The Ones: Briana King
The model talks rediscovering skateboarding when she needed it most.
Words: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. Click here for more stories about the cast.
Briana King’s life story is anything but regular. Growing up in Los Angeles, she discovered skateboarding before taking a break from it to pursue other passions. Her mother’s watchful eye kept her somewhat sheltered but didn’t stop her from eventually moving to Australia on a whim.
Australia quickly became home. Briana began a career in modeling that seemed viable long-term. Out of nowhere, a mishap with her paperwork forced her to leave the country after just five years.
At that point, in early 2017, Briana seemed to have lost it all: her visa, her modeling career and her friends. She went to New York City next, where she connected with a few people on Instagram. One of them became a close friend and reintroduced her to skateboarding. Being back on the board turned into a cathartic ritual for Briana, who has been riding diligently ever since (often in AJ1s).
Her life, thus far, sounds like the making of a coming-of-age film, with elements that are relatable to any young person just trying to figure it out. However, at the age of 25, Briana and her story are still being written.
What were your thoughts about the skate scene before you were in it?
I was obsessed with skateboarding. I grew up in California, and it was all around me. I watched videos. I was obsessed with skaters. In my head, I’ve always been part of the skate scene, even when I was a kid and felt like I wasn’t allowed to be, because I was a girl.
I picked up skateboarding again when I moved to New York. I had a friend from Instagram who skated. I started, stopped and then picked it back up again after a lot of drama. It made me feel better.
What is the biggest misconception about you as a skater?
The biggest misconception is that I’m doing it for the glow, so that I can get more jobs. I’m a skater; I’m in this for skating. This is what makes me happy.
Is there ever any fear when you skate?
I’m always scared. I think that’s why I love it. When I’m skateboarding, I think about how scared I am but also how well it’s going to go. I don’t think about anything else. It always works out.
Do you remember how you got any of your scars?
I was skating to one of my friend’s art events when I got this scar on my wrist. It was cold outside, and I didn’t have any gloves on, so I had my hands in my pockets. I skated over a giant pile of chicken wing bones on the ground. I got caught on them, and now I have this gnarly cut from chicken wing bones.
I got this other one on my knuckles when my board popped up. My brand new grip tape just demolished my knuckle.
Heard you broke a rib.
Yeah, I broke my rib at the skatepark in the Lower East Side. There was a filmer there, and whenever he pulls up, you have to be extra. While flying through the park, I fell on the simplest ollie and landed on my elbow. My head flung, and I broke my rib.
Both skateboarders and models have an interesting relationship with error. They don’t see it in the way that others might. Be it a bail or an audition that results in injury or rejection, neither is a final destination. These unfulfilling moments are necessary checkpoints on the way to becoming successful.
Do you see more girls at the skatepark nowadays?
I make an effort to teach other girls how to skateboard. I’m there for their first ollies and kickflips.
I know that a lot of girls are uncomfortable at the skatepark. So before I go, I’ll be like, “Pull up here. There are going to be a lot of girls. We are going to be comfortable. No need to be nervous.”
Are there any noticeable differences in the cultures of male and female skateboarding?
A lot of male skateboarders are scared of being super dorky, happy or bubbly. As girls, we bring that. We don’t care. We’re going to fall, we’re going to laugh. When we land it, we’re going to be like, “YAY! WOO!” There’s a happy vibe among females in skateboarding.
If you could define what you bring to skateboarding, in one word, what would it be?
Authenticity. Authenticity is my favorite word, because I’m goofy and lanky and weird, and skateboarding put me in a place where I can be more comfortable. As a model, I’ve always felt like I needed to look a certain way, but when I’m skateboarding, I just look crazy all the time. I am finally just being myself, and it feels really good.
While there have been moments warranting fear throughout Briana’s journey, her confidence and realness are unwavering. Her conviction beams from her. She literally glows when she talks. Her tone is equal parts inviting and defiant — the making of someone who’s just beginning to fulfill her full potential.
What do you see happening in your world in five years or 10 years?
I see myself helping, empowering and teaching other women. I see skate clinics. There aren’t many women in the skate industry. I’d love to be there for the younger girls who want to start skating and see somebody they can look up to. That’s what’s going to happen in my world.
Imagine your skate park with all your friends and disciples. What does that look like?
In the LES with my girls, we’re just going to be shredding.
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