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Crybaby Right Where They Belong: An interview with Rachelle Vinberg of "Skate Kitchen"

Oct. 16, 2018
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For a girl who can’t balance on a skateboard, I have an embarrassingly large knowledge of skate culture. Well—maybe I’m not super knowledgable, but as I just said, as someone who has never skateboarded and can’t even stand up on one, it’s embarrassing.

The only part of my love for skate culture that I’m not even a little embarrassed about is my love of skater girls. Everything about them is amazing. And in a skate crew, they are even cooler—at least in my eyes.

I first found The Skate Kitchen on Instagram; a diverse group of young women documenting their tricks and lives for a huge audience. While their audience is diverse, their ability to inspire other girls is incredible. In a community where many signed skaters are men, it is always exciting to see women and queer people who have an audience. As always, representation is incredibly important. And these girls understand that—supporting and promoting other women skaters both on and offline. With events like “Get on Board! Girls Skate Clinic” to posting videos of other women skaters, they are changing the skate world—making it more inclusive and fun for everyone.

The Skate Kitchen is not only a collective Instagram and friend group, it’s also a film—“Skate Kitchen.” Directed by Crystal Moselle, the film follows the girls of The Skate Kitchen—Rachelle Vinberg, Nina Moran, Jules and Brenn Lorenzo, Ardelia Lovelace, Ajani Russell, and Kabrina Adams—and Jaden Smith.

I was really excited to speak with Rachelle Vinberg: member of the crew, lead of the film, and signed Volcom skater. Back in April, I got to speak with her about the film, her career, and what it’s like being a skater girl.

left to right Nina Moran, Rachelle Vinberg, Ardelia Lovelace, Ajani Russell, Brenn Lorenzo, Jules Lorenzo

When did you start skating and what drew you to the sport?

I was twelve years old when I started and, honestly, I got into it because I saw my cousin skating. I was visiting him and his family at the time and I just had nothing to do while I was there. I just tried it, so I guess what drew me to skating was just doing it.

How did The Skate Kitchen form? 

I’m originally from Long Island and so I met one of the girls, Nina, and she lives in Brooklyn. I would just come out and visit her and skate with her. Then she introduced me to the other girls.  And Nina and I actually ran into Crystal, the director of the movie “Skate Kitchen” and the short film we were in. When she ran into us, she asked us about more girls and that’s when Nina got us all together.

Skating is seen as a very male-dominated sport.  And recently I was talking to my friend who said she always hears that, but doesn’t really know what that means.  What does “male-dominated” look like in the skating world?

Well, I would say, if you go into a skate park, you’re gonna see guys. You might not see any girls. If you just went up to people on the street and asked them to draw a skateboarder, they’d probably draw a guy. It’s that kind of stuff. When you hear “skateboarding,” think about it—you associate it as being something guys do. If you look around at skateparks, you’re gonna see boys. Even yesterday, some guy came up to me and said, “I’ve never seen a girl skate before.”  Things like that. So yeah, it’s super male-dominated. It’s not necessarily a bad thing—I don’t think it’s something men should be ridiculed for. In general, people think skateboarding’s just a guy thing. That’s why we’re trying to change it. We are trying to make it something we can all do.

Since skateboarding is so male-dominated, have you experienced sexism or misogyny in the sport?

Yeah, definitely. I feel like I’ve experienced “non-intentional” sexism. What I mean by that is, I’ll be walking down the street (I actually have this on video) I was walking down the street and this guy stopped me and was like, “Do a trick.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t feel like doing a trick right now.” He says, “It’s probably because you can’t do a trick. You look like a poser.” If you think about it, if I were a boy, he probably wouldn’t have stopped me on the street and asked me to do a trick. Why do you need proof that I can skate? I didn’t do the trick, but if I were a guy, he wouldn’t have stopped me. Things like that. Things you have to think about. It’s not like he said, “Oh you’re a girl and you suck.” But it’s the underlying meaning as to why he stopped me. And that still bothers me so much.

Did those experiences ever make you consider quitting?

No, I never really considered quitting. You know what it is? When I was younger I used to play tackle football. I was the only girl and it kind of felt similar to that. So, I mean, I feel like when I was little I had my group of friends who were boys that accepted me. I don’t really care now, but when I was younger and going into skateparks, I was a little bit self conscious. I think it’s important to just not care and not try to prove yourself to people. If that guy on the street asked me to do a trick, I’m not going prove myself to him because he doesn’t think I can do it. I don’t think that’s the right way to think about things. I think it’s important to just skate because you want to—not because you want to prove it to anyone else. But it can be intimidating—yeah.

Do you think it’s important for girls to have their own space in the skating world?

Yeah, I think it is. Well what do you mean by “own space”?

Well, my next question goes into this a little more, but the members of The Skate Kitchen are all girl skaters.

It’s not all girl skaters.

Oh! It’s not?

That’s one thing I think is really important.  I guess the main five or six of us are all girls, but we skate with boys.  We like to emphasize that we’re not just girls.  We skate together with boys and girls.  I think it’s important to have spaces—we’ll have all-girl sessions because it can be intimidating to go into parks with boys.  Personally, I like to skate with boys and girls.  But I know Nina likes to have safe spaces for girls.  And I like that, too.  But I like combining it and having everyone together.  That’s just me though, that’s not all of Skate Kitchen.

Since the skating scene is so male-dominated, there are now a lot of skate collectives.  There is the LGBTQIA+ collective Unity Skate and the Latinx women collective Brujas.  Do you see The Skate Kitchen as another collective for underrepresented skaters or do you see yourself as a friend group?

I think both. It’s important to have the authenticity of us being friends to make it work. We’re just trying to be ourselves as friends. And being ourselves as girls in this community within itself is trying to promote something positive. So it’s doing two things at once. I think it’s important to have authenticity as friends. We’re not trying to be fake or anything. I think it’s important to have a real sense of comfort between each other. And that’ll show on social media. You know what I mean? People will see the realness and be like, “Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to be.” That’s one thing we really want to make sure of—that we’re authentic and real. So it doesn’t come off as fake. If we’re real, then other kids can have their friends and have groups like that and do the same thing.

Where did the name ‘The Skate Kitchen’ come from?

Actually before I started hanging out with Nina, the name came about when I was trying to think if I were to own a skate shop what would I name it? And I was with my friends that were boys and we were coming up with names. I was thinking about when I would watch skate videos of girls, comments would always say, “She should be in the kitchen,” “that’s a weird looking kitchen”—things like that. You know that term, that girls get all the time?

Yeah, of course.

So I decided if I had a skate shop, I would name it ‘The Skate Kitchen.’ But then, fast forward a couple years later when I met all the girls, we wanted to make an Instagram account. That name kind of came back and I said, “Why don’t we just make it the Skate Kitchen?” Because we’re girls and we’re not supposed to be. That’s how the name came about.  But as far as the group, it came about when we met the director Crystal. She got us all connected.

So the name is actually why I thought it was all-girls.  How did you decide to include boys in the group as well?

Because we don’t actually skate together as all girls. We skate with boys as well. We’re the face of it I guess. My friend, one of the boys we skate with, has the Skate Kitchen [logo] tattooed on his chest. It would be so unfair to say we’re only girls when that’s so not true. I skate mostly with boys. You know what I mean? It’s like, I’m friends with the girls and we skate together, but it’s almost as if The Skate Kitchen is not just about skating either. It’s about friendship.

Have you seen skate culture change since you started?  I feel as if it’s become way more mainstream and a lot of skate brands have gone mainstream recently.  Have you seen that happen?

Yeah, I’ve definitely seen it. I see a lot more girl skaters now. I see a lot more fashion within it.  But also, when I lived in Long Island, and I only skated alone, I only skateboarded through YouTube videos. Now that Instagram came about, and I’ve moved here, I skate with a bunch of people. So I can’t really tell—I think it’s just new for me, personally. It definitely is shifting with the girls—for a fact. I can’t remember hearing about or seeing girls on social media. I think it’s becoming more feminine which is a good thing—also, more creative.

Are there other girl skaters you look up to?

So many.  There’s Laci Baker, Alexis Sablone, a lot of Instagram skaters like my friend Jenn Soto—she’s really good.  There are so many that are really good.

And how do you think skate culture, or just skating in general, has influenced your life?

So much. Everybody that I consider my really good friend and family, I’ve met through skating.  Literally everyone. So it’s weird to think about if I had never skated and who I would be. I was recently hurt and I couldn’t skate and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was really weird.

When you met Crystal, had you heard of her movie “The Wolfpack”?

No, I didn’t. She came up to us and when she introduced herself, she said she did this documentary called “The Wolfpack”. That night I looked it up and was like “Oh, she’s—this is a thing.” (Laughs)

Yeah, it’s a great movie.

Yeah, she’s actually a director. I saw part of it when I was home and that’s how I knew she did that. But before I didn’t really know her or anything.

So you watched her documentary—did that influence your decision on making the movie at all?

It’s funny, I don’t know. I saw it and then we hung out with her and we would just hangout for weeks. So I didn’t really know what she wanted to do. I had no idea. Originally, she wanted to do a little documentary on me and Nina, but she ended up just doing the Miu Miu short film.  After that, I would say we just became really close—all of us became super close. Then we made the movie. So it’s almost as if the movie felt normal. I knew “The Wolfpack” wouldn’t be like “Skate Kitchen” because it’s so different. I guess I just didn’t know what to expect. We all didn’t really know.

“The Wolfpack” is a documentary, but “Skate Kitchen” is scripted. Were you a part of the decision to make it a scripted film? Is it important to make the distinction?

I don’t really know the answer. I guess Crystal would know the answer to that more. But I don’t think it could be a documentary. Because I think the story she’s trying to tell—which is a story of a girl getting introduced to another group of girls from the city and being completely taken into that lifestyle—you would have to show that in a scripted story. You know she spent so much time hanging out with us. As we were hanging out, we were growing, and she wanted to capture how she first saw us.

Your character is also supposed to be from Long Island—is the character actually based on your life? How did she decide you were the lead?

Well all of our characters are kind of based on us in a way. I guess she wanted me to be the lead because when I first met her I was from Long Island and I had just met this group of girls.  They were showing me around and there was a lot of newness and I didn’t understand a lot of things. Everything was new to me, I think maybe that’s what she liked about it. I’m not really sure why, but I think that’s why. Oh well, it’s also because a lot of girls—as far as the intimidation thing—a lot of girls could relate to it. And the character is me, but it’s not completely me. I think a lot of the character is a representation of girls who are scared to skate and stuff like that—not necessarily skate. But scared to meet new people and go into a skate park. That kind of thing.

Did you have prior experience with acting?

The first thing I ever did was the short film. And I did something after that before the movie.  But that was really it.

Do you want to pursue acting further since shooting the movie?

I think I do, but I’m still not 100 percent sure. I don’t know what I want to do. I definitely want to do something with film because I just feel like it looks fun. I don’t know about acting. I want to do it, but we’ll just see I guess.

How was your experience with Crystal?

Oh—so much fun. It felt like summer camp. It was definitely hard sometimes because there was a lot skating and physical labor. Skating all the time and skating when you don’t want to skate. Skating’s something for fun, something you do when you want to do it. But then when someone’s telling you, “no do it now” and “you have to be really good now.” Oh my god, I don’t want to throw myself down a handrail right now (Laughs). But that was the hardest part.  It was so much fun.

It’s funny that you described it as a summer camp because for our last print issue, I interviewed Sophia Lillis from the movie “IT”,  and she also described filming as a summer camp! I think that’s so sweet.

Oh really! That’s what it feels like. It really feels like that.

What’s next for The Skate Kitchen?

What’s next? Well, I think the movie’s gonna come out and we wanna start going around and touring, setting up different skate events—and just have fun. We definitely want to go around.  

Crystal told me yesterday to post and ask, “Where we should go? What city we should go to?”  Like 800 people commented all of their cities. So I’m gonna tell her she has to read through those. So we’re gonna go around and try to do some more things. Just have fun I guess. 

Photos by Sophia Wilson

Styling by Jared Martell