Valeria Kechichian loves board sports, gender equality, drumming, nature, dismantling the system and eating cake. Not necessarily in that order.
Born in Argentina to an Armenian family Valeria had a complicated childhood and even more complicated teenage years (who didn’t, right?). She struggled with self-esteem and couldn’t find meaning in life until she packed her bags and left for Europe at the age of 20.
Today, this passionate woman is the co-founder of the Longboard Girls Crew (LGC), the founder of the NGO Longboard Women United (LWU) as well as a public speaker and, in her own words, ‘a strong advocate for change’!
Inside/Out: Tell us about your crew.
Valeria Kechichian: Longboard Girls Crew (LGC) is a global community that supports, promotes and empowers girls, women and minorities in male-dominated sports such as skate and longboarding. It was created in 2010 in Madrid, Spain, with the initial goal of drawing more girls into the sport. Over time the community grew - we’re currently in 60 countries - to become the biggest in the industry, breaking stereotypes and social norms around the world.
Empowerment – we’re stronger than what we’ve been taught;
Community – lifting each other up;
Diversity – portraying girls and women of all ages, shapes and race.
We inspire through exposure. Sometimes we need to see someone doing something to realize we can do the same.
Motivated by the huge impact longboarding and LGC have had on the lives of thousands of girls and women around the world, we have created an NGO: Longboard Women United (LWU) that uses skate and longboarding as a tool for change in extremely vulnerable places. Some of our projects include working with orphanages in India, with survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia, with refugees in Europe, with disabled children in Chile, and in extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods in the US, Brazil and Argentina.
What are your thoughts on empowerment and feminism?
Real empowerment comes from within. The change always starts there, in our inner world. We need to clean and heal our traumas, anger and frustrations to be more and more connected to our inner selves, to our true potential.
It has been really beautiful to see so many girls and women empowered through skate and longboarding, doing something they never thought they would do and feeling stronger than ever because they dared to do it.
Feminism still has such a bad reputation. So many people assume feminism is the same as sexism. To me, feminism means equality. And by this I don’t mean that everyone is the same. Rather, I believe everyone should have the same opportunities in life. That is feminism to me.
Tell us about your work as a gender equality advocate.
I’m happy I have the opportunity to speak at so many events about equality and true empowerment. I share what I learned with LGC and how the message out there for women has always been a negative one: competition between ourselves, how looks matter more than anything else, absolutely not achieving our true potential… Women (and men) are waking up around the world - the revolution is already happening.
In your industry, what particular challenges or obstacles have you experienced as a woman?
The first years were pretty brutal. I was trying so hard to get support from the action sports Industry and nothing happened. At one point, the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the industry told me openly: ‘What you’re doing is nice, but we’re never going to support you.’ This was when I realized that many of the men that have been running the industry since its existence were not happy with women having this kind of power. I had two choices: keep fighting the industry or do my own thing, hoping that what we were doing would resonate with women around the world. Today, I am so happy to have taken the second option.
Photo: Noelia Otegui
What challenges do you find women are facing in general? How can this be improved?
I think one of the biggest challenges is still linked to the relationship we have with ourselves. We’ve been taught so much crap for so long that we somehow believe it. It is hard and unpleasant to unlearn all those social commands, media bombing about our bodies and society’s norms about our true potential. But again, the change starts inside, in our inner world. That’s where the revolution must begin.
What does your community consist of?
We’re an online and offline community. We have crews and ambassadors around the world, in 60 countries. They gather, learn from each other, do their own videos - all following the LGC values. Every girl, woman, trans or non-binary person who skates is already part of the community. We support each other and grow strong together.
Photo : Theo Gosselin
Who or what helped you get where you are today?
Many people and myself. I started this adventure with four amazing former partners: Jacky Madenfrost, Carlota Martín, Jesús Asensio and Monica Mandenfrost. And then myself, because I blindly trusted my gut, my intuition, that inner voice that told me this was the way. That is still my main guide. On the other hand, so many people have helped me and LGC through the years that it’s insane. People who believed so much in the project that invested their time, money and knowledge to help out and make it happen, even in those rare times when I was drained and out of hope because it was too hard or it wasn’t working financially...
Overall, who takes care of you? Who or what makes you stronger?
I take care of myself - on being stronger every day, working on myself and the wounds that need to heal. My friends and family also help by inspiring me and by giving me opportunities to heal - sometimes through challenges, sometimes through a more peaceful kind of love!
So many! Working on the global official launching of the NGO. LGC is also in the midst of a makeover. Work work work!
What are some resources you would recommend to our community?
Define what you are, what you do, what you want. Search for it and focus all of your energy on your goal - it will make it easier to reach. When you’re in the middle of chaos, this is the right time to get creative.
Nobody’s perfect. Do you ever fall off the wellness wagon? And if so, how do you get back on track?
For sure! I remind myself that I’m human and this is normal. We’re all here to learn, love and create. Sometimes ego takes over. Sometimes I feel down. Sometimes I’m affected by something happening outside of me… I’m learning to accept every emotion as part of a process and not identify with the sadness or anger I feel. I work on accepting my light but also my shadows. We’re made of both. Our personal evolution includes not seeing them as two separate things.
A mantra or motto?
All great changes are preceded by chaos. I also ask “what would love do?”.
Love. Light. Expand.
Tell us about your rituals.
I meditate (almost) every day for at least an hour. It helps me balance and fill myself with the energy I need. I also find a lot of inspiration through meditation. If I have an important talk to give I like to build it in meditation. This works very nicely.
I also have a pretty healthy life. I don’t drink, do drugs, smoke or eat meat. Not that I’m saying that any of these things are terrible. There were times when I used to over-consume them and I feel much better without now. I sleep when I’m tired, I try to stay connected to my body, I exercise, do Kundalini yoga and I’m very careful of what I expose myself to. I try not to read much news and I like to surround myself with people who inspire me. I also don’t follow any fitness or fashion accounts on Instagram!
You’ve lived in Argentina, Madrid and Lyon. What role does travel play in your life?
These past years I traveled a lot for work. I’ve also been living on the road for the last two and a half years, so it’s quintessential to my life. Traveling empowers me and is a great source of education. I talk so much about society and the system that I love traveling and talking to everyone, seeing how they live, how they thrive, what they aim for… Not much money is required in my case. I always say my monthly expenses are way lower than the ones I had when I had a house, though I do want to settle down again. It has been beautiful and extremely transforming but I want to focus more intensely on all my projects. I’m looking forward to having a home again.
Books are a great way to travel as well.
Where have you been and what’s next?
I’m in Argentina at the moment and I will stay here for a couple more months and then back to Europe. Not sure what’s next yet.
What role does music play in your life?
Music uplifts me. I love Karen Drucker who is super spiritual but I also still like some punk and hardcore bands that I’ve been listening to all my life. I also listen to songwriters, folk, country.
What do you do when something makes you unhappy?
I eat cake!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Running our NGO and helping a lot of people. Being happy.
What inspires you more than anything else?
Nature. Flowers, plants, animals… and love. Love between humans in all its forms.
How can our community help?
If you like what we do you can help promote our cause, community and NGO through social media, private messages or talking about it with your friends and family. You can also become a monthly donor of our NGO here and help children, women and communities around the world. Thank you!