The Woman Behind Sneaker Pimps
Pete is a great guy and creative genius , but he'd be lost without his behind-the-scenes wiz, Mae Umali. Whether she's weilding the wirecutter, moving boxes or telling all us artists where to go, this girl is the unsung hero of Sneaker Pimps.
by Lori Lobenstine
I first met Mae when I went to help folks set up for Sneaker Pimps Boston in 2005. It turns out that half their sneakers NEVER ARRIVED. For most of the day they'd been getting mixed messages about whether the truck would arrive or not. In the end, it didn't, and I could not believe how calm everyone was. We went out to a nearby bar, had a good laugh and some really tall drinks, and Mae said, hey, what can you do? Then she got busy rearranging the hundreds of sneakers they did have. The party-goers never knew the difference! Since then I've had the pleasure of working with her each year when Female Sneaker Fiend joins their show in New York, and she was cool enough to join us in a special FSF project at Sneaker Pimps Hartford in 06. I rest easy knowing she's on top of it all, cuz she does NOT play.
The Basics: Mae Umali, age 25, from Sydney and now living in NYC.
How long have you been into sneakers?
I’ve always had some great kicks growing up. So technically speaking 22-23years.
What was the first sneaker you remember falling for?
They were the Charles Barkley CB94. I just started my first year in High School, and the P.E. uniform required every student to buy a pair of sneakers that won’t ‘mark’ the gym surface.
What’re your all time faves?
Air Max 1 and the Vans authentic – if these shoes were people they would be my best friends.
Mae rocking some Vans authentics in Sydney.
What are your current holy grails?
Adidas Bathing ape skate in a size 5.5.
You and Pete have been friends for a long time. How did you meet?
I’ve known Pete since I was 16 we had mutual friends. Then a couple of years later we hung out a lot through skateboarding and general revelry.
How long have you been a part of Sneaker Pimps?
I have been there since the first show in Sydney. Pete had so many friends with sneaker collections – myself included, and I guess it was just a way to show off your sneakers. From then on Pete and I started an ‘adfunture’ using Sneaker Pimps as a medium.
In what ways have you seen SP grow and change?
The shows you see now are completely different to how Sneaker Pimps use to be. Everything has changed and grown in gigantic proportions. Bigger acts, bigger venues, bigger sneakers!
Bigger acts! Bigger venues... (photo by Samia Grand-Pierre)
What have you learned from being involved at such a deep level?
I have learnt a lot about sneakers, shipping companies, truck driving, artists/graffers, musicians and their mannerisms.
It seems like the very artistic, creative sneakers have been a bit pushed aside by the collections of different brands. What do you attribute this to?
The artist shoes are still a huge part of the show. I believe that with the growing fascination on sneaker collecting/fiending especially with a high media influence there has been a little shift into the brand consciousness of the show, hopefully pleasing sponsors and attendees.
The music just keeps getting bigger. Who else do you guys have lined up? And when will we see a woman performing at SP?
Tiger Lily has DJ’d on numerous Sneaker Pimps shows. I would like to see Missy Elliot perform. Well until Foxy Brown gets out of Jail…who knows.
What is your favorite city/country to do SP in? why?
Korea was a lot of fun, but I think I have to go with NY – it’s always so dramatic and you always end up with the craziest stories to take home with you.
You guys have made it through some pretty serious adventures. What’re a couple of your favorite stories?
When Pete and I did the first Sneaker Pimps Asia tour anything and everything happened. In Singapore we skated around with SBTG (Sabotage), In Japan our hotel room was haunted, crazy taxi cab drivers in Taiwan. Actually, while Peter and I were in Korea we had a day off and went skating. This place was amazing, marble ledges and smooth grounds surrounded by little gardens and statues. There was a peaceful protest a few yards away from where we were and all of a sudden, 200 fully armed guards in riot uniform turned up and surrounded the entire place. They were armed with Shotguns, M-16s and grenades on their belts. It was gnarly. Pete and I looked at each other shrugged our shoulders and kept skating. The protesters gave Pete and I some food and drinks. We’ve seen weirder things.
You’ve put aside a few jobs to head back on the road with SP. What keeps you coming back? And what’s your favorite thing about traveling?
I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do. I have an awesome boss (Stash) who understands what the situation is all about. I love the excitement of the tour and hanging out with my friends. It’s nice to get out of NY every now and then. There’s never a dull moment on tour.
How have you seen the role and numbers of women change at SP over the years?
There are definitely more women involved with the tour and even more going to the Sneaker Pimps shows. It’s always nice to have a female touch on things and keep the guys in check that’s why I really appreciate Female Sneaker Fiends being apart of the show. Certainly brings a whole different level to the sneaker game.
FSF Crew at Sneaker Pimps NYC 07
What are your future goals?
Whoa the future! Let’s see, I think settling down with my husband and going on the vacations we have been planning. I want to see more of the United States, and we want to go to Europe together. I’m just gonna take it easy – but you and I know that won’t be the case! (Editor's note: I can't imagine her taking it easy for long!)
What else would you like to say to female sneaker fiends?
It doesn’t matter if you are a veteran or a newbie at the sneaker game (or ‘insert game here’) keep doing what you are doing. Keep out of politics and let bygones be bygones. Don’t let people influence you. It’s easy to get caught up with things and lose focus on your own goals.
For many more pics of Sneaker Pimps shows, click here.