Cartoon characters for many of us stood as idols while growing up at a young age, whether she/he was a myth-busting bad*ss, a rollerblading shark, a boss that would take on the impossible, or a sassy, tomboyish skater girl that had the smarts, the brawn, and the aspiration for greater things. Hailing from Pembroke, Massachusetts, now living in Oceanside, California, pro skater Nora Vasconcellos looked up to one such idol, the latter of the aforementioned: Regina “Reggie” Rocket from Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power. However, while most of us have only memories of acting out our yesteryear idols, Vasconcellos has accomplished the feat of embodying hers. In fact, the adidas Skateboarding-sponsored athlete has risen beyond and is now spearheading the future of her culture, along with only a few others worthy of the responsibility.
While skateboarding has always been a male-dominated landscape, Nora, along with her peers, are giving the men a shred for their money, proving yet again that women are not only equal but are evolving the realm as a whole. In a bid to get to know her better, as well as her mindset on her own accomplishments and the current climate of skateboarding, we sat down with Nora during the private premiere of her debut short film for adidas Skateboarding, filmed by Webby award-winning Giovanni Reda that’s simply titled Nora, which you can watch below.
To start, from another interview, you mentioned you used to watch Rocket Power back before you even started skating, and was especially infatuated with "Reggie." Do you feel a bit like Reggie now?
Totally, I feel it the most when I get really simple things, like direct messages or when I see a girl at a skate park and they come up to me and they know who I am. It's huge to feel like you're making any type of positive impact on somebody’s life, so it’s super exciting. It just so happens to be a cartoon for me, but it’s kind of profound that just something like a cartoon character can change the course of somebody’s life. To me, that’s so interesting and I think it's a really good way for people to reflect and think “hey, what can I be? What are my ambitions?”
There’s definitely a lot of people who look up to you, like our photographer Emily’s little sister for example. Yet she’s still facing criticism for being a girl….
Yeah, sometimes it’s still really difficult to be taken seriously. That goes for any woman in any industry, so I think that in a lot of ways, having her sister find inspiration in what I’m doing is the greatest part of this whole thing. Especially in doing all of this with somebody like adidas, a brand that’s that big and influential.
How would you compare the skating landscape back when you started skating a lot compared to today?
It’s changed so much, and I also think it’s really cool to be a girl skateboarder now. It's really trendy to be a girl who doesn't give a f*ck, who wants to do whatever they want to do, and in a way, that’s really empowering. Also one of the things I’ve noticed is women who are intrinsically motivated; women who are doing really well on their own, for their own benefit, and to feel good for themselves without anybody else's influence, that has really been a huge change. I think that for so long, sure, you could do something wonderful, but you’d still be trying to get somebody else’s approval or trying to prove a point. It’s changed so much from that, and I think it’s only going to get much better.
Was your ambition to always be a pro? Or were you in it just to skate?
No. It just happened. With the whole going pro thing, my entire goal with skateboarding was to figure out how I could do it more. So in high school, it was, "okay, I work five days a week so I can get gas money so I can take my family car to go skate on the weekends." Or, "when I graduate I can move to California and work in the skateboarding industry to be around it all the time, live somewhere where it's beautiful and filled with skateparks, and just always skate and be around friends." It was always to just do it more. Then as things happened, especially when I moved to California, I learned more about what took to be a professional – actually, to even be in the industry on any level. You see how devoted people are, how much people love skateboarding and you're like, “oh, this my place!” So I think it was only natural that because I wanted to be the best that I could be, that I would take that route in trying to be a professional.
Can you describe the feeling/emotions/what you were going through when you first found out adidas Skateboarding wanted to sponsor you?
It was a “pinch me” moment; totally life changing! I knew then that I’d have many trips and things to look forward to, so it was really motivating.
What was adidas as a brand to you, especially in terms of skating? Any different from knowing it just as a brand compared to now being involved?
adidas to me has always been timeless and about individuality. I love how it blends skateboarding, art, music, and sport. I love it more now knowing people who work there and seeing where they came from. Something about pro athletes who cross over to work in design and in the brand is really amazing to me. It’s like a big family over there. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.
What about Welcome Skateboards, which is another sponsor of yours?
For me, Welcome has always been my place. Being involved with the company for so many years and during so much growth has been one of the greatest experiences. It’s great to go in there on any given day and feel like I never stopped working there. Jason Celaya and the guys always have something new going on – new art or a project. It’s the best.
"I think it’s so important for there to be successful women in any industry, so I am glad to be doing my part while just being myself!"
You're a pioneer for women everywhere and an icon for female skaters. Understanding the weight of that, can you describe as best as you can what that truly means to you?
Well, that’s a heavy title, but thank you. It was never my intention for things to unfold this way, to have so many eyes on my skateboarding, but I am so happy I inspire others. I think it’s so important for there to be successful women in any industry, so I am glad to be doing my part while just being myself!
To help others understand, what sort of personal challenges have you gone through in skating?
Everyone has their own story. I think the biggest challenge I overcame was creating a place for myself where there wasn’t one. To persevere through denials, failures, and discover a niche for my skating by just being myself. A huge part of that required me to get out of my comfort zone and that taught me so much.
What about life in general?
Every challenge I’ve encountered as a skateboarder correlates to my day-to-day life. Whether it was finding my place or just learning to get up after I fall. It’s a lot of hard work but I can’t imagine leading a life off my skateboard.
How would you describe your own skating style, and who are your main influences?
(Laughs) I don’t know if I can describe my own style. I definitely try to skate everything. I was really into surfing as well and I think that’s a reason why I skate so much transition.
What do you feel is missing in skate today? And what do you think can be done to change that?
I think skateboarding is in a cool place because there is something in it for everyone. I believe that skaters need to have more respect for each other. It’s important to try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes instead of jumping to conclusions and judging them. I think this is a lesson that transcends skateboarders. Everyone needs to develop more empathy for one another.
We're about to watch your debut skate film with adidas Skateboarding. Can you describe what you're going through in a sentence?
I am going through life on a skateboard (laughs). The doc is mostly about where I am from and what inspires me to be the skater I am. It also showcases my excitement of signing with adidas and all the cool stuff that happened this past year. I like to describe it as a “feel good” piece. I hope it will encourage others to follow their passions, especially with the new year coming up.
What do you want people to take away from the film?
I hope it empowers people and gives them an insight into the struggles women face in certain industries because of their gender. I think there are quite a few topics discussed in the film and everyone can take something from the story. I really hope it inspires and teaches people who feel discouraged in their current position that they can do whatever they want if they work hard with a positive attitude.
Something a bit easier now - what are your guilty pleasures in life, other than skating?
Ice cream! Also dancing, karaoke, Netflix – not Netflix and chill – but like watching Netflix with my girlfriends and falling asleep. Hanging with my cat. Nature… I like when I get to go home to the East Coast and spend proper time in the environment that I grew up in. I definitely have a lot of different activities that I love and they all complement skateboarding in their own way, but it's also good to escape every once in a while.
Having spent some time all over the U.S., what are a few of your favorite haunts?
Smitty’s Downtown in Vista, San Diego has Karaoke, so I go there a lot. Handles Ice Cream up in Encinitas, California. When I’m home I go to the Lucky Dawg Tavern & Grill in Pembroke, Massachusetts, they have karaoke on Sundays. Where my dad and brother live out in the cranberry bogs is where I like to just hang with the family. I also go to beaches… I have a lot of different places that I like to go.
Lastly, what does being a MISSBISH mean to you?
Being a MISSBISH means being yourself – being unapologetically yourself. Doing whatever you want to do, but doing it with grace and with a good attitude. I would never want to make somebody feel bad, but at the same time, I'm not gonna let anybody else's opinions discourage me from being the best that I can be.