Nigel Sylvester Is One Of The Most Exciting Figures In BMX Biking

Photographed by Carla Tramullas

And he took the road less traveled to get there

The following feature appears in the June/July issue of NYLON Guys.

The pathway to success is replete with hills, winding roads, and sharp turns. For most, these obstacles can seem insurmountable, but for Nigel Sylvester, learning to navigate them has been the key to his accomplishments—literally. He’s one of the most innovative figures in the BMX world, and as such, he’s shaken hands with cultural icons, been admired by fashion designers and style curators, and been the face of campaigns for multimillion-dollar brands. 

“I was always into bicycles as a kid because it was the easiest way for us to get around in the hood,” the 29-year-old says. We’re sitting on the top floor of the Ludlow House in New York’s Lower East Side as Sylvester recalls his formative years in Jamaica, Queens. “My friends and I would battle to see who could pop wheelies down the street, so the natural progression from having a bike and doing tricks to getting acceptance from the OGs in my neighborhood—dude, that was such an addictive feeling.” He soon earned that same acceptance from the greats of his sport: The late Dave Mirra appeared alongside the young biker in the Flipside BMX DVD in 2006, and offered him his first professional deal soon after. “He gave me my first shot at riding on a professional level, and wanted me to ride in my own way,” says Sylvester. “He was a hero of mine, so to have someone of his caliber giving me that co-sign, that’s something you only see in a storybook.”

While most of Sylvester’s peers have taken the usual route to attracting such acclaim—going professional, riding with teams, winning competitions, and earning sponsorships—he carved out a unique method of reaching the top. “I turned pro when I was 18, but I didn’t have to compete on the contest circuits to be considered a pro. So instead, I’d appear in videos, doing tricks on a professional level,” he says. Sylvester soon had a cult following for the videos of his adrenaline-inducing stunts performed right in his neighborhood. That allowed him to expand his network, and collaborate with content producer Levi Maestro for his “Maestro Knows” video series. “Kids like Maestro and I had the lay of the land of the internet, and defined what the word content even was,” he says, noting that his foresight has served him well. “It made companies rush to sign me before others would—similar to how rappers would put out mixtapes before the major labels would come calling.” 

And did those brands ever come calling: His roster of sponsors includes Nike, Beats by Dre, New Era, GoPro, Animal Bikes, and Ethika, along with G-Shock, which allowed the biker to flex his design skills on limited-edition pieces, and Brooklyn Machine Works, a bicycle company partly owned by none other than Pharrell. Having such support has further bolstered his content creation, especially for his “Go!” video series, which gives viewers a firsthand look at his tricks and travels. “People used to ask how it felt to ride a bike, so I combined that with my desire to travel the world,” he explains. “From New York to L.A. to Tokyo, and now Dubai, the series has allowed me to portray what my life is like at this moment through my lens. And so far, so good.”

Despite these numerous accolades, it took time for Sylvester to develop a support system among those closest to him. “My parents are from Grenada so to them, going to school and having a nine-to-five is the most important thing,” he says. “It wasn’t until after a couple years of me being a pro—once I was in ads, on billboards, and on TV—that my parents realized I was doing something real with my life.” One accomplishment in particular proved Sylvester’s success to his family: being named in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” list, and becoming the first BMX rider to receive that honor. “To be doing an unconventional sport in an unconventional way, I’m an anomaly, bro,” he proudly claims. “I’m a black kid from Jamaica, Queens, and it shows anyone who looks at me as inspiration that they can do it, too.” 

Despite this success being Sylvester’s primary source of pride, it ultimately became one of the biggest hurdles of his career. “BMX and the people in it can be so insular at times,” he says. “I’m probably one of the most hated bike riders in the game right now, because with a lot of things I’ve done in my career, people look at that as selling out and me being too corporate. But I’m also one of the most loved riders just because of what I’m bringing to the sport. So, to the purists who think I sold out: Fuck that and fuck you, because a lot of people could never imagine what I’ve went through.” He pauses, mentally plotting out his words like he’s mapping out a succession of tricks to perform. “I’ve faced racism my entire life. I’ve traveled the world and dealt with it on many different levels. I had an unmarked cop car follow me the other day when my friends and I were riding on the Upper West Side, just visiting some homies. Then you have people who talk crazy in internet comments, calling me the N-word. It’s nuts.”

If Sylvester can help it, though, there will soon be more bikers who look like him making impressions upon the BMX world. “I try to impact other black kids the best way I can,” he says. “I remember looking up to other riders when I was a kid, and it always reminds me to keep on pressing and keeping on pushing. There’s an entire wave of people coming behind me, so if I can break down these barriers for them, the message I’m trying to get across will be spread even further.”

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

"And now our watch has ended"

In a thoughtful tribute on Instagram, actress Emilia Clarke said goodbye to Game of Thrones, and her character, Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke posted a gallery of photos including some group shots with the rest of the cast, as well as a closeup of Dany's intricately braided hair, and a still from the show. "Finding the words to write this post has left me overwhelmed with how much I want to say but how small words feel in comparison to what this show and Dany have meant to me," she wrote, continuing to say that "Game of Thrones has shaped me as a woman, as an actor, and as a human being."

"The mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life. This woman has taken up the whole of my heart," she wrote. "I've sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions (and names) I was given, justice." She also gave a nod to her father, who died in 2016, saying that she wishes he was still alive "to see how far we've flown."

Clarke finished by thanking her fans, telling them that "without you there is no us... I owe you so much thanks, for your steady gaze at what we've made and what I've done with a character that was already in the hearts of many before I slipped on the platinum wig of dreams," she said. "And now our watch has ended."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Don't reusable cups exist in Westeros?

Apparently, no one could keep their drinks off-set during the final season of Game of Thrones. The show, which has been known for its meticulous editing, has featured a Starbucks coffee cup in an episode, and now, a plastic water bottle. Someone get these characters a reusable cup!

Yes, in the final episode of the series, there's a disposable water bottle hidden in plain sight in one of the scenes. If you look closely enough, you'll see the bottle peeking out from behind Samwell Tarly's leg in a scene where many characters were arguing about the fate of Westeros.

Another water bottle was spotted by someone else, hiding behind Ser Davos Seaworth's foot.

It seems that everyone was too parched on the set of the final episode to worry about a misplaced water bottle making it into the final shots. Some are speculating that the team left them in on purpose as payback to the writers for the series' ending.

We just really hope that everyone in the series recycles. If there are disposable cups and plastic bottles available in the fictional world, we hope that there's an ethical way of disposing of them. Otherwise, well, it might be more disappointing than the series finale itself.

Screenshot via YouTube

It's so good

Lana Del Rey released a cover of Sublime's 1997 song "Doin' Time," and she made it completely her own. That means it's the perfect combination of trippy melancholia and full-out lust.

According to Rolling Stone, the cover will appear in an upcoming documentary which will "[outline] the history of the iconic California band." In a statement, Del Rey said, "Not a day goes by that I don't listen to at least one Sublime song. They epitomized the SoCal vibe and made a genre and sound totally their own."

Bud Gaugh, a member of the band, "We are so excited to be collaborating with Lana on this. The smoky, sexy, and iconic sound of her voice breathes new life into one of our favorite singles." It certainly does.

My personal favorite part of the cover is the fact that Del Rey doesn't change the gender of the person the song is about, like so many musicians often do. Instead, Del Rey's intonation of "me and my girl, we got this relationship/ I love her so bad but she treats me like shit" is gay rights.

Listen to Del Rey's cover of "Doin' Time," below.

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Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.


She shares her experience with 'The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change'

Nina Nesbitt has "experienced every possibility" when it comes to putting music out into the world, and she's better for it. With her recent album The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change, she put out her most personal work yet, digging into some of the best and messiest moments of life. Previously, she'd lent these stories to other voices as she wrote for a variety of artists, but this time she wanted to have a project just for her—and clearly, the fans did as well, as it's gotten over 150 million streams and counting.

Watch the video above to get a taste of Nesbitt's journey and sound.

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Dani Okon and Charlotte Prager
Edited by: Madeline Stedman