Cher Strauberry has quickly evolved into a role model for an ever-growing LGBTQ+ community within skateboarding while still figuring out her own journey. When asked, Yann Horowitz, a self-proclaimed Cher fan, did not hesitate a second to jump on the opportunity to conduct an interview with her for us. Against all odds and most likely due to the pandemic, the two staples of the LGBTQ+ community had not previously met, leaving us (and you) to be a fly on the wall for the first encounter of what turns out to be an explosive duo!
Hey Cher! Now that I see you, I feel like my set is a little underdressed. You're on your trampoline, I'm on my couch.
You think you're underdressed? Look at you! You look amazing, you're wearing like a full-blown two-piece!
I had to dress up for you, Cher, full Zebra. You are the first person I'm interviewing. I've always been on the other side so I'm really excited about this. The fact you're on a trampoline makes it way better! Halfway through the Interview I'll be like, “Cool, now you have to backflip.” Maybe do a double back handspring with a twist. If you need any inspiration, I used to be an acrobat in the circus for like two years!
Oh, hell yeah! I love it, help me wake up. I'm really surprised we haven't had the opportunity to talk yet, really. I know, it's like a psycho world we live in right now, or else, I feel like we already would have skated.
I was supposed to be in SF in 2020in April and our lockdown in Cape Town started a month before my flight left. But through all this mayhem 2020 has sprung upon us, a lot of good things have happened. You could count this as one of them.
After a year of living with it, it's very different now. I'm almost fully vaccinated, halfway there. I haven't been taking very many trips or seen any people, really, besides close, close friends. I've moved a lot during this. I moved in the Bay Area in California, and then I went to New York and it was just not my vibe, and it was winter, like super harsh winter.
You moved to New York in winter?
Yeah, it was the worst idea! Leave it to me to make the literal worst decisions.
I made the mistake of moving to London in winter once, I think it changed me as a person.
It changed me as a person for sure. Now I live in Austin, Texas, it's really chill.
Are you freshly moved and settled in in Austin, Texas? Austin's got an amazing music scene! A big reason why I always wanted to go to Austin was to go to live shows, get a taste for it myself. Is that a reason why you moved there?
Yeah, music. My partner also lives here and is from here. That was a big reason, too. I really like it here. I've always lived in the most hectic places, like Oakland and New York. I was pretty over “super city vibes” honestly and wanted something mellow. It’s got everything you want out of a city, but you can also not see anybody, and people can still afford houses here. I pay 150 dollars more than I did in New York for a bedroom in an apartment on the third floor, and I'm in my own house.
You got soil!
I want to build a mini ramp and shit and have shows in my backyard when things are chill.
If you need a spare hand, let me know, I'll buy a ticket straight up. I'll sleep on your trampoline.
Exactly, my Airbnb is my trampoline.
You should actually put it up on Airbnb, that would be hilarious. You don't even have to charge money for it, just be like, “Listen, if you need a place to crash – it's really comfy, it's bouncy. You can sleep under the stars.”
Now I want to interview you for my zine about the circus, that sounds so cool!
I'm down if you wanna do a back and forth interview vibe, ask me some questions! What do you want to know about the circus?
Oh my God! What was your act?
I studied clowning, acrobatics, and juggling. I was really good on a unicycle, I'm short and stocky so I was a really good flipper. I could just triple back handspring with a twist kinda acrobatics.
That's so sick!
"Your rent is a hundred dollars to sleep in a closet somewhere? That's great!"
My parents were fucking wild. They trusted the circus folk with their kid and were just like, “Yeah, let him do shows.” I had like a few actual big live shows.
My parents did that in a fully separate way with punk rock. By the time I was like 15-16, I was just like, “I don't wanna go to school anymore.” I lived 40 minutes away from Oakland. As soon as I started playing in punk bands, I was like, “Out here, it sucks! I can go 40 minutes this way and have all these punk kids.” My parents were just like, “Your rent is a hundred dollars to sleep in a closet somewhere? That's great! Get your equivalency test, we don't care.” That's unheard of! I was just like, “Alright, awesome!”
I remember having this conversation with my dad with him being like, “So you want to be an artist? Or you want to just skate? Or what do you want to do? Art school is like 50,000 dollars a year, I can't pay for that.” And I was just like, “I can just go do it.” And he's like “Yeah, that would be way more chill. You should do it.” They just never said no. I told them I met these kids, they have a band, they're super chill, we're going to go on tour, and he's like, "That sounds awesome!” He never said no.
It's so cool that you grew up with his punk rock freedom, and freedom to just tour and pursue what you love. I guess if you can tell your kid loves something so much, why say no? Let them pursue it, let them be free.
That's a way better building block than trying to suppress it.
My parents saw how invested I was in skating. It was the same thing. They gave me the option as well. “If you want to drop out of school and skate, you can,” but I actually made the decision to stay in school weirdly enough, even though I fucking hated it. It was almost like, “Don't tell me what to do. If you guys want me to drop out of school, I won’t." Classic angsty teenager, like, “How dare you give me the option.”
Your band is called “Twompsax,” what inspired the name?
The name comes from a twenty bag of weed, that’s what kids in my hometown called it, a “twompsack.” I made a play on it because all the cool bands that I liked in town had saxophones and I didn't know anyone who played sax, so I was like, “Ok, well we have to have sax in the name since we don't have a saxophone.” Also, all the initials of my deadname are all in the band name, too. Angry punk band, deadname in it…
Very cryptic as well!
It's very me.
"Unity is so much more than skating, too! At night, we'll all be making art and singing and stuff. Photocopying our butts and putting them in zines."
The equivalent for a “twompsack” was a “slope” when I was growing up and it was wrapped up in an old newspaper and probably like the bushiest weed. I guess my punk band has to be named “The Slopes.” Are you guys playing live shows at the moment? What are the restrictions like?
It's slow going. Mostly things are still locked down, people are starting to get vaccinated. It’s mostly on all-outdoors terms. So mostly I've been making tons of art at home. After I'm fully vaxxed, I'll go down to the bay again and start really filming. I've been halfway done with my new part for a while now.
Can't wait to see it! Is it for anyone or is it a passion project?
I'm not sure yet, really. I just want to make something, so I'm filming a bunch. At this point, I miss skating with people so bad, so I'm going to go back to the Bay next month and skate with all my Unity friends, ‘cause I really miss all of them.
I can imagine! Unity skate crew is a crew I aspire to come and hang out with one day. It's fun to watch you guys do your thing.
It's the best vibes ever, my favorite thing in the world!
Jeff [Cheung]seems like such a vibe, low-key one of my favorite artists at the moment.
He's like my favorite person in the whole world, literally the best person.
What's a day in the life with the Unity crew like?
Wake up, get coffee, go to a spot, and just everyone skating and giggling all day. Having so much fun, I've never found another group of people that was so easy and naturally fun to skate and hang out with. It's truly a judgment-free, encouraging environment, which I’ve, like, never found. That's kind of what my problem with New York was. It’s just like too many skaters being super serious. That's just not my vibe. I don't want to overthink it or compare myself to anybody. I just want to skate for fun. Unity is exactly that, it's so cool.
That's usually when you skate the best, when you're just having fun. Having a crew that inspires you creatively is super important! I can tell your personal style as well is so beautifully put together, you exude this amazing punk aesthetic which I've been obsessed with for quite a while.
Unity is so much more than skating, too! At night, we'll all be making art and singing and stuff. Photocopying our butts and putting them in zines. Or we'll all end up at a music studio, just playing music for hours, showing each other songs, making tapes, doing so many different things.
It's so cool being around like-minded people and just letting your freak flag fly. You got to hang out with Leo [Baker] quite a bit as well.
Yeah, I did! It was winter, snowing the whole time, but I did get to hang out quite a bit. Leo is awesome! He’s a whole different vibe of skateboarder. I'm like – wake up, drink coffee or smoke a million cigarettes, listen to records. When we skate, I'll skate for like two or three hours, and as soon as I have like five clips or something, I'm done, like I don't even care. But Leo is just so like – wake up, super early in the morning, stretch, do all these things, ice the ankle, go get breakfast, make a smoothie. He’s such a professional athlete, just super calculated. He’s like – I’ll go warm up, do the same trick a hundred times and then like, “Alright, we're going to go film.” And then he'll go film by himself. He’s super cool to watch and witness but I'm just like, “You're wild.”
Like, "How am I supposed to keep up?"
Dude, “We’re doing jumping jacks right now,” like that is insane.
I want to talk about “SMUT,” one of my favorite skate films to come out in a long time. It had grit that a lot of skate films haven't had in a long time. What was the process of getting it done, who was involved, and what are the aspirations for the company?
Stephen [Ostrowski] came to the Bay for like two, three days when “Candyland” came out. That was when it all started. Me and Stephen were like “We should make a video,” like not even boards or anything. So we had some of this weird footage that we just filmed, like the intro to my part where we are in the cemetery, that’s just me and Stephen being like, “We're making this weird skate video.”
As far as aspirations go, we are looking for a distributor, it's too much work for the three of us to take on. Me and Stephen were packing and shipping all of it, and it would sell out in one day each time we got stuff. And it's taking a long time to get stuff, really overwhelming.
It's also a good thing, right?
Yeah, it's a great problem to have, wonderful problem to have. The “SMUT” process was wild. We had been talking about making a video and it just slowly came together. Me and Stephen wanted to do a company, and then Leo was like, “Well, I don't want to ride for an all-girl company because I am not a girl,” because he was skating for Meow, so he was like, “If you start a company, I want in.” We were going to take a trip and start filming this video, which we had like nothing for, and two weeks before the trip we were all going to go out on, the lockdown happened. So then it was all of us filming separately. I probably only went out like a total of ten times. Ten skate days to film the part.
Must be hard for anyone to finish a project during lockdown.
The first two months, I was so freaked out to do anything. There was no information on anything yet. My first clips were filmed with Jeff from Unity. I remember not wearing makeup and stuff, because I was wearing so many masks. And then I'd be like, “I'm warmed up, I'm going to do the tricks,” and then Jeff would wear two masks. I would take mine off and put lipstick on and I'd start filming the line. Immediately after I landed it, I would put two masks on, like super paranoid. The fashion is such a big thing, where I was just like, "I can't be wearing a mask in this.” I hated it. What's the point of flying down something if you're not wearing black lipstick?
So then finally it hit a point where we probably had one month where we didn't do anything. We were like, "Maybe the video is done" after like two months. I remember talking to Jim from Deluxe, and he asked me if I was excited about it and I was like, "I am, but the only thing it doesn't have is all three of us.” Leo was living in Kingston, an hour and a half out of New York, and Stephen was in New York, so the only way we're going to do this is if I come there. Me and Stephen had a friend and filmer drive us to meet up with Leo and we got an Airbnb. So then we skated in Kingston, so some of the spots are super random. Not spots we would normally skate at all. After hanging out for a week, we we're like, “Alright, that was the footage we needed, let's throw it together.” It was super fast, I'm surprised how fast we did that video. It was all over lockdown.
You either sat in your house, did nothing, and watched the world go by, or you embraced it and made it work. You guys released an amazing skate film during a global pandemic. That's amazing.
It was so freaky to me. I remember one day running into all the GX1000 guys and I remember feeling like “Wait, am I dumb for being so scared?” Because they were like, “EVERYTHING'S CLOSED. IT'S FREE GAME, SKATE THE FUCKING WHOLE CITY. IT'S AWESOME.” They were rolling like 15-20 people deep, they were all wearing little bandanas or something, and I'm just like, “Y’all are crazy, don't hug.” They’d be like, “What's up Cher?” and I'm like, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME! SIX FEET, MOTHERFUCKER, SIX FEET! HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THE NEWS?!” They were bombing hills because normally traffic was super bad, so they were just killing it and I'm over here just so scared to do anything.
It's like adapting depending on what you wanted out of it.
That was the cool part of it. When we went to Kingston, nothing was going on, so we only had this little downtown to skate – these parking lots that Leo found and waxed a part of. So we were like, “Ok, how do we make a fucking sick skate video with like – this?” There were some points where was just like, “I don't know, I'm just gonna fucking embrace the acid drop. I'm just going to jump off this because I can't really do flip tricks and land on this cobblestone.” Shit like that, it was just super funny.
"What's the point of flying down something if you're not wearing black lipstick?"
What's the skating like in Austin, how is it different from Oakland?
There's ditch spots everywhere.
That's like my dream.
You would kill it here, you can come stay with me anytime.
Be careful what you wish for, I might just rock up at like four in the morning like “CHEEEEEER!”
I would love that, I love chaotic energy like that. That would make me so hyped. I love shit like that. There's a whole college campus that's downtown that's really sick. I haven't explored too much, but I just met this filmer kid from here. He's like a young kid and he's just hyped like, “I'll film you!” I'm still paranoid about pandemic stuff, so I just want to be with one person. He's really nice and he's been taking me to a bunch of DIY spots out here that are really cool. Downtown, there's a bunch of shit. It's super fun because everything’s new to me. That was one thing I was getting tired of in Oakland, skating the same spots and people on Instagram seeing the same shit all the time. I want something else, like branch out a little bit.
It's so fun to be a stranger in a new city. It gets rid of expectations, you can kind of be a raw form of yourself. It's like dropping in to the deep end of a pool.
I love that, it's fun to be new and learn stuff. I'm getting a bike this week, so I'm just going to start biking around and I've been driving around with my partner taking pictures of spots and stuff I want to go to. It's pretty chill here, lots of ditches, street stuff, banks, and stuff that I haven't really skated, so I'm excited to try and skate it and see what happens.
Literally sounds like my dream, I love awkward steep street transition.
You would love it out here.
I'll come out to Austin, TX, one day and start working on my Glue skateboards part.
EXACTLY! We'll get it done, it's super mellow.
I love the fact you guys made a video before the company was even properly put together. You've created this monster, now you have to deal with this monster.
We're like, “Dang, we don't even have anything to sell.” I just like screen-printed, all the merch. Stephen was hand-making stuff, which was fun, I like it like that.
You're working on a capsule for Vans at the moment, it's a big reason I wore this zebra print two-piece. I went for the opposite site of the food chain, I had the idea of having David Attenborough's voice explaining this cheetah running through this field and I could be this nonchalant, easy-going zebra, not knowing that I was going to be taken out by this fierce cheetah. This is what goes on in my head, sorry if I sound like an absolute crazy person. What was your inspiration for the capsule?
When Vans hit me up, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and then they were like, “We can't do any of that, because we don't make any of that.” Originally, I wanted to do super Courtney Love slit-dress, cardigan, and fishnet socks. They were like, “That's awesome, but we can't do it, but what we can do is something like this.” I really have been wanting a cheetah print sports bra because I love two-pieces. My partner is the one who got me into the two-piece look.
I have a cheetah print jacket that I cropped and I still haven't found the second piece to it that I've been looking for. When your capsule comes out, I'm definitely getting the skirt!
The cheetah print skirt, the one that I always wear, is the first skirt I ever got from my best friend, who I first told I was trans. She gave me that skirt and I was obsessed with it forever. I thought it would be cool to do a cheetah print skirt because it was the first trans item that I have, it was super important in my life. I only wear slip ons, the worst skate shoes, the ones that aren't made for skating, the super classics, because I'm weird like that. I like thin shoes. I was skating in those little flats with the little buckles all the time, they were my favorite Vans shoes, so they were like, “Let's make a skate version of that,” and I was like, ”Yes, let's do it!” Everything is based off of my skirt as my first transition item. They were like, “You should make a jacket!” and I was like, “Can it have like a cheetah print?” On the inside, there's crop lines, like the scissor and cut, so you could crop it.
I crop everything I buy.
Me too! Always!
I'm just like, “Do you know what? I want to show off my ass,” so I'll just cut it off.
Exactly, as soon as I get home, I just cut the bottom off of everything.
It's a really beautiful story, that this capsule captures the story of personal identity. You're a massive role model in the trans community when it comes to skateboarding, being visual and being out there. Do you have a lot of kids that come out to you and ask for advice?
All the time. It's so sick to experience that, but my DMs are at 99+ all the time. Every day. It's super wild to go through all of them. I've started screenshotting them so much and I want to make a zine someday and it's called something like “Instagram Love.” I made a zine a long time ago of all the hate messages I was getting. It was called “IG bully.” It was the most fucked-up shit.
I was given advice never to read the comment section. I never took that advice, I love reading the comments. There is some crazy shit kids can say. I learned how to embrace it in a way. Some of those hate messages are so creative, like how did you have the time to sit there and be this troll? I almost get life from these negative messages, like “Do you know what? I'm so far above your fucking bullshit.”
I got a really good response, people were really stoked on it. It was like straight-up death threats in there. All sorts of crazy shit. I gave my friend that zine and he was like, “You gotta one day make a zine with all the nice shit people say to you,” and I was like, “Yo, you're right!” Just like young trans girls sending me pictures all the time like, “I'm going to skate in a dress today because I'm not afraid anymore.” The sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me.
I helped a kid come out to his family the other day. He asked for my advice and I gave him the best advice I could. Two weeks later, he sent me a message saying, I came out to my family today and it was one of the best things I ever could have done. I cried the entire evening. I didn't have social media when I was growing up, I had to figure things out for myself and I'm just so proud of these kids these days.
It's so cool! They have way more resources today than we did.
We get to be those people to inspire them, we're the people we didn't have back then. It can get overwhelming, but you gotta be like, “You know what? It's going to be worth it in the end.”
Totally! It’s a cool thing to embrace! So special! It does get overwhelming, and some days, I can't do it, because my mental capacity doesn't have it, but most of the time, I do and I am talking to kids. Sometimes all day, it's really rad. Now I'm learning to take my personal space too because I feel like that's important. I would spend three hours a night talking to kids, and once you start talking to them, they keep talking. It's totally chill, but it's like I have a life too and I'm still struggling with my own struggles and have to figure these things out. It's wild!
Where does your personal style come from? Your style is very curated and inspiring to me.
Mostly I would say it's this group of like five girls I grew up with, who were these punk girls. The girlfriends of the punk boys I hung out with. The girls all dressed so cool and rad and I swear all my style inspiration comes from these five girls. When I was in eighth grade, they were all in high school and I would follow them around and they would take me to shows. It all comes from that initially. I try not to think about it too much. I went to the thrift store with my partner the other day and was looking at clothes and was like, “I don't know what I want, I don't even know what I'm looking for.” And then my partner grabbed this cardigan and gave it to me and I was like, “Oh, I love this and I love this because you picked it out for me.” Almost all my favorite items and things I wear are all hand-me-downs people gave to me, and then it means ten times more to me than some things I found. So most of it is like armor that I get from other people, does that make sense?
Some of my favorite items are things I found at bus stops or on the ground. I think it's just because I know it's getting a second life. It was forgotten and left behind and now it somehow made its way into my closet. I like the idea of giving things life again.
I very much fuck with that.
What's next for Cher Strauberry?
I really have been on one with playing music. Fender has been sending me a bunch of guitars and amps and stuff, that's really cool – I've never been endorsed as a musician. That's super exciting, I'm so hyped on it. I'm going to stop my social media break soon and do Instagram videos and stuff again, but probably not until I go to the Bay in mid June. Mostly trying to play music, make art, and skate, that's all I think about. Working on ten different little projects right now, and just like boom-boom-boom, later in the year start releasing stuff. I have a new record that's coming out in June, 31 tracks or something. A second record of my solo stuff, like eight songs or something.
Do you find it hard to balance skating and music? Or is it a symbiotic thing that just happens?
I just kind of do it as it comes, I never think about it too much. They do get in the way of each other sometimes because I'll just want to focus on this one thing, but then the other is like, “What about me?” so it's hard. I'll be like skating and so tired and then I'll see my guitar and be like, I should play it. But actually I don't ever think about it much, really, I just do it. Kind of just comes naturally. I just let things happen.
I'm hoping one day I can show up outside your house at four in the morning with a backpack and a skateboard in Austin, Texas and I'm going to knock on your door and we are going to skate every ditch possible, take some time to get dressed up in your bedroom, and listen to some good punk music.
Anytime, you are always welcome!
If you ever feel like coming to South Africa, it's beautiful down here, we have a place for you to stay, me and my boyfriend Adam.
I so want to go one day, I can't wait to travel. I miss traveling so much. I miss going on tours, I love being in the van all day, constantly moving, new people, meeting tons of trans and queer people everywhere, it's the best. Seriously please show up at four in the morning and we'll go skate a million ditches, it will be so fun!
You too! You’re making me hyped!