When I was introduced to Cindy Whitehead I was super inspired by her. She’s the OG Badass Female Skater, founder of Girl is Not a 4 Letter Word, and an incredible figure in the skateboarding industry. Her ability to make a name for herself and succeed in her endeavors within what is commonly perceived as a male industry inspired me to go on a quest to interview multiple women who are kicking ass in male dominated industries. We started with Alyssa, Auto Mechanic & Fierce Female, and then we talked with Amanda Capritto, an awesome woman who’s dominating fitness, marketing, and life. Now, the time has finally come for us to share our interview with Cindy herself!
In your words, what does it mean to “live life balls to the wall?”
Cindy: For me it means living life to the absolute fullest, not wasting one second of every day and doing what you love. Going after things you want to achieve even if the goals are hard. Not being afraid, and if you are, pushing past it!
What does an average day of doing epic shit look like?
C: Getting up early (5 AM most days) hitting the ground running, making things happen, smashing goals, thinking of new, fun things to create and do, and finding ways to make it all happen! And a skate session at some point!
Do you have any rituals or routines you do every day for either your spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical health?
C: I really try to connect daily with the people I trust 100%, people who know me and don’t bullshit me – they keep me sane and grounded. I also fully believe that when my batteries get to empty, it’s time to go with what my mind and body needs, a fast nap, a massage, hot bath and/or some good food! Or sometimes a fast skate session or hitting a heavy bag works to re-energize me.
Have you experienced discrimination from peers/coworkers/sponsorships etc? How did you deal with that?
C: Yes, absolutely. When I was younger and competing I found other ways around it (most times) rather than direct confrontation. But I did stand up to boys who might have thought I was less than, or that thought they could push me around as I was one of the only girls. Now as an adult I choose to meet it head on and call it out. Especially if it comes in the form of cyber bullying, put downs or inequality regarding money, fair play, etc.
Were there people that stood out in your life as especially having your back? Or instances where someone really stood up for you?
C: My grandmother was that person for me when I was growing up and by her doing that for me, it taught me to do that for others around me. It gave me strength to know that I had someone backing me up and I want other girls and women to feel that they have that too. If I see someone being treated unfairly I will definitely step up and call that out.
How did you feel when you got inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame?
C: It was an absolute honor for sure and I am so appreciative of it. It also makes you realize that above and beyond the people you skated with, the public is appreciative of our contributions to skateboarding. It takes a lot of work to get ready for your induction – who is going to introduce you? Writing your speech, what are you going to wear? How many tables for your friends and family will you have?
But I do have to say that the award is the icing on the cake – you can not live your life and do what you do, waiting, or hoping for something like that to happen – you need to be 100% secure in your achievements and who you are, or else wanting that public validation takes over – and that isn’t what life is about. My mom used to tell me “Do your best and enjoy what you do. If you win an event or get an award, that’s wonderful, but it shouldn’t be WHY you do it”
Who do you think had the biggest influence on you? Have you always been someone who lives life unapologetically or did someone teach you to have that strength?
I have to say it again it was my grandmother and the people in Hermosa that I grew up with. I’ve always felt secure with who I am and where I am heading. But some of that can also come from always surrounding myself with people who do the same. To this day these friends of mine from the 70’s are loyal to a fault, which makes me know I can go out there and do my thing and they do theirs and all is good – it’s a great way to be able to live.
This beach town I still live in has always allowed me to be ME. Without those friends that I skated the strand with back in the very beginning I may have had less of that in me. I think we all lived that way daily and taught each other too as well. Hermosa Beach in the 70’s was a very accepting and freeing place to grow up.
Do you think the #MeToo Movement has reached sports? Is sexual assault & harassment a topic of conversation within sports or are we still fighting for equality? Or both?
C: YES! The #MeToo movement has definitely reached sports – with girls speaking out in gymnastics and swimming and most recently skateboarding, as well as a former male pro surfer sharing his story recently about a male coach that abused him. I think sexual harassment is a topic of conversation but unfortunately sometimes we as women feel it’s just part of the territory or the landscape we have to navigate.
It’s discussed like “so, it happened again today that guy XYZ purposely brushed my butt with his full hand as he walked by, and smiled at me right when he did it” and other girls/women will nod in agreement and say things like “yep, same thing happened to me yesterday!” Then they discuss or find strategies to remove themselves from that persons path in the future, if they can.
On the flip-side, I have seen women call out the bad behavior right when it happens, only to have the man say loudly “Oh right! You WISH I had done that, don’t flatter yourself!” So now she feels put down, he’s reversed the situation and she rarely speaks up again about it. So instead of women learning coping skills, how about we teach our boys and men not to cross the line? It seems like a much easier solution.
And yes, we are still fighting for equality!
What advice would you give to girls who want to enter into male dominated industries? Specifically, girls wanting to enter the sports world?
If you love it, go for it. Encourage other girls to come up the ranks with you – do not work to keep other women down. You may see being the only one as something great, but in reality there is strength in numbers – it becomes easier to push for equality on all levels when there are 20 voices saying it and not just one. Now get out there and slay the world!
In partnership with Girl Is NOT A 4 Letter Word0
Also published on Medium.