the world of motocross both on and off the bike. Those who were initially selected were featured in a video at each event and on live TV, and it was truly an impressive lineup of women from all walks of life: emergency medicine, law, engineering, motherhood and more. Once the contest for the final spot was announced, very quickly hundreds of females over 18 years of age joined the movement to share their story, and before we knew it, more than 800 applications were received from females ages 18 to 65 as far away as Hawaii. The selection committee announced Kiana the winner and invited her to make an appearance in Las Vegas.
If you’ve ever met Kiana, who started riding at age 7, you know she's full-throttle even when doctors said she would never ride again after paralyzing her arm. But she wasn’t convinced and said she was more motivated than ever to attack life, realizing fear is a limitation. Now, she’s training to be the first female upper-limb adaptive athlete on the U.S. Paralympic snowboard team.
“If anything, my upbringing actually challenged me more,” Kiana said. “My parents never wanted me to touch a bike again, but that was my choice to get back at it. They just knew how happy moto makes me, so they were supportive after a while.”
For those of us who were raised riding dirt bikes, riding through life conquering whatever obstacle comes in front of our tire, we live for it. But what about the girls who didn’t grow up with a dad to buy us a bike when we were 4 or an older brother to load our bike (before teaching us to do it on our own) or an uncle, cousin or friend to bring them to the track? Toyota’s movement to ignite females on their journey has transformed many lives, myself included, and that’s what females want to feel: inspired.
“My dad saw my passion from the beginning and simply wanted me to be happy,” Kiana said. “He invested in me and didn't see the limitations of being a woman. He just knew I wanted to go fast, which helped us have an incredible bond that I can't have with anyone else. He's my biggest support system, even after breaking my neck.”
With the absence of a prominent professional women’s motocross league to the absence of any female on the gate at a Supercross race, the need to encourage and empower female riders of all ages continues to increase. Females, after all, often experience greater barriers to entry than do males simply because we feel out of place walking into a dirt bike shop and surrounded by men at the track.
“You have to remind yourself: it’s your life and only you put limitations on yourself,” Kiana said. “If you want to ride a dirt bike, you have every ability to. It’s all in your mind and your attitude. You have to believe in yourself and tell yourself you got this!”
For me, as an avid dirt bike racer for almost 30 years, the Makeup2Mud movement rewarded me the most priceless opportunity to learn and connect with Kiana whom I otherwise would not have been blessed to meet and play a small part in the advancement of the movement throughout the dirt bike community.
2019’s version of Makeup2Mud will pick up right where it left off in 2018 by continuing to celebrate females who ride. As purveyors of dirt bike racing, it’s our duty to share these stories of courage with the world. It’s watching.