In the time since we had her on our site, Briana King has built up quite a big following all without any major skate sponsors.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Briana is a bubbly skater who has been using Instagram to host local meetups for girls and LGBTQ+ skaters across the world. The meetups have been a tool for beginners to come together and learn the basics of skating in a judgment free zone filled with likeminded people.
So when Andale Bearings recently launched their “No Hate We Skate” Campaign and asked if there was a story we thought that could help spread the message, we tapped Briana, who has dedicated her life to uplifting these communities. Maybe her story can offer an extra bit of convincing for those who are too stubborn to look to the future.
What was the main motivation to get your meetup series started, and how long have you been doing it?
It’s been two years, but how everything started was I got injured as fuck. I ended up bruising both of my knee bones. I couldn’t bend them at all. I chipped my elbow and I hurt my jaw really badly. At that point, the only thing I’m basically doing is skateboarding, so I’m like, bitch, I don’t have anything else to do with my life, I’m still going to hang out at the skatepark. I would just be sitting there and other girls would pull up and ask for tips.
Then online people just started saying, “Yo, your homie said you’re good at teaching, can you help me?” I was like yeah, pull up, whatever. Then like two years ago, I had a meetup at Blue Park and maybe 20 people came. It happened really organically. It was just me hanging out at the skatepark not skating because I was injured, but it felt like I was skating.
Did you always know you were a good teacher?
Hell no! When I first moved to New York, I would hang out with Yazmine. I was a fucking leach on her. I didn’t know how to talk at all, I was the fucking shyest, dumbest person. I was so socially awkward, so teaching and talking to so many people wasn’t really like conversations. All I really had to do was tell them what to do, it just made me more comfortable talking to people.
I’ve always been an introvert, so for me, teaching skateboarding really helped me open up and speak and talk and just find who I am. It wasn’t until I started skateboarding, that’s when I became a lot more confident and happy with myself. I felt like I had a purpose. The only job I ever had my whole life was modeling. I was like, “Okay, I’m cute, but like what else? I’m wack” [laughs]. I was always wack, low key.
When you first started these meetups, did you ever feel you weren’t cut out to be a teacher?
No, because I had zero expectations. I just saw myself as a homie who was helping another homie. That was not something that ever crossed my mind like, “Am I good at this?” Both of us are happy in that moment. I’m happy telling this person what to do and they’re happy to listen to me and that’s all that really matters.
Have there ever been any haters that pull up to a meetup and start making a big deal that you’re having these events?
No! I feel like, everyone is pretty fucking nice. All the dudes at the park are usually like, “Yo, I haven’t seen this many girls before, this shit is crazy!” It’s always been hella love all the time.
I had one at El Sereno, and then someone across the street ended up calling the cops and they pulled up because there were too many people at the tennis courts skating. I was just like, “Yo, I’m just trying to teach these people how to skate. It’s a bunch of girls and queer people that are really uncomfortable.” And they were just like, “Alright, it’s okay.”
When guys show up to the meetups, does that ever create any issues?
Well, it’s also for males too, who don’t identify as straight males. But there have been guys who show up and in my head, I’m like, “Honey, I know you’re not straight.” I’ve had a lot of guys come out after a few meetings. They’ll be like, “I’m queer, I’m out!” and I’m like “Yeah, you are! That’s why you’re coming to these meetups!” Like, the fuck?!
A lot of the girls will be like, “I wish all sessions could be like this all the time,” or “Girls are so much better.” And I’m like nah, this is just a moment to make us feel more confident in our skating and help each other, but we could skate with the dudes. It’s not just girls only, we should be comfortable skating around dudes. Dudes are cool and they’re not all evil, just the internet ones are [laughs].
Your meetups are for women and are also LGBTQ friendly. Are there any difficulties overlapping the two communities at once?
I think younger kids and their parents feel kind of awkward sometimes. I’ve had parents ask, “…Is that a boy or is that a girl?” It’s also a place where I have to teach adults who are bringing their kids to skateboard that there are people who are trans and gay and queer. It’s a place where I just teach parents more than they knew before. It’s cool when the parents are there skating with their kid too. I have parents learning how to skate with their daughters.
“They were going to skate a four stair and it was the first time they let me skate with them. I went and skated and I broke my leg that day.”
What drew you to skating, to begin with?
I grew up in LA, so there’s skateboarding everywhere. Whenever there was a new part dropping we would watch it at school, because our teachers were skaters. Then I got a skateboard one day at the swap meet. I was in 7th grade, so I was 12. I got this fake Zero board, like mad fucking happy going to school. The [other kids] were like, “Bitch, that’s fake, you can’t skate with us, nah!” [Laughs] They were like, “Meet us when you could ollie.”
It was honestly like five weeks of skating until they were going to skate a four stair and it was the first time they let me skate with them. I went and skated and I broke my leg that day. I came home and my mom was just like, “You’re never skating again, period.”
How long was it before you picked it up again?
When I was 24.
That’s a big gap.
Yeah [laughs]. When I got to New York I saw that there was hella girls skating. My first session in New York, I went to a House of Vans sesh and there were so many fucking girls that were beginners and everybody was on the same level. It was really fun for me to learn with a bunch of chicks that were all beginners too. I finally felt comfortable sucking big ass balls, you know? [Laughs]
You lived in Australia between LA and New York, right? Why did you move there?
I just felt really weird growing up in LA. I grew up in East LA and Montebello, which is predominantly Latino and Asian, so I always felt really uncomfortable being the one single Black person all the time. I didn’t like it there, I wasn’t happy, so I was like, “I’m just going to go to the furthest place where they still speak English.” So I went to Australia, and there still wasn’t any fucking Black people! [Laughs] But it was all on a whim. I didn’t really plan anything. I had to take chances to find my happiness.
How do you pick the cities to do your meetups at?
My inbox is poppin’ [laughs]. I have a book and whenever someone DM’s me I write the city and put a tally. If 30 people write to me from one city, I feel comfortable going there. I don’t really think too much about it. I’m just like, it sounds cool and I’m just going to go and do it.
My first few meetups in LA, I had like five people show up and it was so rad. Those are some of my favorite days, when there are five people because you can talk to them throughout the day and make a connection.
You did one in France, too. How did it work? I guess people there sort of know English, right?
No they don’t! They don’t! That was the best time of my life. They don’t know what the fuck I’m saying, but I would touch them and give them a thumbs up. It sounds so weird, but I was so much more hands on. I would move people’s shoulders and move people’s feet, like on their board. It just worked out somehow.
I had one person translate with me, but she was with her girlfriend so she was hanging out with her, but when things got too complicated I would ask this one girl to help me with basically 20 people. Everyone learned a new trick that day. It was more difficult and a little more stressful, but I think it was a lot more fun. I remember being so excited that we could communicate through skateboarding without knowing the same language. I ended up skating with the girls the rest of the day. We skated the city, we went and got dinner. I didn’t know what the fuck anyone was saying, but it was so sick.
The last tour you did was sponsored by Zappos. How do you get a big non-skate sponsor for something like this?
Before I was working with Jordan, I was working with DC, so I was doing sponsored posts for DC through Zappos. I brought them the idea I had of going on tour, just as a friend to friend type of thing because we were friends outside of being coworkers.
I didn’t care if I had to waste all of my money, I just want there to be a bigger [girls’] scene because they always tell me they’re scared. I’ve made so much money because of skateboarding and my friends teaching me how to skate, so I don’t care if I lose my money. And my friend was like, “My job can give you a budget so you don’t have to waste your own money. All you have to do is wear our clothes or our shoes.” I wore the clothes to the shoot and posted like once a month to my Instagram and then they gave me like a $250 gift card to give away at each meetup. I had 10 total meetups with them. I had five different cities and then five meetups in LA.
It’s always a mystery what goes on behind the scenes on sponsored things like this.
At the end of it, I literally made no money. They’d give me a good amount of money, but I would book my flights last minute as fuck, and I would get nice ass hotels, and then after meetups, everyone would be like, “Do you want to go out?” and I would be like “Drinks on me, Uber XL, don’t worry about it!” [laughs]. At the end, I probably had like $100.
There’s always the question of brands profiting off of inclusion. What’s your opinion on brands in skateboarding doing LGBTQ+ friendly initiatives?
When it comes to skateboarding, I guess I feel happy that they’re moving forward. I could only feel so positive when it comes to skateboarding, but when it comes to other companies, like clothing companies and fashion companies, I think it’s so trash and so weird because everyone in the fashion scene is already freaking black and already gay and it’s been built by a lot of trans gay black people and they should’ve already been doing it. They already know the predominance, and all of them are late.
For a long time, people in skateboarding were afraid to come out or be different, so I understand why skateboarders are slow and late to the trend. I’m just sort of like, “Thank you for being progressive,” but everything else in my life I’m like, “Y’all are mad late.” Everybody has been speaking up and talking about it and they are being slowpokes and y’all are wack as fuck.
A lot of brands have been hitting me up since the Black Lives Matter shit has been going on and like LGBTQ. A lot of brands have been like “Hey, we want to hear your voice, blah blah.” Like nah, I don’t need the money right now, and I’m not going to profit off of your shit brand. That’s not the motherfucking clout I want, so I could fucking pass.
Is there any particular approach that skateboarding could take that would be different from what we’re seeing now?
We need black people or gay people that are organizing and producing the shoot, so hire those people who are actually producing what the fuck is going on rather than just being the talent. We actually know what’s going on. It feels more authentic instead of just picking out random-ass gay people, random-ass black people. If you are hiring the gay person or the black person, they know who is real in the scene, who is putting in work, and who is an actual activist. It just comes out authentic and cool and sick and amazing. You don’t have to hire that one person to do everything. They could work with who is already in that position. Just give them more control.
Does it feel like you’re not doing enough work-wise right now due to COVID-19?
No, since I can’t teach in person or hold my meetups or anything, I decided to start a Tik Tok because the majority of the people who come to the meetups are kids, and I know there’s a lot of kids on there. I’ve been doing a bunch of how-tos. I have like 150,000 followers and I’ve had my account for like a month and a half, so it’s been pretty cool because I’m still able to teach online.
Do you think there’s a difference between the communities on Tik Tok and Instagram?
100%. It’s a bunch of people who have no clue. Like people on my Instagram, they’re intermediate and already have an understanding about skateboarding and they ask questions about backside flips and other tricks like that.
On Tik Tok, everyone that follows me is under 16, and they’re like, “How do I turn to the left?” They just have no clue at all and they ask the craziest questions that I’ve never heard someone ask before. A lot of them aren’t on Instagram so when they’re having a problem I’m like, “Oh just write me on Instagram,” because that’s the only place where you could send a video and it’s easy for me to help them through a video rather than words. And they’re like, “My mom said I can’t have Instagram.” [Laughs]
Do you see any sort of growth for this meetup model in the future?
What I was planning on working on was just the production. I would love to be able to have more people who are with me that are teaching and I could build a brand around them. I could always have teachers, but the girls don’t want to be taught by anybody, they want to be taught by me because they’re like “It’s Briana.”
I have Yazmine and Danielle, and they have hype around them, and it would just be cool if I could build a following for some of my other homies so they could have girls who are fans of them and we could travel together and make better tour videos, and put out better photos so these brands and companies that we’re working for have better product to post to their websites and feed and everything. It’s very achievable and I’m going to make it happen. I just need a little team.
Have you ever dealt with any really intense skate parents?
No, but one little girl’s mom is always there and her cousin is [a famous pro skater], but the mom is always like, “Teach her, teach her! Do you have free boards?!” I’m like, “I know your cousin could hook y’all niggas up, why you gotta take all my shit? Y’all niggas got money!” I’m always like, “You can hit me up for a private lesson,” but I won’t do that either, so I don’t know [laughs].
I have a lot of parents who hit me up with younger daughters who are obsessed with me and they offer me like $500 an hour. There was this one guy at Tompkins and he would always bring his daughter and I would just skate around with her on my board and he would give me like $250 bucks.
Do you ever get overwhelmed at meetups trying to help too many people at once?
Yes! [Laughs] It’s so overwhelming and it takes the most amount of energy in the world, but I don’t really notice until the end. In the moment, I’ll be running around in circles and non-stop talking and moving. I feel like I’m on drugs, like legit, it feels like I’m fucking high [laughs]. Like AHHHH! Then, at the end, it’s just like the worst comedown ever.
“I was crying in this bougie fucking hotel, like “I don’t give a fuck about my money, I don’t give a fuck about my life, I’m going to kill myself.'”
Do you think if you didn’t have these meetups you would still be skating?
You know how I said that I left LA because I wasn’t happy? I started taking antidepressants, then when I got to New York, I was staying at the Conrad Hotel on the Hudson River, crying in this bougie fucking hotel, like, “I don’t give a fuck about my money, I don’t give a fuck about my life, I’m going to kill myself.” Like period, the end, you know?
But I had skated with Yazmine that day at House of Vans and that week I went off my fucking antidepressants, and I was like, “This is the feeling I’ve been looking for my whole life.” It felt so good. I never had homies who I felt comfortable being myself around, so I was like, “I’m going to keep skating forever because this is where I feel the most comfortable, the most open, the most happy.” So even if the meetups weren’t my job, or brought me income, this is my life and what showed me how I’m supposed to feel and what I was searching for my whole life.
Have you ever considered doing influencer meetups where you teach people the skills of being an influencer.
Oh, really? I was kinda joking.
There are enough fucking humans in this world for everyone to do what I’m doing. So it would not make sense for me to not teach everyone to do what I’m doing. When people ask me how I built a following online, or how did I do this? I’m like, literally, I did not fucking try. I don’t know who I would teach that [laughs]. I would be like, “Uhhh, hey guys, don’t try?” [Laughs]
I always make sure to shout out my friends, and when it comes to companies hitting them up I’m like, send me the contract, I’m gonna negotiate the money for you. Maybe I could be a mini shitty skate agency so all the skaters who are getting hit up to do sponsored posts. I can help everyone out and make sure they get paid right. That would be easier for me. I’m basically already doing that, so if I could have that more organized that would be [kiss sound] chef’s kiss.
“Everybody isn’t a poser, they’re just beginners.”
Where do you think the next steps are and the next sort of areas where skating could grow?
There’s a lot of bullying going on online, especially in the younger skate community. We are progressing as skateboarders, but the kids that are super duper young are watching older clips and older skaters and they see how gnarly and shit the vocab they were using was and that’s how they’re acting. I think a lot more peace, and nice, and cute campaigns for the younger crowds would be the next fucking move.
There are a lot of girls who write to me online who stopped skateboarding completely because of the comments they’d get and it just really sucks. These little boys have sisters and cousins and they wouldn’t talk to them like that. I don’t think they really understand that they need to be more open to beginners. Everybody isn’t a poser, they’re just beginners.
That’s a big debate, the culture of coming down on posers and getting vibed out at a shop or spot. Supposedly, it used to happen to everyone, not just if you were a girl or gay, so there are some people who argue that it’s “just part of the culture.”
In person, it’s overwhelming to be welcoming to everyone coming to the park, so I feel that to a certain extent. You can’t just dedicate your time to being cool to everyone. I don’t want to be at the park every day like, “Yo, what’s good! How are you?! Let’s do this! Blah blah.” It’s exhausting.
But the fact that people go out of their way online to be evil, that’s different. It’s different than ignoring someone because you don’t want to talk to someone rather than going out of your way to be a dick saying, “You’re only doing this because it’s trendy.” Nobody was like, “I just really love the physics of skateboarding,” or, “Oh, I just want to flip my board around my foot and then land on it.” Like no, y’all thought it was sick as fuck and that’s why y’all wanted to do it!
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