There is nothing like sitting down with a celebrity for an interview and by the end of it, youíre completely in awe from the type of person that they are. Terry Kennedy gave me that moment. We know him as a young black skateboarder whoís been able to create an empire--reality show, clothing line, sneaker endorsements and more. Now, you get a chance to learn about the man behind all of the lights, camera, action.
Terry Kennedy was once the type of young dude that heís trying to motivate. He was just some inner city kid with no patience and determination to be bigger than his hood. Growing up, Terry faced losing his mother, his father and almost his life, but when he developed an interest in skateboarding, everything negative seemed to fade into the background. He stayed focused on skating and now heís the biggest [and more than likely, the only] black professional skateboarder that you know. With all the accolades and riches that have come from Terryís enviable career, nothing means as much to him as being that beacon of light for all those inner city kids of this generation. Terry took some time out to chat with us about why and how he gives back, how he stays humble and his big plans for 2011.
I was reading an article this morning on Eurweb.com that made the argument that reality shows were ruining the black community. Being that you are a black man with a reality show, how do you feel about that?
Whatís so funny about that is that every time someone talks to me, itís great feedback. They respect it because they feel itís genuine. I want my story and everything I do to be motivation to someone else to know they can do it. Terry Kennedy--lost his mom, lost his dad, been shot and been to jail--all this negative stuff, but somehow prevailed through the grace of God and my family. Thatís all I want to do.
Do you feel youíre creating a more positive image for the next generation to look up to?
I see my generation and now, theyíre going in a great direction. Thereís so many kids dancing, doing music and skateboarding--theyíre doing something positive. When I go back to my neighborhood, thereís so much positivity and we were never in a place like that. Now, theyíve got five skate parks, thereís things going on in the community--itís uplifting. Thereís a skate park in Watts! People had that perspective of me, but I think when the show came out, they were like, ďDamn, this kid had it rougher than me. How can we be mad at him?Ē Thatís what I want to be known for, thatís what I want to go out as--someone who just left behind so much positivity and motivation and showed everyone no matter the obstacles, you have to have faith to fulfill a dream.
Thatís refreshing to hear because so many are in your shoes--celebrities that are role models. Then you have other young black men out there like Lilí Wayne and T.IÖ.
That irks me! What people donít know about T.I. is how intelligent he is. If he shows people how smart he is, I think that would be so cool. For some reason, in black culture, itís not cool to be smart. I went to Alabama recently and I was talking to one of these ladies that marched with Martin Luther King. She pulled me to the side and told me she respects what Iím doing. I explained to her that weíre in a different time now and itís up to us. Itís not about somebody putting up the finger, but itís us saying we can and making a difference.
I love challenges. When I picked up skateboarding, it was the best challenge for me in the worldÖ.Everyone put me down about it. They told me to grow up, it wasnít going to last, it was a white boy sport and Iím suppose to gang bang and do negative stuff and if not, Iím not a reflection of Long Beach. I dealt with it. I never got mad at it. I just did what I needed to do and came back around to show that itís done. Thatís always been my character. I want to live for the positive and push the envelope. I want to be the Michael Jordan of my time, where you just dominate everything in a positive way. Iíve been through the ringer and I am still positive and believe.
Youíre a living example of what hard work can really do. I know a lot of people think negatively about that, feeling that fortune isnít for everyone, but what do you say to the little dudes out there in Long Beach, Wyoming and Florida that want to be Terry Kennedy?
Put in the work. Donít cut corners. If you cheat life, life will cheat you. Thatís one thing I learned. Let me do all the ground work, no short cuts. Iíve taken the necessary steps. So I say to anyone, take the necessary steps. If you want to be a pro skateboarder, practice. Have fun, dream and study. Donít let anything else come in front of that. You sit yourself down and you ideally think how you want to do it and go about it. Have patience--thatís one of the best things I can say. With patience, it brings things because itís not forced.
You have very deep roots in your family and youíre spiritual. For you to have so much abundance in your life and be surrounded by the fame of it all, how do you keep your feet on the ground?
Iím blessed. Where I come from--skateboarding--thatís what naturally got me in this position, on the phone with you and saved my life. Skateboarding is what keeps me away from everything I donít need to be around. The skateboarders I look up to--Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, Rob Dyrdek--these are the guys that showed me what I wanted from life will come from skateboarding--a positive thing. If Iím not around skateboarding, I feel everything would just fall. I have a fear of not doing anything. When Iím on a skateboard, Iím doing something positive because Iím motivating someone else to do something good. I canít allow something to drift me away from that.
What did it mean for you to be the captain of Pharrellís Ice Cream Skate Team?
He showed me that I do have the chance to change the direction of my neighborhood. All the kids coming up now arenít going to want to gang bang. Theyíll pick up sports or start a clothing company or shoe brand. Theyíll have the idea to look on to see that they can do it. Pharrell sat me down and told me that I could change the direction of my neighborhood because I represent everything from here. If I come out, do what I need to do--skateboarding--I can lead a lot of people in the right direction. I told him how much it bothers me that my neighborhood is still a mess, thereís drugs, gangs and Iím tired of it. Thatís where my family is and Iím tired of going back there and seeing that. Being the best you could be was the entire mission of Ice Cream. He put an all black team together to show the youngsters that we could be cool in doing things differently. When I go to my neighborhood now, thereís five skate parks. When I came up, there were no skate parks at all. To go back and see five of them, itís clear the direction weíre going in now.
Whatís your new yearís resolution?
Itís time for me to start up a Terry Kennedy Foundation. I was with Tony Hawkís and weíd build skate parks in inner city neighborhoods. That went well, but itís time for me to start having my hands in it.
I really want to give back. I want to give kids something to feel empowered about. I just want to give back the love Iíve been given.
Whatís coming up next?
Kr3w Denim is in skate shops and some urban stores. Weíve got music--Fly Society as well. Weíre going to be releasing some things soon. Thereís a video coming soon. If I get a second season of my show, then plan on seeing that on BET. I have a lot of positive things going on. Weíve got a Supra shoe dropping this year. Thereís a lot more--shoes, clothes, music and skateboarding.
I know you said you have music coming out. Do you feel itís reflective of the stance you take with every other aspect of your career?
Yes, itís just boisterous. I told you all the things I went through in life and now thatís to some music. It allows me to have therapy. I never had a chance to talk about my life. Iíve always been the kind of person that goes through it without speaking on it and push it to the back of my mind. Itís always been there. Music is my therapy. I get to talk about how things were coming up in Long Beach, the odds, what I had to face and how I overcame it. Itís the typical challenges growing up in the inner city and Iím speaking on that--where I am now and where I want to be. I love it. Music allows me to have therapy without sitting with a counselor. Iím not glorifying anything. Iím just telling people to not go through it, itís not the route. My youth--nephews, cousins and brothers--Iíll speak to them to show them that they donít have to live that same life I did. I like a positive challenge. No one has the right to tell you that you canít do something. Iím going to prevail. Iím not out here shooting, killing or selling drugs.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
Hopefully I will continue to be monumental, to encourage and motivate and live on. I want my story, message, skating, clothes--everything to live on and show the ones coming up behind me that they can do it.