Dec 18, 2021

Pro Skater, Nora Vasconcellos, on Being the Role Model You Wish You Had

Tearing into the terrifying – often with resulting injuries – is part of the process of becoming a professional skater. And in Nora Vasconcellos’ view, sharing these wounds is an important part of being a role model.
by Shira Richmaneditor

You’ll find Nora Vasconcellos on just about every list of the best female skateboarders, but that’s not all. She is also revered as one of the world’s top skaters. Period. Since joining the adidas skateboarding team as its first woman in 2017, she has gained visibility and emerged as a role model for skaters and the wheel-averse alike.

Nora is surprisingly down-to-earth considering how much time she spends airborne. ©Zander TaketomoNora is surprisingly down-to-earth considering how much time she spends airborne. ©Zander Taketomo

Besides having sick skills, her bold approach to life, energetic personality, and creative point of view have earned her a wide and captive audience. Recently, she spoke to adidas employees about her first role model, her dream ally, and how baring vulnerabilities can be an inclusive act. 

“As a little girl, my biggest role model was a cartoon character”

Nora knew from an early age that she wanted to skate. Children, especially, find out what is available to them based on what they see. It just so happens that as a child, Nora found inspiration in an animated character.

Reggie Rocket was an action sports icon for Nora as a child. ©Mickey5101/nickelodeon.fandom

As she puts it, “For so long if you asked me who my biggest role model was, it was Reggie Rocket. She was the only girl on a cartoon of kids who did every action sport. They biked, surfed, skateboarded. It’s really adorable and cute to talk about having Reggie Rocket for a role model. But it is also kind of sad that as a kid growing up in the 90s, my first visual of a girl surfing or skateboarding was a cartoon.”

While her first role model was a cartoon character, she is doing all she can to give others more options. Part of the appeal of skating to her is that it is so accessible, a message she wants to spread.

"I am determined to show girls all over the world – show everyone – that they are included and that skateboarding is for them."

Skating is for everyone – and Nora is happy to show the way. ©Zander TaketomoSkating is for everyone – and Nora is happy to show the way. ©Zander Taketomo

“I want my ally to be 6-year-old Nora”

When exploring the role that advocates play in inclusivity, Nora identified her dream ally: herself at an age when she could have used someone to look out for her. This would let her get to the heart of what someone wanted who was still finding their way.

"I want to go back to myself when I first discovered skateboarding or when I didn't make the soccer team, which broke my heart. I want to ask that Nora, What do you need right now?"

She knows that this would make it easier for her to support others for whom she is now a role model.

Reflecting and imagining are important tools for allies. ©Zander TaketomoReflecting and imagining are important tools for allies. ©Zander Taketomo

Unable to have her actual younger self as an ally, she identifies the value of introspection. “I think people should look in on themselves more and have a conversation that is reflective and productive. We can do the deepest talking with ourselves. That’s why a dream ally would be either my much younger self or my much older self.”

“We could have honest and vulnerable conversations”

For someone who spends an impressive amount of time in the air – she’s known for her signature backside airs – Nora is surprisingly down-to-earth. An ardent advocate of authenticity, she has been open about her struggles, such as learning to skate and overcoming anxiety.

Seemingly fearless, Nora isn’t afraid to share what scares her. ©Zander Taketomo

She identifies the value of role models having candid conversations in public forums such as those hosted by adidas for both employees and consumers.

“People who would never have crossed paths if it weren’t for adidas could talk about what scares us. What we’ve had to go through – things everyone can relate to. We could put a few athletes together in a circle and let others listen as they tell their stories. Just talk about their aspirations, fears, and dreams.” As someone who is on an endless quest to increase inclusivity, Nora identifies these sorts of open conversations as a way to share the way-making, making it visible and relatable.

"I think an inclusive world of sport definitely starts with allowing the best and the brightest to have a voice. And we can use our voices to create the tools and spaces for others. "

Nora Vasconcellos

“When people who are seen as role models communicate openly, they make ways to the top more accessible for more people.”

These days Nora is on the move, searching for new surfaces to skate, as well as capturing content for editorial and video projects. You never know when you might run into Nora while she is on her travels. And otherwise, Instagram is always a good place to keep up on her adventures: @noravexplora.