Photo Credit: Photo by Mystic Gooden
Meet Latosha Stone: The First Black-Woman To Own A Skateboard Brand
Since the 6th-grade, Latosha Stone has been “boarding.” It wasn’t until high school that the Greenville, Ohio native really took the sport seriously and realized that it was something she loved to do.
As an artist at heart, she has always enjoyed drawing and sketching. After spending three years working in what she calls a strenuous factory job, Latosha knew that wasn’t what she wanted to do forever.
“I’ve always been an artist as well as a skateboarder,” Latosha told Travel Noire. “So, I decided to put the two things I love together.”
In 2013, she introduced her brand Proper Gnar. It started out as a skate-inspired t-shirt brand that allowed Latosha to put her drawings on clothing.
“I chose the name Proper Gnar because I liked the way the two words contrasted. Gnarley is used by skaters when something is seen as cool. Proper means to something the right way, and the two words just kind of came together.”
According to Latosha, producing skateboards can be pricey. In the early stages of her business, she didn’t have the money to start out making them. So, she continued designing and selling apparel until she could. Two years later she began incorporating the skateboards.
Fast forward nearly 7 years later, and she is still drawing the designs that can be seen on her boards. The brand recently caught the attention of the Queen herself, Beyonce, and Proper Gnar was featured as one of the Black Parade Black businesses.
The attention has been overwhelming but in a great way. Because of the pandemic, she was laid off from her main job, but it allowed her to finally go full-time with Proper Gnar.
The brand now offers skateboards, apparel, as well as Latosha’s own art prints for those who may not be into skateboarding but want to support her work.
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, especially as a Black woman in what was once seen as a white male-dominated sport.
“Being Black and being a woman skateboarder is like having two things work against you,” Latosha said. “There weren’t many other Black women into skateboarding when I first started out. But now, I love meeting and learning about other Black women in the sport who haven’t always gotten the recognition they deserve.”
Latosha says she has been moved to tears lately with the outpouring of support and messages from parents of little Black kids thanking her for bringing more representation.
Brands have been reaching out in hopes of a chance to work with Proper Gnar and feature it in their stores. However, this wasn’t always the case.
“When I first started making boards, it was hard to work with the big-name celebrities and faces because they all had contracts with the major brands and weren’t allowed to feature anything else. I had to figure out to work around that. Brands would make me prove myself before they would give me a chance.”
Currently, Proper Gnar can be found in about 10 skate shops across the country and the brand will soon announce placement with two major retailers.
In her spare time, Latosha also hosts events at skateparks and plans to restart them once it is safe again. Her goal is to hopefully prepare more young girls for the professional world of skateboarding.