By Tarice L.S. Gray
The board sport industry, which includes snowboarding and skateboarding, is an $11 billion business. Skateboards represented 60 percent of sales in 2006 according to Surfline.com. Boarding may be dominated by white athletes like icons Sean White and Tony Hawk but African-American skateboarder Terry Kennedy wants to change that.
He is establishing himself in the sport, not only as a fierce competitor but also as a savvy businessman. So far the 25 year old athlete has a lucrative shoe deal with Supra, which markets The Supra TK Society, a clothing deal with KR3W clothiers and a new reality show on BET. And according to him, this is only the beginning.
We caught up with Kennedy between tapings of his new show “Being Terry Kennedy” in Los Angeles, and discussed his unlikely rise, hopes for the future, and staying true to himself.
Tell me about the new show on BET?
It’s about me becoming a mogul in skateboarding and conquering so much through that like music, fashion and actually being a family rooted person throughout all of it.
How did you come to choose skateboarding as a career?
[Growing up], you always you feel like you have to do certain stuff to fit in or if you don’t fit in you feel less of a person. Skateboarding has always been a thing to me, I never had to fit in. It allowed me to be who I was as a person top to bottom.
Who introduced you to skateboarding?
I came across it through my friend Evan, this kid I played basketball with in eighth grade. There was this local park that everybody met up with called Cherry Park in downtown Long Beach. And he told me about it one day after school, because I kept bugging him everyday after basketball practice. So I go up there and it was funny because I saw two other kids that lived in my neighborhood who did it, and they were black kids.
You have been able to make a name for yourself in skateboarding but is this actually catching on in our community? Is there an audience of color?
It’s weird, because now I got a skate shoe that everybody wears from Puff Daddy to Seal, his wife and kids, so who knew. I go through Compton, Watts, Inglewood wherever, any inner city, Chicago wherever, black kids skate. It’s a blessing, I would have never thought people would pick up on it the way they’ve picked up on it now. I’ve got the number one selling shoe right now. You rarely get people that don’t skate to buy into the culture. It’s been a blessing I’ve been able to break down that barrier.
It feels like a cultural movement but it’s also been beneficial in the building of the Terry Kennedy brand.
It’s more of us, but I’ve been blessed to be the one who stands in the forefront.
Who sponsors you?
My main sponsors are Supra shoes, Baker skate boards, Boost Mobile phones, Venture trucks, KR3W clothing. The first company that sponsored me was Baker Skateboards.
Do you ever think why you? How have you managed to find this level of success?
People told me it’s how I looked on the skateboard. Also, I guess I was African American – you rarely see that, and then my persona, the way I dressed, the way I carried myself…I was just this kid that’s from Long Beach who just happened to make it out.
Who’s your role model in the sport as an athlete and businessman?
Tony Hawk was the first person who took branding, marketing and even skateboarding to a major scale.
What professional advice did he offer you?
He told me to stay true to who I am and never forget where I came from. Whether you get some money in your pocket or not ,you’re always going to be the same person.
You mentioned music is also one of your endeavors. What are you doing in hip hop?
We’ve got a group called Fly Society, which includes me, my cousin H.I.T and my friend Felix. I got into music three years ago in 2007 and it helped me. I lost my mom, I lost my best friend and I got shot because I skateboarded and people didn’t like that. They thought it was a white boy thing. I just went through a lot of craziness. Then my cousin H.I.T. and Felix said you’ve gotta open up, because I never really talked about everything I went through. My cousin said why don’t you rap. I didn’t take it serious. Then he said, if people take to it, keep doing it. If not, you’re a skateboarder at the end of the day. So we did a record, put it on MySpace and we got a lot of hits and from their it was like the best thing. That door opened up for us and we took a meeting with Def Jam and they’re interested in us. So it’s a blessing.
What else does the future hold for you?
Just trying to be a mogul, like a Tony Hawk, Sean White, and put on the next Terry Kennedy.
Being Terry Kennedy premieres this fall on BET