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This professional skateboarder challenges what it means to be a skater

As a black woman and a professional skateboarder, Christiana Smith aims to challenge that standard, one ollie at a time.

Photo by Lauren Jeziorski

When you think “pro skateboarder,” 20 year-old Christiana Smith probably isn’t the image that comes to mind. You’re most likely to picture someone like Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek – two skaters that have gained tremendous success both in and out of the skate park. But as a black woman and, yes, a professional skateboarder, Smith aims to challenge that standard, one ollie at a time.

Hailing from Southfield, Smith has participated in extreme sports competitions across the country since she was 11, placing in tournaments like Skate Like a Girl’s Wheels of Fortune, Michigan Amateur Skateboard Kontest Series, AGA Nation Cup, Top AM International Contest Series – and she was recently invited to test the half-pipe that was temporarily installed in the Fisher Building.

Showing up and showing out, Smith says she lands a place in the top 10 at almost every competition. While celebrating her sweet victory, Smith says she would often overhear disgruntled parents complaining about their child’s loss.

“I’ve had a dad go up to the judges afterward and be like, ‘How did she beat my son?’” Smith says. “I guess the parent at the time didn’t want his little boy to be beaten by a little black girl.”

Instead of allowing the naysayers to discourage her on her path, she capitalized on the moment by creating a 2014 YouTube video entitled Skating in a Dress? The short film examines Smith’s life as an anomaly and how she redefines what society deems a woman should act and be like.

“They’re going to judge you no matter what you do,” Smith says in the video. “So do what you want and don’t care about what other people think of you. To me, that’s the only way you can truly be happy. And that’s not just meant for girl skateboarders or black girl skateboarders – that’s for any and everyone.”

Her video has garnered over 11,000 views and positive messages of support on YouTube thus far, inspiring her to start A Positive Seed Co., a line of T-shirts, beanies and stickers with the mission of spreading positivity and inspiring people to grow.

“It’s about planting seeds of positivity in the world and inspiring other people to do the same. I really realized that after my Skating in a dress? video,” Smith says.

Alongside competing and operating her company, Smith works for the Michigan Girls Riders Organization. Every Sunday afternoon at Modern Skate & Surf in Royal Oak, Smith and a group of girls of all ages, races and experience levels meet to learn about the fundamentals of skating.

“The best part about it is seeing the generation of kids who grow up and go through this place,” says Smith. “It’s such a positive environment where parents can drop off their kids and be in a safe space.”

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