If you would ask me to conceive of a love letter to NYC’s downtown culture, my answer would be Betty, the new HBO series centering on a young women skater crew and movement.
The six-episode series introduces us to a tight-knit group of girl skaters and follows their everyday lives as they navigate the male-dominated world of skateboarding. Breezing through familiar neighborhoods with their skateboards and iconic streetwear fashion, the girls of the show introduce us to a budding subculture often tucked under lack of representation in the media. On the show – as well as in real life – the characters played by real life skaters are the most stylish Gen Z’ers out there.
That said, if you’re wondering what the next streetwear fashion trends will look us, look no further that Betty. Each woman has her own take on streetwear style. The show’s stylist, Camille Garmendia, pulled inspiration from cool Lower Manhattan brands like Iggy, Vanna Youngstein, Boys of Summer and, of course, Opening Ceremony.
In 2016, documentarian Crystal Moselle discovered Nina Moran (Kirt on the show) and Rachelle Vinberg (Camille on the show) one day on the G train. Moran was recounting a story to Vinberg about a girl she made out with. Moselle was charmed by their colorful personality, and the skateboards the two were holding, tso she approached them on the train platform (the most NYC casting move ever). Since then, they have created the hit Sundance drama Skate Kitchen, and now Betty, an extended version of the movie, creating another entry in the SKCU (Skate Kitchen Cinematic Universe).
The actors are all members of the real-life skating sisterhood who merely play fictitious versions of themselves in the series. They include Rachelle Vinberg, Nina Moran, Dede Lovelace, Kabrina “Moonbear” Adams and Ajani Russell. The group’s name is a way of reclaiming the idea that “women belong in the kitchen.” They quickly launched to Internet fame after accumulating over 100k followers on Instagram, and they’ve been inspiring legions of young women to pick up a board ever since.
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Skating subculture in NYC, especially when it comes to women skaters, is on the rise and beginning to garner more media attention. While Skate Kitchen is the subject of the most recent uptick in inquiries, there have definitely been predecessors. BRUJAS, is one of the biggest New York native skate crews that’s redefining the culture. It started as “a house party somewhere uptown,” and has brought about a rebellious creative spirit, producing spaces that are resistant, as mentioned in this feature by Red Bull Skateboarding.
BRUJAS is an urban, free-form, creative and autonomous organization that seeks to build radical political coalitions through youth culture. The group expresses community through skateboarding, art and political organizing. The most impressive aspect of the collective is how it engages the local community through independent educational and political initiatives. They hold events on topics such as self-defense, music recording, politics, and prison abolition. The BRUJAS main goal is to build a radical coalition among youth worldwide, using creative media like streetwear, parties, literature, music and skate videos to spread their messages. Awareness of such a subculture is especially important during times like these, where populations worldwide are mobilizing in the fight against oppression and systemic abuse. BRUJAS organize community workshops, legal help funds, local art galleries, and after-school activities for youth in their communities. This small crew of skateboarders has since branched into and inspired the formation of many other collectives of local activists in New York City, all working to empower the youth of their communities.
It may be wise for us to look into these subcultures and learn from the communal spirit of creative organizing, and the value and power that lies within empowerment and unconventional means of education and community building.