Snowboarder Chloe Kim has been an icon in the public eye for some time. Kim is a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and former Princeton student hailing from Southern California, and has had all eyes on her for nearly a decade as a preeminent athlete. And while Kim might be one of the most highly-regarded athletes in the world, her authenticity and kind heart blur the distinction between what it means to be an untouchable superstar and a real human being.
The snowboarder stepped into the limelight at a young age, receiving sponsorships and media coverage before she could even drive a car. Embracing the bizarre polarity of her public rise and private adolescence, Kim describes the peculiar and often stressful process of taking on adult responsibilities at the age of thirteen as “challenging yet empowering.” Unable to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to her age at the time, Kim continued to shoulder the experience of having to act mature, while still being the youngest in the room, until the stage was finally hers. Kim has now outgrown the “youngest” descriptor that’s been trailing her for nearly a decade, as she’s confidently found a balance between being herself and being a professional.
In order to smoothly navigate her spotlight status and weather not only the global competitions and Olympic storms, but personal storms, Kim has learned that one way to stay true to herself is to prioritize mental health. “For a while it felt like I had to be ‘on’ at all times,” she shares, “not allowed to be upset or have a bad day. Being vulnerable is important, not only for others, but for yourself.” Kim reflects on her growth, emphasizing how she now feels that she can be the same person both in the public sphere and behind the curtain. “I’ve finally adopted this sense of being able to be open and honest about where I’m at.” The pressure may still weigh heavy, yet Kim is done striving for perfection. It may be easier said than done, but for the superstar boarder, it’s a tangible truth.
Kim’s poise and wisdom contribute to her status as a trailblazer for young athletes, women, and Asian Americans. While Kim has found a great deal of honor in being an inspiration for so many, the pressure can be demanding. “No one really tells you that you’re going to be a role model to a lot of young Asian Americans,” Kim shares, “so when that label was thrown on me, I was a little intimidated. But, I think, over the years, I’ve learned to embrace it and learn how much good I can do with this platform that I’d been so graciously given. So now, it’s about making other Asian Americans feel seen and heard and show that anything is possible.” While female snowboarding has inched further and further into the spotlight in recent years, it’s evident that Kim, and her widespread influence of empowerment, have been the movement’s engine.
After a conversation with the candid snowboarder, we recognize there is no hard exterior to crack, despite the rigors of her status. “I feel like people just view professional athletes as robots,” Kim shares, “but we deal with all the same shit that everyone else goes through. It’s just, we have to perform as our day job.” It can be difficult to onboard the idea of Kim being normal. Her achievements, in fact, are nearly nonpareil—but, at the end of the day, she is just twenty-two, and there is so much more ahead of her. While Kim has made strides beyond many athletes’ wildest dreams, she is cognizant that she still has room to grow. With further plans to compete, release her new clothing collaboration with Roxy, and branch into other fields, such as acting and singing, Kim is set on making her mark, on her own terms, whatever the inclement conditions or expectations may be.
Photographed by Angella Choe
Styled by Mui-Hai Chu
Written by Maddie Dinowitz
Hair: Ericka Verrett
Stylist Assistant: David Gomez
Production Assistant: Shei Marcelline
Photo Assistant / Lighting: Franco Andrade
Location: Inn at Playa del Rey