Personally homeschooling all of her children, living in isolation and raising them in the Rastafarian way of life, Kelle Huston’s story is anything but typical. As a family, the Huston’s lived and breathed skateboarding, even buying their own skatepark in 2004, where young Nyjah and his dad would train daily. At age 7 Nyjah became sponsored by Element and by 12 and 13 he was already earning over $300,000 a year from sponsors and endorsements. Itching to find out more about their extreme upbringing and what makes Nyjah tick, I got in touch with his mom, Kelle, to discuss over email. This is just a small snippet of her story, and it’s fucking insane.
Nyjah is one of the most talented skateboarders in the world. He is loved but also receives his fair share of hate and criticism. Why do you think that is?
As his mom, this is a tough one for me. I hate haters! Basically, I think he is a legend before his time. Skateboarding is so very hard and for the typical guy that has to try the same trick dozens of times to make the land, it just doesn’t seem fair to see Nyjah make the hardest tricks look so effortless. But he is still a youngster – hopefully one day he will get his due respect.
In photos of you at Street League or events, there are comments about you being a Cougar or MILF. Does this bother you?
I’ll take it as a compliment, but I actually prefer comments about my character. Definitely not the MILF or cougar type.
You raised your family in a strict Rastafarian lifestyle. How did you initially get involved and attracted you to this way of life?
I was always the black sheep. Raised by a conservative, country club going family, I was always attracted to what was on the other side. My children’s father, Adeyemi, was my boyfriend in sixth grade and also the bad boy in town. I was attracted to his rebellious attitude, even though my parents forbade me from seeing him. In our senior year of high school, we got back together and both of us grew into the Rastafarian way of life. For me, it was a philosophy that really questioned the purpose of life and helped me to look deeper within myself. I became a very spiritual person and I played a very traditional motherly role, which came very natural for me. We purposely separated ourselves from society and basically lived as a mini cult. As our children got older, I started to feel that the strict restrictions of our lifestyle were holding them back from progressing in life, so I made a choice to let go of my belief system. This led to the break up of my marriage and a separation of our family. I am still a very spiritual person, although I have thrown out the concept of a belief system. I like to practice kindness.
”We purposely separated ourselves from society and basically lived as a mini cult”
What specifically made you feel as if this upbringing was preventing your children from progressing in life?
Basically the kids were getting older and wanted to be a part of society – go to school, have friends, meet girls, etc. They wanted to have choices and become themselves, not just be a reflection of us. I was supportive of their teenage curiosity, but their dad was not in agreement. So I chose them over him.
Did you personally homeschool your children? Was there any type of curriculum you followed or methodology you followed?
Yes, I did personally homeschool all of our children. I had a structured academic curriculum for the basics like math, reading and writing. History we taught from our own perspective, not from that of a text book. Everything else was taught organically through our lifestyle which included travel, horticulture, nutrition, construction, and lots of skateboarding.
What was a typical day like living on the Huston farm?
Woke up when we wanted to, ate three strict vegan meals a day together as a family, fed all the animals, cleaned up lots of animal poop, helped Pop with whatever the current project was at the time, carried water up to the house to fill our plumbing fixtures, picked coconuts, mangos & passion fruit, cooled off in the river, went to town to skate or shop, watched lots of skate videos, rode dirt-bikes around the farm, played lots of board games and listened to reggae music on blast constantly.
How did your family financially support itself while you lived on the farm in isolation for several years?
Skateboarding and weed – quite a combo.
I read somewhere that your family purchased a skatepark when your kids were still very young. Why was skateboarding so important to your family and was “the dream” that one of your children would become professional skateboarders?
We purchased a skatepark in 2004 and we got an amazing deal. Our 15,000 square foot building was leased to us for about $.10/ft. We never hoped or dreamed for any of our children to become pro skaters. It was more just like a family activity. Their dad was a skater back in the day and it was something he enjoyed doing with them. It was also a “sport” that fit into our autonomous lifestyle. The family outings to public skateparks and famous skate spots just kind of turned into a family passion. All of our boys were talented on the board. And once we had the park, it was 6 days a week of skating of them. Nyjah, in particular, just had so much natural discipline and could skate alone for hours. The other boys were more like “social skaters” and liked to skate with their friends. Nyjah’s discipline pushed him way ahead.
”Nyjah’s natural talent on the board became their dad’s main focus as he had a child that he could push to the limits”
Was Nyjah always so driven and disciplined with his skating or did his father make him become this way?
Nyjah was disciplined from birth. He was a text book baby that cried when he was hungry and smiled when he was satisfied. At the very young age of two we started to see his OCD tendencies. He would pick out his clothes for the next day religiously and stack up his toys in the same order. He basically did everything in a particular order, always. When it came to skating, he applied his discipline and OCD behavior which helped him to master his basic skills. Now his father was the kind of guy that was very hard to please. All of us were always trying to gain his praise and respect in our own ways. Nyjah’s natural talent on the board became their dad’s main focus as he had a child that he could push to the limits. Nyjah was extremely obedient and hated to be scolded so he was always trying to impress his dad. The combination of Nyjah trying to perfect himself and please his dad at the same time created a super talent that is almost uncanny.
Do Nyjah’s other siblings skate? How have they reacted to his degree of success and fame?
Yes, all of our children can skate. Even our youngest and only daughter Isha used to drop in a 4 ft mini-ramp at five years old. For Nyjah’s two older brothers Jahmai & Ahbi, it became discouraging because most of Pop’s attention went to Nyjah. It’s kind of hard to create a “normal” life when you were raised so alternatively and then your younger brother becomes a skateboarding superstar. But we all saw it coming and they are doing the best they can to create successful paths for themselves. Nyjah’s younger brother Kiade is still in high school and loves to skate. He actually loves tranny which is a breath of fresh air. He is hoping to get better and possibly get a flow sponsorship. Youngest sibling Isha has always had a special spot in the family being the only girl. She gets a lot of attention being Nyjah’s cute little sister.
In your opinion, do you think you could compare Nyjah’s relationship with his father to Michael Jackson’s upbringing with his father / manager?
I do not know too much about Mr. Jackson, but it seems like a similar scenario. Five kids that were directed into a mutual talent and then the one “superstar” became the obsession to the point that it became a smothering father/son relationship. Most of us might not agree with their parenting methods, but must admit that they brought out the best talent from their sons.
Nyjah’s dad owns and holds in captivity a great deal of footage of Nyjah skateboarding. Do you think it will ever be released?
The footage… according to his father while on the witness stand during our divorce trial, was destroyed. Nyjah of course did not believe this and secretly plotted out a way to sneak in and steal it. When he arrived at his dad’s apartment, the landlord said he was no longer living there. Then we did not see him for three years. The idea that over three years of footage was completely gone, motivated Nyjah to film Rise & Shine in three months flat. As it stands, I have all of the footage from ages 6-11 and we assume dad still has all of the footage from ages 12-15. I am pretty business minded, so maybe one day, we can collaborate and make a crazy movie.