The "GIZMO" Interviews: Leticia Bufoni

Letecia intro 750pxPhotos by Ryan Flynn

Leticia Bufoni is known for a lot of things—spanning her leggings, lipslide slam and lavish lifestyle. But what you might not know about is her work ethic which is grounded in humble roots and her drive to keep skating as long as possible. Also, despite Nyjah’s recent co-opting of her yoga-pants vibe, they’re still friends.

Hey, how’s it going? What’s on your schedule today?
I’m on my way to the Chinese Embassy to get my business visa.

Is that for an upcoming event or something?
Yes, there’s going to be an X Games in China. I already have a regular visa, but since we are going to be competing there they want the business visa. It’s super annoying, but I have no other option.

Are you a permanent resident in the US?
Yeah, I’m applying for my citizenship.

Oh yeah? Do you have to take the test? Have you been studying?
Yeah, I have the CD in my car right now. My test is going to be in a few months, so I need to study.

Alright, pop quiz: Who was the first president of the United States?
I don’t know. Shit! I was telling a friend, “I’m going to have to really study because I don’t know anything! I don’t even know anything about Brazil!”

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What’s a typical day like for you? Or is there a typical day?
My typical day in LA, when I’m not filming for anything, when I don’t have any shooting or anything like that, it’s wake up in the morning around 7:30 AM, go to the gym in Santa Monica, which is an hour drive, then workout for an hour and a half, then PT, then come home and eat lunch, then go skate and later at night just hang out with my friends—like BBQs, pool table, ping-pong, soccer and all that. It changes all the time, though. I do a lot of stuff. Yesterday I went to the lake and wake surfed for three or four hours, then I skated at night.

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Where do you go skate?
I go to the Nike park a lot. It’s only 20 minutes from me. Or I skate my backyard.

How was Coachella this year?
Oh, it was amazing! I’m a big fan of festivals. I don’t really go out to clubs or normal parties, but I really like concerts. Coachella is my favorite time of the year because it’s my birthday and I get the week off to just hang out with friends in Palm Springs.

So speaking of your pals, how did you and Nyjah become friends?
We used to hang out at contests and skate together, and then one day he got my number and texted me. I texted him back and we started talking more. Sometimes I see him at parties or I go to San Clemente and I skate his park. He comes to my house all the time. We travel a lot together through Nike. He likes the same things I do: he works out all the time; he goes to festivals; he rides dirtbikes.

RFP NikeSB SU FA 19 00429 DZ 750pxCan’t stop Leticia’s front tail. Don’t even try

Speaking of the same stuff, you’re the first skater I know of to shred in leggings. How does it feel knowing Nyjah bit your style?
It’s kind of fucked up, you know. He’s copying my shit! Ha! I’m, like, “Yo, stop copying me!” It’s funny because I remember when I showed up to a contest wearing leggings for the first time in public, a lot of people gave me shit. A lot of girls were saying, “How can you skate like that? We can see your ass!” But I’m a girl, you know. Girls work out; they do yoga in leggings. But for guys, I don’t know—it’s different. I just love that he doesn’t give a shit. He is what he is. He doesn’t care if people are talking shit about him. I love that about him. I think everyone should be like that—not scared to show who they are. That’s what I try to do. If I like something, I like something. I’m not going to change my mind because other people don’t like it.

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I think one of the most inspiring things about you is that you seemingly just do not care about what anyone thinks about you, and you aren’t a trend follower. What advice do you have for other women who desire to be on your level?
Just follow your passion. Even if people tell you it’s not the right thing, just do what you want.

Who are some of your favorite skateboarders?
My all time favorite skaters are Andrew Reynolds and Elissa Steamer, but it’s hard because I like so many people. Chris Cole is one of my favorites too.

Who is the best woman skateboarder, in your mind?
It’s really hard to say who’s the best because everyone is different. Like, Lacey is for sure the best skater for ledges and manual pads. Mariah Duran is one of the best rail skaters. I guess I would say Jenn Soto, Mariah, Lacey and Alexis.

Sounds like you just named the US Olympic women’s street skateboarding team!
Yeah! And they’re all my friends. I skate with them all the time. I’m sure there are other girls out there, like the little girl from Brazil. The stuff that took us ten years to learn, she’s learning in a year. She’s from a really small city. I’ve never been there. It’s pretty far from São Paulo.

LETECIATAILDROPATIBA 4 DZ 750pxPhoto: Atiba

Many folks don’t know your origins. I’ve heard you come from some humble beginnings. Can you share where you’re from? What was it like growing up in Brazil?
Yeah, I grew up in São Paulo. It’s a big city. I grew up in the street playing sports all the time. We didn’t have computers, no smart phones. All of the kids started skating so I did too, around age ten. I learned everything really fast. Within two months I could kickflip and heelflip. I learned faster than the boys. After a year, my friend’s dad came to me and my dad and said I should go skate a contest. He thought I could win. Back in this time, my dad said, “Skating is not for girls. She needs to go to school. She can’t be skating!” I was so involved in skating, I didn’t want to do anything else. The only reason I went to school was to make my dad happy so he’d let me skate. A few days after trying to convince my dad to let me skate contests, I came home and my dad was really mad at me for continuing to skate. He broke my board in half!


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Oh my God!
Yeah, I was pretty bummed. I cried for hours. I thought, I’m never going to skate again. And then a day later I thought, I want to skate! I love this! So I got an old board from my friend and I started skating again. My dad was, like, “There’s nothing I can do!” He knew taking my board away would only make me want it more. From that day on, he was, like, “If you want to skate, go skate!” A few months later he took me to a contest and I won it. My dad saw more girls skating there and realized it was actually a thing. From then on, he started really supporting me. He took me to all the contests, drove me to the skatepark every day. He was in love with skating

LBback50110418 00047 2 DZ DZ 750pxWhether winning contests or backside 5-0ing across marble double sets, Leticia Bufoni is doing this shit her way

Dang, what a transition!
Yeah, it’s crazy. My first contest, my dad took my whole family. You know how they do here, with kids at the basketball or baseball games? It was like that!

My dad was similar. He would always try to convince me to not skate, bribing me to do other activities. But as soon as I started getting boxes he started to get it. And once that happened he realized it was my passion. From then on he became more supportive. Alex White told me you used to skate with shin guards by request from your dad. True or untrue?
I used to play soccer in Brazil. It was my thing. I got invited to play on a big team, but then I had to choose between skating and soccer. When I started skating, I hurt my shins so much and my dad suggested it, saying, “You’re a woman. You’re going to want to wear a dress. You don’t want to have shins like that. You should wear shin guards.” So I gave it a try. I liked it because you know when you’re learning kickflips and varial flips you hit your shins and it hurts a lot? I thought, Fuck it. So I wore shin guards for three or four years. I don’t regret it. They were under my pants. No one could see them. It’s funny to think about it. I wasn’t wearing elbow pads, knee pads, none of that. But shin guards, I was wearing those!

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Speaking of being a young person, can you talk about when you came to the States? How was it being young in LA trying to make it in skateboarding?
I was doing contests in Brazil from ages 11 to 14 and pretty much winning all the contests. There was a tour in Brazil with Poseiden with Check it Out magazine run by two Brazilian girls, Liza Araujo and Luciana Ellington. As a collab they all went to South America with Vanessa Torres and a bunch of other girls to Argentina, Chile and Brazil. They did a little contest in Brazil and that’s how I met everyone like Micaela Ramirez, Ana Paula Negrao, Liza and Vanessa. Micaela showed my videos to some people and out of nowhere a few months later my dad got an email with an invitation to compete in X Games in 2007. We jumped at the opportunity, even though my sponsor at the time didn’t want to help because they thought I was too young. Michaela found a company to pay for my plane ticket, so me and my dad came together. We were supposed to stay for only 20 days, but I knew as soon as I got there I wanted to stay. Back in Brazil it wasn’t street skating, just parks. In LA, it was a whole new thing. There were schoolyards, perfect ground, great parks. It was like a dream. So within the time we were here together, I convinced my dad to let me stay. So he left back to Brazil and I stayed.

Liza is so rad and funny!
She’s my really good friend. She’s one of the reasons I was able to stay here. My dad loves her. She was older, Ana Paula too. They took good care of me. They’re a big part of everything that has happened in my life.

LETECIATAILDROPATIBA DZ 750pxLeticia ain’t afraid to get dirty. Tail drop dust ride back home in LA     Photo: Atiba

You seem very grounded by your family, culture and where you come from. Do you think you’ll ever build anything back home in São Paulo?
It’s something I’ve talked about before, but right now it’s too busy for me due to the Olympics and everything that’s happening. I don’t want to change my focus right now. It’s something to think about when I’m older and not as busy as I am right now. I really want to do something for Brazil, where I came from. But I have 13 or 14 sponsors right now—that’s a lot of obligations. Imagine doing interviews, photo shoots, filming, training. It’s a lot of shit, plus all the contests. What I show on social media, people think my life is a vacation. I always post the good parts. But it’s crazy. Sometimes I’m, like, Fuck, how much longer can I keep doing this? It’s too much.

What other assumptions do people make about you?
Some people think I’m cocky. Some girls talk shit about me. Ask someone who knows me really well, like Jenn and Mariah. I’m really thankful. I’m a normal girl. I do what other people do. I like to have fun. I like to be around my friends, and yeah, that’s it. It’s hard to show on social media because people see what they want to see. People say I show off a lot, talk shit because I like cars. But I’ve been working my whole life to get the stuff I have right now. It’s not that I’m showing off, but I love what I’ve accomplished in life so I like to show everyone that it’s possible. I came from a poor Brazilian family. I live in the US now, living the dream. I want to show people that anyone can do it!

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It seems like the people who say stuff like that are people who come from having a lot. When you come from more humble beginnings and from a foreign country and you come here and live the dream, of course you’re going to let people know how far you’ve come.
Yeah, not a lot of people know. A lot of people think my family is rich. The truth is I came to the US with $200 in my pocket. Not a lot of people know that. They see social media, but no one thinks about how much I worked to have what I have today.

Yeah, I think women get a lot more shit for showing off their hard work. I’m glad you shared your story so people can start to see the whole picture.
It’s also fucked up because I get a lot of shit from other chicks, like, girls I skate contests with. We should just all be friends. We should support each other. Of course we compete against each other, but there is space for everyone. We are like a family.

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What’s the worst comment you’ve received online or in person at the skatepark?
Dude, my DMs and comments—I get fucked-up shit every day. It’s crazy. I don’t care. I’m used to it. When I started skating, back in the day in my neighborhood, a lot of people used to call me lesbian or tomboy. I’m used to this since I was, like, nine. I never really cared. But it hurts me when it’s someone that skates with me, like another girl. I know they talk shit about me. That’s what hurts me the most, because I like all of them. I get it—sometimes people get jealous. I come from Brazil. I’m different than everybody else. One of the things that bugged me the most was when I did the ESPN body shoot in 2015. The photo was pretty much me naked, but it was the body issue for a pretty cool magazine. I didn’t do it to make me a sex symbol.

Yeah, what was interesting is that Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins did it, too, but with Travis Pastrana. No one gave her any shit because she was with a guy. But you did it alone and it was all of a sudden this big deal.
Exactly, and it was his interview. It was him talking about his wife as a professional skater. For mine, it was different. I was all by myself. People hated me for all these other reasons too. The same year I did some other fitness magazines and it was more like glamour shots. People started talking a lot of shit. I was pretty bummed on that. I would hope that everyone accepts me for who I am. I love fitness and I love being in magazines. That’s who I am. I have to remember that not everyone thinks the way I think.

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For those people out there that say you came up in skateboarding in a way that isn’t core, what do you have to say to those people?
Everything I did outside of skateboarding, it’s because I’m Leticia Bufoni the skateboarder. Everything I’ve done is because I’m a skater. I’ll never just be a model. Skateboarding is my passion and I’m just different. I like exploring. I like to dress nice. I like make up. I’m different.

LBfrntblnt110318 00060 DZ DZ 750pxLet’s see ‘Jah bite this! Front blunt bank blast in China

You’re definitely one of the most dedicated skaters. I’ll never forget your 2016 lipslide slam. What happened with that. A concussion? Any other injuries?
I had a concussion. I had a broken bone in my hip.

That’s so gnarly.
The concussion was pretty gnarly. I had to stay in the hospital overnight. I couldn’t get up from bed by myself. I would get dizzy. I couldn’t see stuff for hours. My vision was out. I was out of any activity for a month. I was just taking a bunch of pills. My whole face was black and blue. It was one of the craziest injuries I’ve ever had. I’ve also had knee surgery and ankle surgery. I had a partial tear and scope of my knee and I tore two ligaments in my ankle.

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If anyone says you’re not dedicated, that’s some bullshit.
I go to the gym every day, not to look good. I’m going because I want to skate for longer and I don’t want to get injured. I want to be a better skater. I do everything to keep my body in shape so I can skate as long as I can.

LBbacktail110618 00015 DZ 750pxLeticia adds a back tail to her training regiment

Seems like you’re getting your hours in at Redbull HQ doing, like, a backflip and then punching a bag, then you kick a soccer ball. You’re on some next-level shit. Want to talk about your workout and trainers and all that?
I think I started training when I was 16 but back in the day social media wasn’t that big so not a lot of people knew. A lot of people think I started working out three or four years ago. Nah, I’ve been working out for a long time! When I started getting better at skating when I was 13 or 14, my dad would tell me to go to the gym before going skating, so it comes from my family. I started liking it. It got me in better shape and better at skating, so I kept doing it. Then the last few years, I’ve been really into it. It’s something I like learning about—muscles, how to move your body, so I started studying it a lot, trying to figure how to take it to the next level. I don’t want to be in the gym doing normal stuff, like riding a stationary bicycle and lifting weights. With the help from my sponsors and my manager, I started meeting new trainers and crazy people who do different stuff. I started mixing all the training together—the soccer training from when I was younger, I mix with the regular gym training and it kept going. I kept learning more and more, and now today I’m doing stuff not a lot of people are doing. It’s some crazy shit my trainer and I came up with.

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Your workout videos are sick. It looks like you’re having a lot of fun!
I try to mix the stuff I like with the stuff I need to be a better skater. So that’s what I do and it’s working.

What was the last video part that you put together?
My last part was my PUSH part. I’m always traveling a lot, busy with contests and stuff, so I never had enough time to film a full part. I never had the right opportunity. I never wanted to film a part just to put out on social media. I always wanted to do something cool. When I got the opportunity to film a part, it was a dream come true. I got to travel the whole world, film with my friends. I got hurt a few times. It hurt a lot. Sometimes it’s not fun. But when you see the result, it’s amazing. Sometimes I look back and I’m, like, I can’t believe I tried that! I love filming.

I feel you on that!
Just the feeling of landing a trick after trying for hours, then you go home with the clip—it’s the best thing. Winning contests, you know, I love it. But out filming a trick in the street, it’s a different feeling. It’s not like winning. It’s different.

RFP NikeSB SU FA 19 01688 DZ 750pxFeeble transfer, some dreams do come true

How was your experience filming for this Nike project? How was it unique?
The cool part about this project was that I got to travel with my friends, like Lacey and Elissa. I never had many opportunities to hang out with them that much, and with this project I was on trips with girls. Usually I go with guys all the time, so this project was different because I got to hang out with the girls. Normally we only see each other at contests, and sometimes it’s kind of weird because we are competing against each other. Sometimes we don’t hang out that much. But when these trips happened, it was totally different. We’re watching the other girls try tricks; we’re supporting them. I was watching Hayley try a trick for three-or-four hours and. I was stoked! I wasn’t, like, This sucks, waiting for my turn. I was stoked and supporting them. They’re doing the same for me. It was pretty amazing. This project is definitely special for me. The only thing is that I wish I had more time to film. I wanted my part to be special and different from everything I’ve had before. It was really hard to find time with my schedule.

What are your thoughts about being in an all-women’s project? Should more brands do this?
It’s pretty amazing that Nike is doing this. We have such a good team now. A few years ago I was the only girl on the team and today we have the best women. They are investing a lot in this video. I grew up watching Villa Villa Cola’s Getting Nowhere Faster. It was one of my favorite videos. I watched it so many times! If I told you how many times I watched it, you’re going to tell me I’m crazy.

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I’m there with you! The skits were so good!
I think it’s going to be a video that a lot of girls are going to watch like we watched the Villa Villa Cola video. I’m super thankful to have Nike as a partner. I’m just stoked and excited. I can’t wait.

What impact do you hope this project has for all of skateboarding, but most specifically for women, for girls? In a year you’re going to be in the Olympics. Little girls all over the world—and their dads—are going to watch it together. Skateboarding is going to be a totally normal thing for women to do. How does this video fit into that?
I just hope that it makes the same impact that Getting Nowhere Faster made for me back in the day. I want girls to watch this and be, like, Holy shit, girls can really go street skate! Now we know any girls can go and skate a skatepark, but street skating is different. Less girls do it. I hope girls watch this video and get hyped to go and be like us one day! I hope we get more girls in the sport.

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Were there any memories that stuck out the most?
Me and Hayley riding electric scooters around Australia and New Zealand was one of the best times. In between skate sessions we were eating chocolate and riding scooters all around the city, sometimes hitting the liquor store to grab beers for Scuba. Ha!

That’s so awesome.
We had such a great team. Scuba traveling with us, Jason, Ryan Flynn. It was such a good time. We. Had so much fun!

I can’t wait to check out the video!
I still have some stuff to wrap up for my part, but I’m just excited to be a part of this project. It’s going to be amazing. Jason is pretty good at what he does. It’s going to be awesome!

RFP NikeSB SU FA 19 01113 DZ DZ 750px 2xCrooked grind on the mind, Gizmo part’s lookin’ fine. Congrats, Leticia!
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