I first met Annie Guglia on a summer night in July 2016, at the Valleyfield skatepark with my then five-year-old son Salomon. I didn’t know who she was but she walked right up to us and asked if we needed any help.
Without skipping a beat, she took my son under her wing, shared some pointers, cheered him on, and even gave him a Meow skateboard, her sponsor brand. I found her leadership incredible, her humility unparalleled, and saw a down-to-earth woman with a bright smile who radiated happiness and passion for what she did. Her kindness, charisma, and willingness to help the next generation of skateboarders were crystal clear. I had found myself in front of the next skateboarding pioneer!
This young Montreal-based athlete is making her mark in this male-dominated action sport and is not only becoming a role model for the new generation of women skaters, but is also establishing herself as an amazing LGBT role model for all communities. Winner of the 2019 and 2018 Jackalope Women’s Street Pro Division, Annie Guglia takes a moment to chat with me following her latest victory.
Annie, tell me how your skateboarding career came about?
I started skateboarding in 2001, at the age of 11, but my career only started 3 years ago, when it was announced that skateboarding would debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020! In 2017, I submitted my master’s thesis and I had two options: start a career in my field or go for broke and see where this “professional skateboarding athlete” thing could lead me. I chose the second option!
I know that you have won a lot of competitions—which ones have meant the most to you and why?
I actually haven’t won that many because I’ve only been doing a lot in the last two years. I’d say that winning Jackalope two years in a row was pretty amazing! It’s cool too because it’s in Montreal so most spectators and media know me; I had a nice hype going and it motives me to skate more and skate better.
How do you feel when you skate?
It depends. I either feel super confident and in my element, or I’m terrified! Skateboarding is not a leisure pastime where you sit and look at the scenery. Learning new trials can be terrifying but you have to get over it and build your self-esteem. But when I’m competing or skating with friends and having fun, I feel really good, free, and exactly where I’m supposed to be. Skateboarding has the ability to show you that you are not invincible, but can also boost your confidence when you achieve something that defies the laws of gravity and common sense!
What’s the best thing about competing?
When you land everything you wanted to get in your run. It’s so rewarding!
In 2020, you will be representing Canada at the Tokyo Olympic Games. What does this mean to you?
It’s not a done deal yet. Like all skaters, I’m in the process of qualifying until May 2020. At that point, they’ll take the top 20 in the world rankings and they’re the ones who’ll be going to the Olympics. So again, it’s not a sure thing, but it’s an exciting new challenge to take on because it’s completely new to skateboarding! I never thought I’d talk about going to the Olympics, so as much as it’s never been a goal or a dream of mine before, it is now!
Annie, what is a good LGBT role model? Can you share with us a little bit of your story?
When you are comfortable being out as an LGBTQ person, I think it is important to do it to show that it exists and that there is nothing wrong with being who you are. I don’t consider myself to be particularly militant, but I’m not afraid to talk about my girlfriend or mention it casually in a conversation. I think it is important for the spectrums of sexual orientation or gender identity to be considered normal and no longer weird or unusual. Plus, people often think it’s a negative thing. When people see me, I want them to be able to say to themselves that if their daughter, best friend or family member is a lesbian —or even if they are gay themselves— that they can live a normal life and be happy and fulfilled. That’s why I talk about it openly, without shame. And if someone’s not happy with that, then I don’t want them in my life, so it’s a win-win situation.
Have you ever been discriminated against in your skate career because of your sexuality or gender identity?
Not really. I’ve had comments like, “Girls who skate are all lezzies” but nothing worth mentioning. The fact that it is a stereotype is the only thing that scared me when I came out around 2015. That people would end up saying, “Ugh. Another one” Confirming that prejudice is what scared me, but in the end, and apart from a few inappropriate comments, you see that it really doesn’t change anything for anyone.
What are the challenges facing LGBTQ athletes in Canada today?
That’s a good question. I only know the skateboarding world, so I can’t speak on that issue too much but for girls in skateboarding, it’s really not a big deal because we’ve actually had good role models. Same goes for guys: we’re lucky to have had pro-skaters who came out like Brian Anderson. It caused quite a stir but it sparked a much-needed conversation within the community.
How do you envision your future and what dreams would you like to achieve?
For now, I’m just focusing on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Then we’ll see.
What is your favorite song to listen to before a competition?
I don’t have a specific one, especially for just before skating because I like to be in the moment! But in the days leading up to a competition, I listen to stuff like Beyoncé that gives me energy and boosts up my confidence.
What are your own role models in life, related to skateboarding or not?
My parents are the best role models I could ever dream of!
Are you a spiritual person? How do you find strength in challenging times?
I like to meditate, do yoga, and read books or listen to podcast about mental toughness or discipline, nutrition, etc. I don’t think of myself as a spiritual person, but it’s definitely important for me to feel good, fit, and well equipped to face any situation, whether positive or negative.
Are there things in life that you simply cannot stand? If so, which ones?
People who think that they’re the only ones on the planet. I really don’t like to bother people and I’m very respectful of others, so when someone acts like they’re too important to care about the well-being of others, it drives me nuts.
In closing, what do you think of Skate or Die? What’s your favorite sports quote?
I’m not such of a fan of Skate or Die. Even though skateboarding is the most important and significant activity in my life and that I couldn’t imagine my life without it, I don’t think death is the only other option. Skateboarding is the biggest component of my personal and professional identity, but I love life too much to confine it to skateboarding. It has nothing to do with skateboarding but I like the saying, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” It’s a reminder to appreciate the here and now and to love the process such as much as the end result—otherwise we spend our time chasing a mirage.
Feature image (top): Dan Mathieu
All other photos: Catherine Levesque