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Push: Leo Comanescu

Photography by Mike Ridout

Interview by Dan Bunn

Let’s get the boring shit out the way. Want to tell us a bit about where you’re from and what you do?

So I was born in Cardiff but my mum’s side of the family are from St. Lucia, and my dad’s side are from Romania. I work at Cardiff Skateboard Club, run Fountain, and do a bit of modelling.

When did you first start skating?

About seven years ago.

And how old are you now?

I’m 20.

Who did you first start skating with?

Initially I just skated on my own, then I started going to Spit & Sawdust and met people there. There were a few other people my age skating, but eventually I branched out, started skating street, and met some more people.

How come you started skating street so early on?

I couldn’t really afford to just be going Spit all the time. I remember Christian (Hart) had me sweeping floors in exchange for sessions (laughs). But yeah, I guess there were so many amazing spots…I mean Bute (Square) was the main one, at least back then, that I was skating a lot. You’d just kind of go there in the morning and stay there all day, or roam around a bit.

Be it catwalks in Milan or massive frontside noseslides in Cardiff city centre, Leo can tame them all.

So when did you start filming?

Pretty early on I think. I used to shoot a lot of photos, and then I kind of had a lightbulb moment - or just the realisation that I was being an idiot - when I was trying to take a picture of some trick but it wasn’t really working, and then someone was like, 'that’s a trick you’d rather film than take a picture of’, and it totally blew my mind, like, ‘oh yeah, you can film stuff as well’. So that kind of threw me into it.

What were you filming at first? I remember you starting to do Leo’s Letters on Instagram, but was there anything before that?

Yeah man, some shitty YouTube edits filmed on a DSLR (laughs). But before that, I don’t really know to be honest. Just random Instagram clips, nothing special.

So now with the videos for your clothing brand Fountain, you’ve started moving towards a longer format; what made you want to change from doing shorter, Instagram-based stuff to focusing on more full-length videos?

Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve done a full-length yet.

Nah true, but I guess they’re like modern full-lengths.

I’ll roll with that (laughs). I guess I just wanted to make something with a bit more substance. The stuff I was releasing before, it was just like, ‘let’s just get something out’. It wasn’t very serious in the sense that, like, I wasn’t trying hard to film it; it was just messing about with friends. But I guess so are the newer videos, but they had a little more of a thought process behind them; I’d think about the way I want to film something, and actually plan lines out with people.

I guess with Fountain, thinking about the production gives you more of a cohesive identity or direction for the video, compared to just random little edits.

Yeah for sure, like the music and everything helps tie into the theme of it. I don’t know how people feel when they watch one of the videos, but hopefully they make them feel good (laughs).

I was randomly in Paris one day going to meet a friend, I saw my face on a billboard as I was crossing the street, and just kind of tripped a bit...

I know you’re probably not going to want to talk about it, but I think people are going to want to hear about the modelling. How did that actually come about?

It came about pretty randomly. A couple of people had asked me about modelling before over the years, and I just wasn’t keen. Then I was asked again when I was a bit older, and I thought, ‘what’s the main reason for not wanting to do it?’, and I think I was just awkward, shy, and hated having my picture taken, so I thought, ‘maybe it’d be good to just get out of my comfort zone’. I followed it up and asked some people for some advice, and this lady got back to me and kind of said that she didn’t think I should roll with certain people because there were a few dodgy agencies about, and she was saying how, in my area, she’s kind of the only real agent. It was a pretty good sales pitch I guess: ‘fuck all of the other people out here’ (laughs).

It turned out that she was right though (laughs). It seems like you landed on your feet. You always see loads of people grafting really hard to be a model and not really making it, but you basically walked straight in. Obviously you see a lot of skaters doing modelling these days; do you think skateboarding’s popularity played a part in you getting involved, or was it just your natural beauty?

(Laughs) Yeah…I don’t know. I didn’t strive to be a model so I didn’t work hard for it in that respect. But I don’t know if modelling is kind of a weird thing to want to do anyway.

(Laughs) Yeah, like, ‘I just want to get paid because I look good’.

I don’t know what training for that looks like. I mean, you see the TV shows and stuff. and it’s great to watch, but I wouldn’t want to do that.

Under the watchful gaze of John Crichton-Stuart, the second Marquess of Bute, Leo frontside heelflips one of Cardiffs best loved blocks.

It definitely seems like the modelling industry can be pretty brutal. You’re probably used to it by now, but what was it like seeing yourself on a billboard for the first time?

Definitely weird. The first few billboards I never really got to see in person, I only saw them because somebody would take a picture and send it to me, but then I was randomly in Paris one day going to meet a friend, and I saw my face on a billboard as I was crossing the street, and just kind of tripped a bit. I sent a picture to my mum and she was stoked.

It seems like it’s not been the easiest process getting some photos for this Push interview. How does shooting skate photos compare to being on the Milan Fashion Week catwalk?

Skating’s tough; it’s obviously a mental and physical battle. I guess a skate photo might take a bit longer to shoot, and you might have to go back multiple times to get the trick. You can’t pose a skate photo, so there’s that too.

There’s definitely a lot more that can go wrong when shooting a skate photo.

Yeah, I don’t know if anyone on set has ever had a skateboard fly into their lens or some shit.

(Laughs) And I guess you don’t have to worry about security kicking you off the catwalk.

Hopefully not (laughs).

So how do you manage to juggle everything?

I just try to always keep my laptop on me. I’ve usually got it on me if I’m on a job, so if I’m not doing anything, I’ll just be in the background on my computer. And then I try to keep on top of what’s going on here (at CSC), meaning upcoming products and whatever’s got to be done in the coming weeks, and try to prepare as much as I can for that. Other than that, I just take it as it comes, because not every week’s the same. You could be busy one day and then you’re chilling for the next week, but then randomly you’ll have no time again.

Between Fountain, CSC and modelling, do you ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?

Sometimes I’m like, ‘yeah, this is fine’, but then other times I’m like, ‘have you been going to bed at a reasonable hour to make sure you have enough energy to do all of these things you’ve committed to?’, and the answer isn’t always ‘yes'. Taking care of yourself and making sure you can do all the things you need to do is a big part of it as well, especially when you’re travelling, you have to tactically sleep because you can’t always get as much as you need in one go.

What’s next for you then? Anything on the cards?

Potentially yeah, but I don’t know…I’ll probably say a load of shit and then by the time this comes out it’ll be like, ‘oh, none of it happened’.

When we last spoke, you said there was a Fountain full-length in the works. Is there any news on that?

Yeah, the timeline’s looking healthy. I guess it’ll come out when it comes out (laughs). It’s coming soon though, it’s just raining a lot at the moment.

Sounds pretty typical. Last but not least, is there anyone you want to thank?

Much love to Rye and the good people at Companion, my family, the CSC family, and everyone who’s played a role in this. Very, very grateful to everybody.

Safe Leo!

Follow Leo - @leocomanescu

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