Society (and well the world itself) is a pretty fucked place for a woman, but I’m not delivering anything new with that, I might as well tell you red is a color, or 2 is a bigger number than 1. No matter what, you seemed to be concealed to certain expectations and as we get older, we come face to face with that realization. “You’re this, so you shouldn’t do that”, “You’re not supposed to do that, you’re this”.Can’t, won’t, don’t, you get it all whether from a societal standpoint, and often it can be close ones who should support you no matter what (and this can apply to all minorities). Yet, in times of judgment and being pigeon-held, it gives many who are doubted the fuel and opportunity to “play the hands they’re dealt or change their cards”. To not let being the odd one out stop them from doing what empowers them Which is something dope to see. In a time where women rappers are dominating the charts Billboard Charts, Serena Williams is one of the most celebrated athletes, you name it, there’s at least someone to help represent the minority, and for the skate culture that’s mainly faced by men there a shit ton of kick-ass women skateboarders on the streets and in the professional circuit. In that lane, there’s one collective that is making incredible waves, Skate Kitchen.
With a yellow, amateurish but yet charmingly drawn banana as their logo, Skate Kitchen is a skateboarding collective bred out of NYC (the city that never sleeps and a shit ton of songs dedicated to it). Like everything great, there’s always an origin story to some level. The collective that came to be starting with Nina Moran. In her Ted-Talk in 2017, she adulated her enjoyment of skateboarding and explained her journey of how the collective came to be. Growing up, as she began to pick up skating and like many, it became an outlet that made her feel she was beyond limitations. Yet, she wasn’t the most extroverted person who made friends left and right, so with that mind, she didn’t have many people to share the experience with. That was until she started to hang out with a few skaters in middle school, whom she always thought was cool. You’d think things would become peaches and cream, however as she progressed and improving as a skateboarder, her guy friends became more snotty and demeaning …… basically they were being total dickheads towards her and women the idea of women skateboarding, as one of the guys told her in a conversation: “There’s no point of women skateboarding because a woman won’t ever be as good as a man is at it”.
With them intimated by her skills and tired of dealing with remarks like that, she switched gears and decided she needed to find more girl skaters to hang with. With that game plan in mind, it reached a dead end as simply put: they weren’t any around. So like many of us, Nina took up the approach people use: when in doubt go on the internet and try to find people. Looking up “girl skaters” (assuming she made sure to make it localized), she came across Rachelle Vinberg, engaged by her skills and videos, she messaged her and they began a friendship online to eventually meet up at an All-Girl Skate session two years later. Soon after, she would meet DeDe Lovelace & Ajana Russell. The groups’ documenter Kabrina Adams aka “Moonbear”, and twin sisters Bren & Jules Lorenzo. The girls would greatly bond together as they often skate and converse about…. well, anything like most friends does. Soon their everyday routine would become more as they would meet director Crystal Moselle.
Director of 2015s “The Wolfpack” Crystal was riding the G Train in New York and saw Nina and Rachelle, captured by their colorful and standpoint aura, she walked up to them and asked “Would you be interested in making a film?” as you know, as one does. Then took them out for a cup of coffee and they were all for it, as “they’ve never been out for coffee with an adult before”. Rachelle speaking to Collider about that mentioned: “I always knew about people approaching people because my dad would tell me stories, when I was little, about people getting approached on trains, and then going into movies, so I secretly always wanted that to happen. So when it happened, I honestly didn’t think it was weird because I knew about it happening.”
You gotta love NYC. For a year, they would spend time with each other getting to know one another, hang out at Rachelle’s place, and soon that time would be used to prep them for their acting debut as in 2016 with their first project with Crystal “The One Day”. (SPOILER ALERT!!) Starring Rachelle, and based on her experiences coming to New York, as a quiet introverted teen with an itching to skate. Who goes to a skate park that pretty much has an abundance of guys and deals with mockery and judgment from them there. After taking a fall, she’s helped up by Nina and DeDe and immediately comforted and encouraged to keep going. She would be welcomed by the group of friends with open arms and there’s a heartwarming moment as she tears up as she confesses to them as if she writing in her journal (or talking to Oprah) on how for a long time, which may have felt even longer, she felt alone and invisible to the world, but ever since meeting them she doesn’t feel like a lost soul away from the world roaming for a destination. Now instead feels a part of something magical, a close family. About the short Crystal explained to Teen Vogue: ”I always wanted to make a documentary on them. I based it off of Rachelle’s experience coming to New York and it’s called “That One Day,” so it’s kind of like, that one day when you’re a young person and you shift to recognizing certain things — you recognize your sexuality, you start getting interested in things that as a kid… You’re not playing [anymore], you’re adulting, almost.”
.After the short film, was where a moment of eureka happened, as Nina and the rest decided to become an official collective. Figuring out a name, they stumbled on the old (and extremely fucked up) joke. “women belong in the kitchen”, so as Nina stated in her Ted-Talk “we’re skating in the kitchen”, a title that’s has subtle empowerment and acts as a “fuck off” to those that have jokes for women skaters. BOOM!! Skate Kitchen was born.
“I had planned to do a documentary after that [The One Day], but after showing the film to Kim Yutani at Sundance, she said, “You need to make this into a feature, this is working,” so I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m going to make a film. How am I going to do this?” I threw all the rules out that I had, like, OK, I have to make a documentary because these are documentary subjects. I just went completely with my gut and my instincts.”. After the acclaim of the short film, the Crystal would get the green light to continue to expand upon the Skate Kitchen crew and work on a feature-length film. With a few months of filming in NYC and casting a role Jaden Smith, the film would soon wrap and be named… Skate Kitchen.
Skate Kitchen, once again, stars Rachelle as an introverted teen who has a mom who forbids her from skating and soon finds herself coming across Nina, Dede, and the rest of the collective. There on she builds a strong bond with them, but not with falling for Devon (Jaden Smith) who happens to be DeDe’s ex. While isn’t necessarily the most groundbreaking film to exist, the film is a coming of age story with an angle to look from that we don’t get to see that often. It has charm, it’s heartfelt at times but yet when needed, it can put you in the shoes of Camilles (Rachelle) lonesomeness. The characters feel authentic and serve a purpose with a natural flow between them all, Which makes sense they are playing altered versions of themselves but it’s also impressive as well since they’re not professional actors (minus Jaden), so this could have easily been a cluster fuck of a film with choppy acting and moments of them looking directly in the camera during their best takes. Damn near a documentary to a degree (the way it’s filmed at least), a film that’ll honestly make you appreciate your friendships you have and you help appreciate the little moments of joy you have in your day, as throughout the collective are close together like their handcuffed: supportive, critical, but not taking things so seriously and laughing at each other (You know friendship stuff).
With it being a darling at Sundance, positive reviews, and being certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie wouldn’t become a worldwide success however, it caught the attention of HBO execs, giving Crystal the thought: “Maybe it’s not finished and we’re supposed to keep going with this.” as she spoke to the Guardian. Soon the collective would go one step further by getting their own show on HBO called “Betty” starring the collective. The show takes a few notes from the movie while crafting new storylines for the characters. Pretty much adjusting the universe, which isn’t a detriment, it makes it more accessible for people that may not have seen the movie or know about it, who can go into the show blank and still enjoy it on its merit without having to know certain details or catch up with their previous work. With the first season airing in 2020, it dealt with serious subjects of sexual assault while balancing it with vulgar but light-hearted humor, now with season 2 planning in 2021, Skate Kitchen is continuing to grow.
What makes the collective special is a bundle of elements. Now, for the record, they’re not strictly an all-girl skating crew and don’t only specify to skate with women. Rachelle spoke to Collider explaining: “We can’t have an all-girl crew. We’re not an all-girl crew. You can’t just have a battle of the sexes because that’s not at all how it works. We needed a boy to be in our group, which there was. We skate with boys. That was one of the things that I remember emphasizing and being worried about.“ It’s not about setting a divide between men and women, it’s about “Women can skate, so let’s show they can”. They’re always showing support to fellow women skaters, encouraging beginners to keep trying or give one a helping hand if they take a fall (which I mean I’d most people do that or you’d be a dick). As mockery followed for years for being a woman in a sport that is mainly faced by men, They hope to encourage other women to pick up skating and not feel intimidated by the stigma “Women can’t do this” or “Women don’t do this”, even besides that the idea, just encourage them to do it despite their hesitation of not being good or it’s difficulty learning. Watching Rachelles’ vlogs on Youtube, you get plenty of moments where she encounters women skaters as she’s with her friends and immediately approaches her and talks to her as if they were old friends catching up for the lost time. Chatting it up, inviting her to a girl-skate session, and even giving her number. In another video, sees her (once again) skating with her friends and she sees another girl skater as she accidentally gets in the shot Rachelle says: “No don’t be sorry! you’re doing good; you’re supposed to be skating”. They give off a homely vibe to all of those who and want to skate.
With that they help represent unity and the beauty of a community, highlighting why many pickup skating to begin with. As nicely puts it during her Ted-Talk: “When a girl starts skateboarding something magical happen. When you get on a board you feel like you can fly and go wherever you want”. Like picking up an instrument, We’re invested in the culture and want to have fun and join in on it ourselves, once you do you feel like you have something special going on in your life, soon you eventually meet people who have the same passion as you do and you bond over the love of your hobby (or possible career). They exemplify how dope it is how something can bring many people together. Now, of course, they’re not the first women skaters to gain notoriety and people may question their skill-set, but it’s not about that. With them going from the streets of NYC to being in a short film to a feature film to an HBO show by just living their everyday life, says a lot. Now, they can be the influence to women skaters (whether kids, teens, or adults) even more now that there is getting even wider and lionizing confidence to countless other women who may feel pushed to the side and want some form of escapism or a moment of fun. In essence, they illuminate the motto: “If we can do it, you can do it”.