You’re likely aware that we’re big fans of Tiago Lemos, so you can understand how bummed we were upon hearing that he wasn’t able to enter the US. Now that he’s back in action, we spoke to Felipe Ventura, Tiago’s manager and cool guy in general, to talk about what kept him out of the country for over a year.
So, was Tiago deported?
No. What happened was that he and (Carlos) Iqui were on a plane, coming from the DC Latin America trip. Iqui had an argument with one of the passengers. Not a fight or anything, just him being like “Hey! Listen to my side of the story!”, and that was it. He was drunk, and it escalated into something where the flight attendant had to intervene. So when they left the plane, the flight attendant told Iqui to wait there because he was going to be escorted by the police. Tiago was just like “I’m not going to leave my friend.” He was there in the tunnel waiting (between the plane and terminal) and the flight attendant told him three separate times to leave and keep going. You know, like “You’re good, get out of here.” He still didn’t want to leave Carlos behind. He was just like…naïve, that’s the word.
At that point, Iqui was just waiting there for a while. Nothing seemed to be happening, so they both left the area and kept going. The two of them had different types of visas, so they had to get in separate lines at the border check.
By the time Tiago got to the agents at the border check, immigration officers had already handcuffed Iqui. I think the flight attendant was pissed, just because Tiago wasn’t listening to her earlier, so she pointed at him. Then they came after Tiago. They asked a few questions – Tiago was nervous and doesn’t speak really good English. He was just desperate to get out of there, so when they put some papers in front of him he just signed them, not really thinking about what that might mean.
That was it? That doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to have your visa revoked.
So, later I found out that his visa was cancelled. I found out via a contact I have who deals with immigration that they had him marked in their system that as illegally trying to immigrate to the US and work without the proper visa, probably just because of the papers he signed. When I found out about that, things actually became a lot easier. Once I knew that, I actually knew that there was something I could do.
I spent the whole year getting paperwork done, talking to people from the government of Brazil to get his visa back. The whole Olympic thing helped, he’s part of the Brazilian Olympic team. We had people writing letters – the Minister of Sports emailed the (Brazillian) Consulate, as well as the U.S. Consulate in Rio which helped a little bit. It also helped that he pays taxes in Brazil. You know, he has a good income down there, he has an apartment, investments, all that.
How did you guys stay in contact while Tiago was away? What was your plan while his immigration status was in limbo?
These days that's kind of easy with smart phones and all, but Tiago was in Brazil with me for a while and shortly after we went to Europe together for 3 months, then back to Brazil, then Canada and Australia. The only plan we had was to stay on the move, I figure that as long as Tiago is skating there will be eyes on him, doesn't matter where, and in the end it didn't really felt that California was necessary, except for the SLS LA stop that he missed.
We saw footage of Tiago in some far off places like Croatia - where did he go during that time?
It was a world tour! Filming for the Transworld and Dime videos in Spain, Croatia, Norway, UK, France, Germany, Portugal, Canada, Australia. Shout out to Antony Lopez (DC Euro TM) for having our back while in Europe!
Did you guys have any trouble getting to Canada for the Dime Glory Challenge?
Funny thing is that right now if you have an American visa, Canada gives you a visa too, Tiago had a visa prior to that and it was valid until 2019. But on his way from Portugal to the UK, he lost his passport (with the Canadian visa) after boarding. He called me when he landed in the UK with no passport, so here I go again, calling all the my diplomat contacts in the UK and for some reason UK officers let Tiago enter the country without a passport! I’ve never heard of that happening before, so he had to get an emergency one in London, but now the Canadian visa was gone. So here I go again chasing the Canadian Consul in São Paulo and explaining the situation. They were super helpful and Tiago had another visa approved in within 2 days. I love Canada!
What's the plan now that he's able to get back into the US?
The plan never changed, keep skating! But he told me he wants to fuck with some picnic tables and some California handrails...I guess no spots are safe anymore!
Any lessons learned from the whole process?
Yep, don’t sit near drunk friends in a plane, you might get guilty by association. At the US border the kick you out of the country first and ask questions later.
It seems like the Primitive thing happened so suddenly - how did that come about?
Tiago had no plans to quit Boulevard at all, but when he was in London he skated with the Primitive squad and Wade asked Tiago about joining the camp. He wasn't really tempted until we randomly bumped into P Rod in Paris at this spot, and he asked Tiago personally. Also being on the team with Carlos Ribeiro helped the deal a lot. It wasn't until after the Glory Challenge when I was in California and had a meeting with Heath (Brinkley) and Oliver that we shook hands on it. We had 6 weeks to get a introduction plan together and they stopped their presses just to get Tiago's boards made in time. We gave Boulevard that month notice and he kept skating their boards until the day the Primitive guys surprised him at MACBA with his pro boards and welcomed him to the team.
Tiago was on Boulevard since the first time he came to America in 2012, he had mad loyalty to the team and refused so many offers in the past 3 years but eventually he told me he was ready to move on, try something different, and find himself some new inspiration. From what he told me it's all love for both brands because true skaters are behind them both.