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The Terry Kennedy interview

Terry snaps a kickflip over the grate gap during the Maloof Money Cup NYC this past summer. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

From the moment skateboarding was first graced with Terry Kennedy's presence we fell in love with him. He is funny and charismatic. He is a survivor that made it out of predestined gang life in Long Beach, not unscathed (bullet scars decorate his body) but at least in one piece. I spent two weeks on the road with Terry a few years ago on Red Bull's Seek & Destroy (which returns in May of 2011), and I learned about Terry's family and how skateboarding and that family are the center of his world.

Recently BET became entranced with Terry's charm and gave him his own TV show, "Being Terry Kennedy", which premieres tonight. The show follows Terry around, documenting his skate/rap/mogul daily life. TV shows are a slippery slope for skaters; you can blow it easy and blow it hard but Terry promised me he wouldn't fall prey to the pitfalls that skate-associated shows have succumbed to in the past.

You have a television show. What is the deal with that?
I'm tapping on family, my skateboarding career, music and me being a young, up and coming mogul.

I saw at the bottom of the press release that you're also looking for love. Are you going to be crying while looking for a chill girl?
Nah, not at all. Not at all. I'm a little too tough for that, man. I come from a background where if I did do that the next time I go back home it would be a problem.

It has to be tough for a guy like you who has a bunch of money to find a girl that isn't all about your money.
It is. What's so funny is my dad came back in my life recently and that's all the conversations we have. He's so overprotective of me of that situation. He's like, "Don't get nobody pregnant. Make sure you find the right girl!" Between him and my grandmother it's such a battle when I bring a girl home. They're like, "What she do? What's her background?" It's like, damn, dude, relax!

There are golddiggers that you have to watch out for.
Yes, there are and they're great at what they do. You got to be careful out there.

How big of a part does your immediate family play in the show?
80 percent of the show. When I go to Street League I don't talk to them a lot about that but I want them to be informed and know that I'm not jeopardizing our family or my career. I always come to them no matter what and talk to them about everything. They're my backbone.

You have a lot of weight on your shoulders taking care of your whole family. How tough is it to know everything rides on you?
It's been like that since early on. I lost my mother when I was 15. I lost my father out my life when I was 5; he just came back in my life three months ago. I'm 25 now. I still carry a lot because I never had my parents there and that's tough for a child. That right there helped me to grow and to fight for my brother and grandmother to get them out of their situation. It was a lot of pressure on my shoulders but it made me the person that I am now. I am so strong-minded I can allow things to roll off my back and I can stay focused because all the hardship I had to deal with early on.

You have a fellow Baker/Deathwish skateboards family member, Antwuan Dixon, that comes from a similar background.
The same background. His brothers live that lifestyle as well, they're gang bangers as well and are locked up now and doing time. But if you come from California out of any of the areas like Long Beach, Carson, Compton; Theotis Beasley's family is from Inglewood and they're all gang bangers as well. If you come from any of those places it's kind of tough. There's a gang on every corner.

Do you get nervous for Antwuan? He's an amazing talent.
It hurts me. I take it to heart. We used to call him Candy. He's come around when he was 15-years-old just eating candy and in the best spirits ever and just wanted to skate. Now I talk to him like a big brother, straight from my heart. I know it's hurtful with his brothers because I had my brothers go through that same role, in and out of jail. But I tell him he's in a position to be changing their lives. You got to give back and you giving back is by doing right. That's what Andrew Reynolds taught me, "The only way you can do for them is by doing right." So the best thing I can do for them is stay on this board. I tell him don't pull yourself down; you got to be strong for your mother and brother.

Coming from an equally trife background is Jereme Rogers.
No! Hell no! I love Jereme to death but I have to have them same talks with him. Why would you give up something that made you [skateboarding]? That's something I don't understand. Why would you stop skating? That's who you are as a person. I would never put skateboarding on a back burner. Skateboarding will always be first in this lifetime of mine because that's what I am and that's what brung me to these situations.

What is your opinion on Rogers' rapping?
It's different for me rapping; I've been through stuff. I've been shot, I lost my mom, I happen to make it skateboarding ... it's not even about rapping for me, it's about therapy.

Rogers did have that song about getting a speeding ticket. That's rough to deal with.
Ha! Stop it. Come on. We were having such a positive conversation and you have to throw a wrench in it.

Explain to me why you're doing TV. You saw what happened with Ryan Sheckler: it had such a backlash. The editing has the potential to make you look wrong. What made you feel confident enough to think this was the right move for you?
I'm going to be honest; my story can't come across soft. Everything I've been through in life ... that's something I want to teach everybody in my city and inner cities around the country and in my African American culture, to not be scared of who you are. If I was scared of who I was as a person I'd never be on the phone with you right now, I'd never have friends like Andrew Reynolds, I'd never be a skateboarder, nothing would've ever happened for me. That's why I wanted to do the TV show, to show I come from the same situation or worse as many African Americans and I was able to prevail because I stayed true to what I believe in.