Her Hopes of Being Britain’s Youngest Olympian Were Dashed, So Sky Brown Set the Bar Higher
Sky Brown is not your average skater girl. She’s not your average anything, honestly — at 11 years old, she was set to be the youngest Olympian to ever compete for Great Britain in the summer games in Tokyo, until they were postponed to 2021. Another average she is not? The tomboy skating stereotype people older than 11 might associate with the sport.
“I’m a girly girl,” she tells me over the phone from her part-time home in Southern California, giggling at the admission before rattling off a list of “girly girl” things she loves: “I love getting my nails done, I love leather jackets and jewelry! I love playing with makeup,” she says beathlessly in a faint British accent, adding that since California’s shelter-in-place mandate was issued in late March, she’s been experimenting with makeup (glittery eyeshadows, mascara, and a clear lip gloss).
Like her role models — Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, and dance prodigy Maddie Ziegler — Brown is not only unabashedly feminine, but also a multi-tasker and one of the hardest-working 11-year-olds with whom I’ve ever spoken. During our conversation, she hints at a potential music career with an on-brand message: “girl power.”
Even when she skates, she wears a skirt — probably a Nike one, as she’s the company’s youngest sponsored athlete in the world. Yep, she’s that good. If, like me, your knowledge of skateboarding is limited to Tony Hawk’s existence, the lyrics of Avril Lavigne’s seminal 2002 hit, “Sk8r Boi,” and the word “ollie,” it’s about time to put Sky Brown on your radar.
Brown started skating around age 3, and is the youngest pro skateboarder in the world. (She’s also a professional surfer, and, of course, makes Blue Crush look like amateur hour.) She splits her time between her mom's native Japan, where Sky was born and where she attends school, and Southern California, where her English dad spent some time in his youth. But skateboarding has taken her all over the globe. She placed third at the World Skateboarding Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil this past September, and was expected to make her Olympics debut this summer for Team Great Britain.
But since the postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic was announced, Brown has only set her sights even higher: “I’m feeling better and better because now my dreams can be bigger, like winning the gold medal,” she says. “Instead of just being the youngest — I can be the youngest gold medalist or something.”
Ahead, Brown tells InStyle about her Olympic dreams (which were born only a year ago, when she was 10), skating with Tony Hawk (“Do you know who that is?”), and her favorite looks from Dancing with the Stars: Juniors (which she won in 2018, obviously).
Tell me how you felt when you first heard that the Olympics were going to be postponed.
I was definitely sad. I felt like my dream was going away. I felt bad for the other athletes too.
And it was bad because I knew I can’t be Britain’s youngest Olympian. But the [pandemic and people’s lives] are much bigger than my dreams right now. When i think about it now, it’s like I’m feeling better because now my dreams can be bigger, like winning the gold medal. Instead of just being the youngest — I can be the youngest gold medalist or something.
How old were you when you first started thinking about the Olympics? Did you watch them four years ago?
No. To be honest, I didn’t really know [about the Olympics]. I’d heard of them and stuff, but since I was [younger] I didn’t really know about the Olympics. I probably watched them but I don’t remember anything from it. I was around 10 [when I first] thought about it I guess?
When we do finally have the Olympics in 2021, they’re going to be in Tokyo. I know you spend part of your time in Japan. How do you feel about competing for Britain while you’re in Japan?
It was really cool because Japan is where I was born, it’s where I spend a lot of my time. I go to school there as well. All my friends are there, and I love it there. I’m half-Japanese so it’s going to be really cool to be in my hometown country and compete for Great Britain. I don’t know, I just feel like I’m bringing the countries together.
What’s your most memorable accomplishment of your career so far?
Well, there’s a lot of good memories I’ve had. There’s like 1,000 good memories. Recently, I was with Tony Hawk — do you know who that is? He’s, like, really good —
Oh, yeah, I know who Tony Hawk is.
So I went to his vert ramp, and I wanted to go [jump] over him. And he went over me and he was like, “Why don’t you jump over me?” [Laughs] And then I did an air over him — it was pretty scary because he’s like, really tall. Really tall. [Editor’s note: Hawk is 6’3”, indeed really tall.] I don’t know, it was really scary because I’d never gone over anyone so tall. It was really cool going over him. And then when I landed it was like the best feeling ever!
Wow, you jumped over Tony Hawk?!
Yeah. It was on a big vert ramp as well. A vert ramp can go up to like 20 feet. But I was on a 14-foot ramp. It was massive. So yeah, that was cool.
How have you been spending your time in quarantine? Are you able to skate or work out?
I am working out, and trying to keep myself fit. Just like, standing on the balance ball. It’s been pretty hard to skate though. I’ve been trying to skate in my room, but my mom doesn’t like it because it’s dirty and it’s really noisy. But you know, it’s kind of nice spending time with my family.
I hear you’re learning guitar. What’s your favorite song to play?
I’ve taken a couple lessons, I’m trying to write my own songs. I don’t know my favorite song though.
What’s your song about?
My song … well, I’m not really allowed to say yet. I want it to be a surprise. But it’s about — I guess I can say [it’s about] girl power.
Do you want to perform your song eventually?
Do you have any women role models that you look up to?
I look up to a lot of people, not just skaters and surfers. I look up to singers, dancers, actors … a lot of people. Charli [D’Amelio], she’s a dancer … Do you know TikTok?
She doesn’t care what people think, she just dances and goes for it. Leticia Bufoni is a skater, she’s from Brazil and she’s really cool because sometimes girls think that if you do sport then you can’t be a girly girl, but she’s one. She has pink hair, she gets her nails done, she dresses up. I’m a girly girl too so I think she’s really cool.
I also love Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Maddie Ziegler ... a lot of people.
You know, you’re probably a role model for young girls too.
Hopefully! That’s my dream is to show girls that you can do anything.
You mentioned you’re a girly girl. Are you into fashion at all?
I love skating in skirts, I love wearing dresses. I love getting my nails done, I love leather jackets and jewelry! I love playing with makeup. In quarantine, I’ve been playing with makeup. I like doing my hair, I’ve been doing braids and French braids and twisting it, yeah.
When you were on Dancing with the Stars: Juniors you got to wear so many cool outfits. Which one was your favorite?
Well, that was, like, the best time of my life. I got to put on dresses, get my hair done, get my makeup done, just the best time! I feel like [my favorite] was the one I wore from the Lady Gaga dance. But I also liked the one I wore to dance [to a song] from Katy Perry. I was in a pink dress that was long with heels and flowers.