Women of color skaters are rarely seen in media — but they're very much a part of skate culture. Photographer Adrienne D. Williams — a skater herself — is doing something about that, with MS. RPRSNTD, a photo project that shines light on the underrepesentation of skater girls of color. The exhibit — which will be ehxibited from September 8 through 10 in Los Angeles, at Space 15 Twenty — features skateboard decks decorated with portraits of women of color, plus photos of LA's women skaters. Williams points out that in the rare instances when representation of women of color does occur in skate culture, it's often in hypersexualized stereotypes, instead of images that reflect the talented, real-life women who skate.
"When skateboarding hit the scene in the '70s, there were very few women involved, let alone women of color," Williams tells BUST via email. "Peggy Oki is the OG. She was one of the original members of the Zephyr skate crew, Z-Boys. Since then, we've had women like Cindy Whitehead really make an impact in the culture. Skater girls of color have really started to make space for themselves in the past few years and it's amazing to watch. New York crews like Brujas & Skate Kitchen and really sick skaters like Beatrice Domond from Florida, Christiana Smith from Detroit and Jazzmen Chavez from LA are really doing it."
Of choosing LA skate culture for her exhibiton, Williams says, "With Venice Beach being the birth place of skateboarding, it only made sense to start here. the babes featured on the skateboard decks are a mix of friends, friends of friends and women that I have been a fan of on social media. I had to search for the skater girls. They just aren't as visible as the guys are, so I really had to dig. But once I found Christiana Smith who bounces between Detroit and LA, the rest of the girls kind of started to appear. But from what I've seen and what I've asked, there really isn't a solid skate crew in Los Angeles, yet. Hopefully, this project brings that sisterhood and sense of community to girl skate scene in LA, like the way it is in NYC."
Williams has a message for young girls of color who are interested in skate culture: "You don't have to wait for anyone to give you permission. You also don't need anyone's co-sign. Just get out there and try."
Check out images from MS. RPRSNTD below, visit the exhibit from September 8-10 at Space 15 Twenty in LA, and learn more at msrprsntd.com.
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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at email@example.com.