We had the good fortune of connecting with Wendell Phipps and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Wendell, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is an absolutely necessary part of the human experience. Somehow we unlearn the fearlessness of infancy as we age. We get hurt too many times, we fail, we experience loss…all of which are also valuable, but none of those things should make us risk-averse. When we’re babies, we fail hundreds of times taking the ‘risk’ of learning how to walk. As a roller skater, whenever people tell me that they’re afraid to fall, I say “how do you think we learned to walk?” The reality is that we’re GOING to fall. It’s going to happen. It’s probably going to happen a lot. But at the other end of falling is learning. To me, the pricelessness of learning is far worth a reasonable amount of risk. There’s definitely a balance that needs to be struck, because I don’t think that ALL risk is worth taking. But in the pursuit of happiness, success, whatever your goals are…risk shouldn’t be what stops you. You gotta risk falling in order to walk, to run, or to fly. I want to soar, and because of that, I’m willing, almost eager to take risks. 

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
One of the things that sets me a part is my background. I grew up in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia area). I BLEED MARYLAND, and I love telling people about where I grew up lol. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else, and I miss it every day. I’m not moving back just yet though 🙂 I have a 9-5 job (in LA, I know it’s crazy ;D), working as a software developer for a large electric company. I came to love writing code when I was in college, when one of my best friends invited me to take an intro to computer science course. I love how it challenges me, and how it appeals to my logical side. I like to tell people I can see the 0’s and 1’s like the Matrix, but that’s only true on Thursdays 😉 I’m an athlete, I did acrobatics for around ten years. I love flipping , being flipped, and flipping others! I learned many lessons, mostly built around the team environment. Team dynamics will make or break you, haha. It made me. One lesson that will always stick with me is the idea of the weakest link. As John C. Maxwell says, ‘the strength of the team is determined by its weakest link.’ I found that by not comparing myself, and only focusing on being the best ‘Wendell’ that I could be, I strengthened myself. Hopefully I strengthened some others too. I’m also a creative. I’ve been a life-long musician, playing piano and organ mostly. I have a deep love for the keyboard, it’s been there for me in ways no on else has. I first started playing the Beethoven’s, Chopin’s, and Debussy’s, but as I grew into high school, I fell in love with jazz and soul. There’s nothing quite like performing with other musicians who share a love for music like you do. Knowing that I can make music and that the music I make can just possibly make someone’s day is humbling, and it’s exciting! Music has taught me the ever-important lesson of doing the work when no one is watching. I’ve spent countless hours in a practice room, mulling over music that just didn’t seem to connect or sound right. By the time a performance happens, people may be congratulating me on a job well done, but what I remember is those hours, alone. It’s the practice that makes the art, in my humble opinion. I find myself very patient when it comes to learning new skills because of my time practicing music. What makes me proud of myself is the fact that I am complex. There’s no ‘one side’ of Wendell. I don’t just do one thing that’s my thing, and that’s it. I’m insatiably curious, always wanted to learn something. I don’t know anyone else that likes to do all of the things I like to do, and I don’t know many people that do all of what I do, on the level I do it. I’m most excited for the future for myself. I’m excited for all of the new challenges I will face with the memories of the obstacles that I’ve already overcome. And I’m excited for the people who will be there with me, helping me do it all!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love showing people this city lol. I love showing people D.C., and L.A. specifically because of just how much there is here. I don’t believe anyone that says they’re ‘bored of L.A.’ I’m suspicious that they’ve stopped trying lol. Obviously we’re gonna roller skate – Chino Skate Express, Fountain Valley Skating Center, and The Venice Beach roller disco are my faves in L.A.! I would spend all of the meals supporting the numerous and delicious black owned businesses we have in L.A. Roscoes, Black Bottom, Blakhaus, Delicious Southern, Memphis Grill, Lettuce Feast, all of ’em! Post-rona, I’d definitely want to take them Six Flags Magic Mountain, I love roller coasters and would ride them all day. I’d check out the beach too – we’d probably go to one of the smaller beaches to avoid the crows and catch some rays and waves. If it was right we’d check out the Hollywood bowl or the Teragram for some great music! I love taking drives, so we’d probably head down PCH and vibe out to some L.A. artists like Thundercat, Knower, or Kendrick Lamar Now if these were dates I’d still do a lot of the same stuff but I can’t tell ALL my secrets 😉

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow there are so many… I encourage everyone to find the truth wherever it is for them, but as someone who believes in God, He must come first on any list of ‘thank yous’. I’m okay if that makes me a little old fashioned :). I have an angel for a mother. She’s sacrificed in ways I will probably never understand or be able to describe. I grew up around an incredible support system. Extended family, friends, coaches, mentors, teachers, they have all had profound impact on who I’ve become. I specifically want to thank the roller skating community, full of willing teachers and wise old-heads ;). I love you all, not just for how much you’ve taught me, but how much you’ve been willing to fight so that people like me could skate freely, and in abundance. I see you, and I know you were here long before I was, or before roller skating found this recent wave of being injected into ‘pop culture’. My close group of skater friends, those I skate with most often, you make my skates sing. I love you all, thank you for making me feel included and important.

Instagram: @wd_phipps

Image Credits
Christ Greenwell Sae Bluff Max Gheysens

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