Chandler Burton on Makeup, Monster and Making a Living
Chandler Burton is one of those rare mysteries in skateboarding that defy any real tradition. Sometimes he’ll be hucking backside flips down big sets in The Bay, clad in a standard skater’s outfit, then the next thing you see will be a goth-inspired drag persona dolphin flipping at the Dime Glory Challenge. So with a new killer part on the books for THERE skateboards, it was time to touch base with this enigmatic force. Friend and photographer Kyle Seidler talks early sobriety, drag inspirations, impostor syndrome and aspirations to make the Monster squad—as seen in our March ‘23 mag.
Wild tricks, raw talent and costumes, Chandler put everything he loves into this part and it paid off
First things first—where are you from?
I’m from Costa Mesa, California.
Would you consider yourself a Mesa park local?
Yes, I grew up there and used to sleep in the big bowl, so yeah, for sure.
Forget Disneyland, Chandler finds a rollercoaster in the wild, 50-50 from the top
Thrasher readers probably know you from the Bottom Feeder video you made with Matt King. Tell me how that came about.
It basically all stemmed from Grosso’s Love Letters when I did that episode with him and the Six Stair team. I was inspired to do what they were trying to do with the LGBTQ+ skate thing. I wanted to spotlight skaters, but just kind of do it in more of a video format instead of interviews and stuff. I wanted to make it a little bit more raw, edited skate stuff and then also have a community vibe to it as well. It was kinda inspired by Unity.
I’ve seen hoodies and shirts with that Bottom Feeder logo, too. Is it turning into a brand?
I’ve been trying to say it’s not a brand for so long, but yes, it’s my brand. I’d say it’s more like a crew, or more so it’s a community, but also it’s a brand at the end of the day.
Sketchy characters mingle with full-on superstars in Bottom Feeder's newest holiday special
What were your first sponsors?
Pitfire Pizza—it’s a pizza place in Costa Mesa. They used to give me coupons for free pizza. Also Active ride shop. I was on that program where you would get discounts. It wasn’t like I was on on, but I was locally on.
How did you get on THERE skateboards?
Jeff Cheung, who is the owner and founder of Unity skateboarding, I asked him, “How can I be a part of the team?” He was like, “You’re on. Anybody who’s queer can be part of the team.” So there’s not really a set team. I would go to the meetups and it was just so fucking cool and so inspiring. I saw so many people who skated that I could relate to who looked and felt like me. That was such a relief because I had to kind of hide who I was for a while. I had been getting Antihero flow for a while, which I was so stoked on, but Jeff finally asked me, “Do you want to ride for THERE?” They are out of Deluxe Distribution as well. I was like, “Fuck yeah!” I definitely feel like I’ve gotten some opportunities to skate for other brands, and it’s no shade to them. I feel so lucky to have those opportunities but there’s something that’s in my heart that connects with THERE and I will be there probably ’til the end.
Caballaerial from roof to runway on some Greco shit
What was it like turning pro for THERE?
That came at a weird time in my life. I definitely wasn’t expecting it at that time. I knew it was gonna happen that year, but I didn’t know it was gonna happen that quickly. Deluxe had kind of brought up getting board graphics figured out and I was like, Oh God, then the day came when it happened and I was in kind of a weird spiral. I’d been filming this part that I’m working on right now called Castle Freak for Thrasher that’s supposed to be a THERE pro part. I had been putting so much pressure on myself and it really affected my mental health. Just showing up at Garvanza skatepark to a surprise pro party, I was shaking. There were so many people. I had been struggling with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, but I feel a lot better now that I’m finally done with this part. I’d say that there was some impostor syndrome, for sure. I didn’t feel like I deserved it or worked hard enough, but I will always feel like that. Everybody that skates feels like they’re not good enough or they haven’t contributed enough, but now I finally feel like I have after finishing this part and I’m kind of stoked and looking forward to my future as a pro skater.
How has life changed for you since turning pro? Are you making a living as a pro skater?
No. I don’t get paid by most of my sponsors. But don’t get me wrong—I’m very grateful that I have them. I get paid a little bit by CCS and get royalties from THERE, but I really don’t make a living off of skateboarding. I make more of a living off modeling and stuff. It’s a thing I’m a little insecure about and that’s kind of why I’ve been spiraling so much because I felt like I really want this part to be good enough to maybe show that I am adequate, you know? But I think the real important thing that I figured out for myself is feeling adequate—not in the industry but in myself personally and just fuck the industry, because it’s always gonna be fucked, honestly. It’s something that I’ve tried to figure out and understand, but there’s no figuring it out. It’s not necessarily the people I’m working with, like TMs who have any control over it. It’s a bigger systemic thing behind a lot of these brands and I can’t really be bummed at them because it’s just kind of how it is being a gay man in skateboarding. Just like I’m sure women have felt in skateboarding—they probably don’t feel adequate all the time. It’s a similar thing as a gay man in society—I am seen as inadequate and made to feel an extra responsibility to prove myself to these big brands to make a living as a professional skater. So yeah, I’m just gonna fucking skate and do my shit. If people fuck with me, they do, and if they don’t like my shit then whatever.
So many sick LGBTQ+ skaters are coming up now. I wholeheartedly agree brands bear a relative responsibility to be taking care of the skaters whose image they profit from.
There’s really not that many high-profile gay skaters making a living. There’s BA and Leo, you know what I mean? Especially gay male skaters—there’s like fucking none, and especially being a gay am and coming up as a gay pro now, it’s felt really fucking hard. It goes to show that people probably think that I’m fucking making money and set, but I’m not at all. I’m struggling every month to pay rent for a very small apartment. I’m incredibly lucky to have found a spot with low rent in Silverlake, but it’s fucked. I really don’t think the industry is catching on. They want to act like they are and use queer people in their campaigns and pay them a lump sum, which is cool. It’s a good direction, but there’s fuckin’ shitty brands like Balenciaga who fucking pay millions of dollars for one photo. So like a grand for a big-ass campaign as opposed to like fucking ten grand for a sponsored post, the skate industry has a long way to go. Not that there’s that much money. I know I can’t fucking sit here and be like, Wah, wah, I’m the fucking gay skater that doesn’t get paid. There’s a lot of fucking really talented skaters that don’t get paid that aren’t queer. That’s just how society has been with queer people in general. Life is getting to a point now where people are starting to understand the importance of queer visibility. However, I just don’t think skateboarding is really changing. I mean, it’s starting to, but it still has a long way to go. I feel like it’s always gonna have a long way to go, you know? It’s very hetero aligned. Hence the reason I decided to throw a gay SOTY—excluding myself of course—but I wanna just give people something to look forward to.
Seems like the real change in the industry has been stemming from these queer companies like Unity/THERE, Glue and others rising to the occasion to do it themselves. Queer visibility has come such a long way because of the work those companies are doing on the ground, through social media and other outlets. The gay SOTY thing you’re doing with Bottom Feeder, even if it’s not serious, is another example of that. Who’d be your ’22 gay SOTY?
I voted for Efron. I feel like she’s had a really insane year. She also is coming off a knee injury and still putting out footage. I just think that the way she holds herself is rad. She’s really doing her thing and I’m very inspired by her visibility in the scene and her I-don’t-give-a-fuck mentality. I obviously love everybody I put on there, but I gotta vote for Efron.
Clear-headed front Smith in Pasadena
You’re sober. How’d that come about?
I was in high school and I was smoking weed and ended up just really ignorantly smoking a pill off tin foil because my friends said I should. I didn’t know what it was. I ended up becoming addicted to OxyContin and then to heroin. The main thing that turned my brain off completely was Xanax. So I got really fucked up off Xanax and heroin. I never IV used, but it was really bad. I was down for anything that made me feel not myself. You know, just running from the person that I was and numbing it with whatever was in my face. The main ones that I liked were the downers—so Xanax and alcohol, then at 19 the wheels fell off. I hit a real emotional bottom and I got sober. I’d been periodically sober every now and then and gone through rehabs since I was 15, so it wasn’t like a new thing getting sober, but something clicked that time. I’ve been sober since I was 19, so coming up on ten years.
I feel like when I was growing up, partying and drugs were glorified in skating and almost put on a pedestal. As someone who got sober at a younger age, do you think that’s changed?
Yes and no. I feel like there’s still a lot of not-talked-about addiction and alcoholism within skateboarding. Not to judge, but from my background and what I see, it’s very apparent to me that people clearly struggle with that shit in skateboarding. Whether it’s cocaine use or heavy drinking, it’s seen as edgy, kind of like punk-rock core shit, but to me it kind of gets sad. Although I think with bigger pros becoming sober it’s starting to be more of a thing within the community. It’s not necessarily like this big thing being broadcast like, This person is struggling with alcoholism, but just seeing older pros and the older crowd getting sober, there’s slowly a lot more sober people within the spotlight of skateboarding. So yeah, it’s definitely changed. It’s less of a taboo now; being sober is a thing.
Tell me about Titus and how you got into drag.
Titus is a drag creature alter-ego thing that got triggered from the pandemic and just sitting inside. I was dressing in drag a bunch when the pandemic started and it’s evolved into much more of like a creature as opposed to a femme-presenting creature character. It’s basically just my form of self-expression that I had been hiding for such a long time as a queer person. Because I feel like if you look at me from across the room, you’re not gonna be like, Gay! you know? It’s this in-your-face way that I always wanted to express myself as a kid, and even still now as an adult. Now I’m able to do it because I just said, Fuck it. Especially with the world going to shit as it was during the pandemic, I was like, Alright, let’s have fun. So I just had extra fun with makeup and that’s kind of what ties it all together. Titus is the creature from under LA.
Who are some skateboarders you’ve been inspired by lately?
I love, love, love Kader. Who else? There’s so many. Cyrus Bennett. I’m really stoked on Eddie Cernicky and Jeff Carlyle. I grew up with them, too. They’re also OG Mesa locs. I’m inspired by them being from this small, weird town, moving away and doing their thing. That’s what gives me the courage to do my shit, so I look up to them, even though they’re younger. Antwuan Dixon is my all time fave, though.
Taildrop to bank bomb, Mesa locs love the rush
What about drag inspiration?
I love Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova. Trixie won Rupaul’s Drag Race and they both do a YouTube series calledUNHhhh. I’ve basically watched every single Trixie YouTube video and I’m just in love with her personality. I’m also inspired by her work ethic. She was a super-hard worker. She owns a make-up brand and she’s super funny. I’m not even necessarily inspired by her drag look, because if you look at the two of us, it’s night and day. But at the same time, she was what I was looking at when I first started drag when I was doing more femme stuff, then my shit slowly evolved into a little bit more of a creature-type thing.
You’re always carrying around Monster stickers and repping Monster logos. Are you sponsored by them?
No, dude, I’m not. I want to fucking ride for Monster. I want to be part of the army. I basically collect Monster shirts and Monster attire and if somebody were to just tell me to wear a fucking Monster patch on every pair of pants, I wouldn’t even bat an eye. I would fully do that. I love Monster. I’d get it tattooed on my body. If they fuck with me, I would fuck with them way more than I already do. So yeah, sponsor me, Monster.
So fuck Red Bull?
I wouldn’t say that. Red Bull actually sponsors a lot of pride shit, so I fuck with Red Bull. Monster, though. If Joey Shigeo wants to put me on, yeah, I’m down. I love Monster.
A shooting star, Chandler sneaks out the window on a contractor's shaky work. Play that part back before your next mission
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