As pro teams become inclusive of female and gender non-conforming skaters more generally, Skate Kitchen is using social media to get black women into the lifestyle.
All photos by Miranda Barnes
It was just after 1 PM on a Tuesday, which meant Fat Kid Park in Downtown Brooklyn was pretty vacant. Two guys passed a football while standing on top of their skateboards. Another built up a basketball court's worth of momentum and used it to manual up an incline that ran underneath the BQE. A blonde woman rolled around a bit timidly. That was about it until, seemingly out of nowhere, Dede Lovelace came tearing out from behind her, ready to skate for the first time in a while despite the fact that she hates the cold. When her friend Kabrina Adams showed up about 10 minutes later, the number of men and women at the park was equal.
Despite being an ostensibly egalitarian subculture, skateboarding, like other punk-adjacent scenes, has the reputation of not being the most inclusive. In recent years, the adidas and Nike pro teams have added female and gender non-conforming skaters like Nora Vasconcellos and Lacey Baker to their rosters, which has helped encourage more people who don't fit the mold of a stereotypical bro to pick up boards. Meanwhile, it's mostly been up to all-girl crews on Instagram to evangelize skateboarding to women of color.
The crew that Lovelace and Adams are a part of is probably the most notable at the moment. They were first discovered in 2016 by filmmaker Crystal Moselle, who put them in a short for Miu Miu. The Skate Kitchen blew up on Instagram, where they have close to 50,000 followers who leave comments like "trying to rep this insane movement in Kentucky! I’ve seen so many more girls out at the park and on boards," and "You go girls! My son skates and I never see any girls participating! You are helping to open the door for so many! You should be so proud of your accomplishments!"
Their influence has started to creep into legacy media as well. Vogue and T Magazine have called them "New York's coolest all-girl skate crew" and "fashion's favorite girl skateboarders." Now, they're co-starring alongside Jaden Smith in a narrative film titled Skate Kitchen about a girl from Long Island who sneaks out to hang with a downtown skate crew despite her mom's wishes. Skate Kitchen just premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance and was subsequently picked up by Magnolia Pictures. It hits theaters this summer.
But between shooting the movie and promoting the narrative feature, skating itself has fallen a bit by the wayside for the native New Yorkers. Lovelace, who is 20, and Adams, who is 24, made sure to sneak in a session when meeting up with VICE for a photo shoot. It was immediately obvious they missed it. As soon as they started kick-pushing around, they were cracking up. After we wrapped up, they pulled their own camera and tripod out of a backpack and started blasting Big Shaq's "Man's Not Hot" from a speaker around Adam's neck. Then they skated away, with Lovelace mugging for the camera. "I wanna take something for the 'Gram to let people know I still skate," she said. "I'm still out here."
VICE: How did you find skateboarding?
Dede Lovelace: I went to this middle school called East Side. It was a really popular skate spot for a lot of the locals, so a lot of the boys would go there after school, like after 3 PM and would skate there and it'd just be packed. So I asked my dad to get me a skateboard. He got me the Zoo York board, and I didn't really try to do any tricks because I didn't have any one to skate with. Then one summer, there was this Nike pop-up shop that was going on for about three months straight. I met these guys there who were like OG skaters from like New York City, and they were like super helpful and supportive and they taught me how to ollie.
Kabrina Adams: My cousin had a skateboard, and I thought it looked cool, so I stepped on it. I didn't fall or anything—it just like felt comfortable. And then when I was almost 12, I saw Tony Hawk on television riding like very crazy ramps, and I was like, "I want to be a professional like him." So I asked my dad for a skateboard for my 12th birthday.
How would you describe your skating style?
Lovelace: I'm not one of those skaters who do really extreme hardcore shit, because I don't wanna die. So, don't catch me ollieing or kickflipping off eight-stairs. I'm more like, Sebo Walker, but not to that extent. Like really stylish but like simple tricks.
Adams: I like to focus on transition skateboarding, like when you skate ramps and bowls. But I also like to do these old-school kind of tricks. My favourite trick is the 180 Boneless. If you watch Mike Valley, he inspired me to do them, because he does them like really well.
What was it like the first time you tried to go to the skate park?
Adams: For a couple of years or more, I would just go to the skate park and mostly watch, because it was like scary. But then I got more confident in myself as a whole, which crossed over into skateboarding. Also as you keep doing it, you get better at like not worrying about what's going to happen if you fall, or what people think about you.
D o you dislike when fashion magazines call you guys fashion's favourite skaters? Do you think the way people write about you diminishes the fact that you guys actually skate?
Lovelace: I appreciate the fact that they're actually talking to young kids, who know how to skate who may have a good sense of style, who may be interesting. I like that. But then again, there's too much attention on mainstream fashion and swag. It's like a half-and-half thing. But overall, I don't really care. At the end of the day, I know who I am, and I know I skateboard.
I saw your old English paper on Instagram talking about how you wanted to grow up and promote skateboarding. Is social media the best way to do that?
Adams: This is an interesting question because the more you consume something, the more you're hype. But then when it's time to do something, you [don't.] So on the one hand, it's good to have these things that motivate people, but then it's up to them to do it. So I think making content that inspires people will help some people get super pumped and then they'll go out and do it.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.