Jill Perkins’ Pride Interview

photo by Marc O’Malley

Intro and Interview by Jon Stark

June 28th, 2020

In 2015, Jill Perkins came to Salt Lake City from California, not to start a snowboard career, just to be in the mountains and snowboard more. Everything that came after was something out of a Disney sports movie. She progressed quicker than anyone should, yet the timeline of her overnight rise coincided with a growing discomfort in her own identity. What’s expected of you and what’s best for you can differ greatly. Jill’s trajectory ultimately put more pressure on her to fit a generic mold of the female snowboarder.

Sexuality isn’t black and white, and relationships can be hard to articulate. In an industry that hasn’t been historically welcoming of this fluidity, social terrain is inherently more difficult to navigate while sheltering away your true self. Now, as a leader in our community, she’s taking a stand for inclusivity and positivity as snowboarding enters a new chapter of acceptance.

photo by Marc O’Malley

How do you feel about being included in this week of Pride that highlights queer people in our snowboard community?

Honestly, I couldn’t be more excited. To be a part of the queer community was something I was scared of for a long time. But to be alongside some of the most inspirational, strong, beautiful people, especially in snowboarding, that fear has left my mind.

It seems like you’ve been pretty open about your sexuality. Has that been easy or has it taken some time to get there?

I feel like I just recently started to accept myself and my feelings. I wasn’t necessarily fighting them; I just never fully embraced them. That being said, it took time for sure. But that’s important. Nobody should feel forced into situations or feel like they need to express themselves in ways they aren’t ready to.

How would you define your sexuality now?

Well, my sexuality falls short of a definition. It’s not one way or the other. I enjoy getting to know and love people. What I will say is about three years ago I fell in love with a girl. I guess, before that, I never really admitted to myself or thought about being gay or straight or in between. That’s really it. But here I am, three years later, realizing this was not just as some would say, a phase.

And I think even during that time, I was still just kind of putting it off, and putting it off, and not necessarily being open with myself or with her. I think having that honesty in a relationship allows you to bring much needed happiness to your life. It took me too long to realize that, because when you’re happy, you’re able to progress, you’re able to stand for what you believe in, you’re able to do the things that you love to do to their fullest.

Did you think your career would be perceived differently because of your sexuality?

For sure, subconsciously. I’ve spent so much time believing in the “do you and find things that make you happy” mantra and telling other people those things. And I know that’s the right way to live—own it and be honest with yourself. But for some reason, I’ve found myself not doing those things in order to cater to other people. And I think, ultimately, if I am open with my peers, then the people I surround myself with are going to be open and genuine as well. If I were to have realized sooner what I am working towards now, I think I would have avoided a lot of stress and anxiety that has brought me to the point of wanting to talk about it. 

photo by Nirvana Ortanez

Do you think this pandemic has given you the ability to think more deeply about this stuff or offer some clarity?

Undeniably. It’s made me realize the fear of losing snowboarding—the thing that I ultimately love to do the most. It’s reminded me that things don’t last forever. Your job doesn’t last forever, your body can max out, or you might not have access to the things you love to do. If I’m capable of doing these things right now in the present, why the hell would I not do them whole-heartedly and as open as I can? Why would I not do the things I love to do as honestly as I can, rather than waking up one day when everything is gone like, well, this sucks. 

As harsh as times are at the moment, I have seen more personal growth in myself than I ever really saw before. It brought to my attention the things and people in life who matter to me and reminded me to, at the end of the day, express and love myself. And to be there for others.

Is your family supportive of your snowboard career? Do they understand your personal relationships?

Yeah, more than I could ever ask them to be. They are amazing. Of course, at first, with snowboarding they didn’t quite understand. But let’s be real, I didn’t even understand. I am really lucky to have their support; they help me with big decisions and always lend their ears when needed. As far as personal relationships go, also yes. They want to see me happy and healthy. I am so blessed to have parents who are interested in and supportive of the things and people I love.

photo by Ted Borland

You mentioned to me the other day that you felt like you came into snowboarding at the right time. What did you mean by that?

I think I just found myself meeting the right people at the right time. I got really lucky when I initially moved to Salt Lake. I didn’t really know what snowboarding was before I entered the scene. To hear what it was and to see what it is now, it looks like it’s definitely gone through its ups and downs and changes. One thing I would like to point out about the present is that I feel as if it is the most “all hands on deck,” as it’s yet to be. People are pushing throughout the industry for equality, and it’s a beautiful thing. We are so lucky to have this little community of, for the most part, open minded people. 

Did you feel like the push for gender equality coincided with that as well?

Yes. What’s cool about snowboarding today is that the people in direct contact, the people making things happen, for the most part, grew up snowboarding. We are seeing a lot more women with jobs in the industry pushing for more women to partake in snowboarding. I believe the present time is a near direct correlation to gender equality in snowboarding. This is kind of off topic but will maybe put it in perspective: I went to the skatepark yesterday, and it was 50/50. I’m talking maybe 13 girls and 13 guys, where a year ago, two years ago, it was like maybe myself and one other girl, or, if you got lucky and went the right time, there would be like three girls. So, I just think, not only in snowboarding, but also in other action sports that things feel like they are moving closer to how they should be.

You progressed very quickly from 2015 to now. What do you attribute that type of growth on your board to?

Addiction?

Haha, yeah?

Addiction and drive. I think no matter what season it is, whether it’s snowboarding or skateboarding—because those are the only two seasons that really matter to me—I feel I’m addicted to it. I love to do it. I go nonstop. And I don’t know if that’s just me wanting to progress—because I do definitely want to progress. Maybe it’s just me not wanting to sit in my room, so I go out and do things, you know?

filmed by Marc O’Malley

That makes sense. What does it mean to have been given the opportunity to film video parts?

It’s been a huge opportunity. I’ve gotten really lucky in being included in a couple major projects. I think doing United Slopes a couple of years ago was the first big learning experience for me. It was the first time I really saw how you build a spot, how you hit a spot, how you clean up a spot, every aspect of what we do.

Do you feel like you’ve figured it out yet?

No, absolutely not. But, you know, it’s interesting because I’ve really only filmed one video part: last year’s Everybody, Everybody. And I will say, when it premiered, I don’t know if I’ve ever been on such a cloud nine. That day, I remember just being so nervous because it’s a showcase of all your hard work and everything that you and your snowboard family did that entire year. The personal connections you make through these opportunities allow you a chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself. I’ve learned and grown so much from just having the opportunity to go out and do it. I just feel like it’s important to showcase what you’ve been working on and what potential there is to come.

filmed by Ted Borland

What are your fears in life?

I mean, initially, I would say failure. But there are a ton of things that fall into that category, you know? It can be a failure to yourself, or you can be a failure to other people. But failure is up there. I think it can be just failing to perceive yourself in a good light and that’s a scary line to dance on. I’m scared of death, but not necessarily personal death. I think death around us scares me. 

Every life we lose in our community is a reason to believe it’s not going to last forever.

Absolutely. But at the same time, it gives us a glimpse into how important personal connections are. Your life is so short. And I know people always say that, but it comes and goes so quickly. And I’m just realizing it now. It’s like you live and you die, and you should be the person that you want to be. And I, personally, feel like I spent a lot of time being the person that I thought other people wanted me to be.

Jill’s first full part in last years “Everybody, Everybody” directed by Ted Borland

I saw you in Portland last year at the Everybody, Everybody premiere, and all these people were coming up and taking photos with you. How does it feel to be considered a role model now? 

It’s a humbling notion. But as an individual, I’m hypercritical when I shouldn’t be. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that negative judgments don’t need to be shared, heard, or really talked about. It doesn’t do good for anybody. Being a good person is so important, and there are times where I’m so judgmental—I’m hypercritical on myself and others. It makes me feel like a shitty person, and I don’t want to feel like that anymore. Seeing how hyped people get on snowboarding, and things I get to do through snowboarding, makes me want to make it easier for everyone to be more involved.

So you’re coming to terms with the fact that you want to be true to yourself and the people around you?

Yeah. Maybe I don’t know my true self because I haven’t been trusting those gut instincts. And it’s left me at a point of confusion. But I think right now, more than ever, I’m ready to face that, to stare down that path. 🙂

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