Dede Lovelace and Rachelle Vinberg are two of the founders of the Skate Kitchen, a collective of friends who now also make up New York City’s best-known skateboarding crew. They also co-starred in this summer’s Skate Kitchen, the critically-acclaimed film by Crystal Moselle. Moselle based the film on the real-life relationships between the women, as well as their experiences navigating downtown New York’s mostly-male skateboarding world. Thanks to the film—and Skate Kitchen’s 78,000 and counting Instagram followers—female skaters everywhere are finding reflections of themselves on a much wider scale.
“I love how creative skating is,” says Vinberg. “And how you can do it alone and with people at the same time, you know? It's not a sport that has any rules.” Lovelace adds, “I’m not trying to be a pro skateboarder. I’m having fun.”
We spoke to Vinberg and Lovelace about pushing past your comfort zone, the weirdness of becoming role models, and why falling is not the same as failing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
On subverting stereotypes and the origins of Skate Kitchen
Rachelle Vinberg: I came up with the name when I was 12. When I first started skating, I was playing a game with all my friends—who were all boys at the time. We were trying to figure out what we'd name our skate crew if we had one in the future. I said I'd name it the Skate Kitchen, because [people always say] girls are supposed to be in the kitchen. And they would do that to me too, they’d mess around with me and say, "You should be in the kitchen." When I met the girls, it became our Instagram profile.
On the importance of allies
Dede Lovelace: I got into skating in middle school. After school hours, our schoolyard was kind of a DIY skate spot for a lot of the boys my age in the area. Around 3:00 PM or 3:30 PM, I would start seeing them having fun, and doing all these crazy tricks. I was mesmerized by it, and I asked my dad if I could get a skateboard. He was actually the one who introduced me to “edgy” sports—he taught me how to ride a motorcycle when I was younger. He got me a skateboard and basically said, "Go ahead." I was really nervous, and a lot of the guys on the yard had anger issues, so I couldn’t just go up and make friends [with them]. I kicked around by myself for a while, then I met [another group of] older guys, and they were really nice to me—they helped me learn how to do tricks, and they were really patient and encouraging. After a summer with them I got up the confidence to go out and start skating more.
On skating as personal space
RV: I remember being in school and not telling people I skated. It was kind of a secret. I was embarrassed, but I don't even know why. I played softball, lacrosse, basketball, and football. I remember quitting a lot of them because I was really shy. I felt weird with being with other people. Skating felt like the opposite. It was personal.
"Like, 'Bro, you see my skateboard in my hand; it's like two in the morning. I'm walking across the street. Why would I want to do a trick for you right now?' I skateboard. I know I skateboard. I don't care if you do, or if you don't think I can."
On confronting casual sexism
DL: It's not exactly catcalling, but when people say, "Do a kickflip," or yell out stuff, it’s annoying. Like, “Bro, you see my skateboard in my hand; it's like two in the morning. I'm walking across the street. Why would I want to do a trick for you right now?” I skateboard. I know I skateboard. I don't care if you do, or if you don't think I can.
RV: I just think, “You see every kid do that trick. Everyone's doing this, people are doing it five times harder!” But when it’s a girl suddenly it’s different. Because in [boys’] heads, they're hyped because maybe they never seen a girl do a hard trick. So it's cool for them. The more girls there are doing it, it won't be as special.
On choosing motivation over fear
RV: The hardest part of skating is actually trying it. When you try it, you realize it’s not that scary. If you get really hurt, [maybe you think,] "Damn, I shouldn't have tried that." And when you fall, you think, "Well, that's the worst that can happen"—and it’s already happened, so… Fear always [plays a role], but so does motivation. Motivation is what gets you past fear—and what makes you commit. It’s what inspires you to keep on learning new tricks.
Just yesterday, for example, I had a self-tape thing to do for an audition, and I was saying, "Ah, I can't do it!" and just generally being down on myself. But Crystal [Moselle] said, "No, you're doing it." She sat with me for two hours and helped me do it. She doesn't need to do that! But she believes in me. That’s motivating—when your friends believe in you. Crystal also does not hesitate to call me out at all. And that's a good thing.
DL: There's this rare period when you start skating—right when you learn—when you're trying to advance. You're really close to getting down a lot of the basics, but you don’t fully have them yet. It can be really discouraging, because you feel stuck. And you want to stop. I went through a time where I really wanted to stop skating, and my friends talked me out of it. I was really sad about it. I was just like, "Oh my god, I suck!" And they said, "Yeah, but you have to push through it and learn from it."
On the growing influence of the skateboarding community
DL: I think it's important that [the skating community] tries to encourage people to not just skate, but to do things they're interested in that may be scary. And to not place any focus on age or gender or race. We need to remind people that everyone should be open to whatever anyone else wants to do. You should be able to do what you want, when you want.
RV: I still feel weird when girls message us saying, "You got me into skating. I like the way you do things. You're my role model," that kind of thing. Because I’m still growing, and I'm still young. I look up to people like Crystal, but then again, when I was younger if I’d seen someone like us, I would’ve been obsessed! I try to think of it like that. It’s cool that we’re role models to people younger and older than us.
On why representation matters
RV: You become—and then you exist. I remember one time, before I started skating, actually, I went to a skate park with my brother. I think I was around 10 at the time. And I saw this skater walking out of the park. I thought it was a guy, because they had a beanie on, but she pulled her beanie off and all her hair came out. I was like, "Oh my God. This is a girl.” That was the first time I’d ever seen a girl skater. And the first time I realized that girls can skate, too.
25 Strong is a new series highlighting people who have broken barriers and changed culture in 2018. Created with Reebok.