The name Toni Frallicciardi may not sound familiar to everyone, but one conversation with this former celebrity-insider and any concert junkie or up-and-coming skater would give their left pinky to relive a single hour in her shoes some twenty years ago. Okay, maybe their right pinky, too.
Surfing, skateboarding and shooting photos for Eastern Surf Magazine is how Toni described her upbringing in South Florida. Through the years she has traveled with the surf and skate industry to places like Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, New York, California and Vegas, living that much coveted lifestyle. Currently, Toni oversees the skate Life at Ramp48 located at Calvary Fort Lauderdale. When asked about her first experience with church, her earliest recollection of attending was in high school, “But only because this cute boy asked me to,” she chuckled. “It was fun … it was more just hanging out, having a good time with people in a safe environment.”
However, one kind gesture from a church member changed her view of God forever. The summer before college, she was invited with a select group of young adults on an extreme adventure excursion in Montana. “We were dropped in the middle of Yellowstone to hike for five days, climbing and repelling,” shared Frallicciardi… events clearly out of her comfort zone, she added. During that week when the group reconvened at the ranch, Toni gave her life to the Lord.
Unaware of what steps to take next as a new Christian, she returned home to that old lifestyle of partying Saturday nights with friends. Without a mentor or disciple guiding her, Toni thought as long as she attended church Sunday morning, her actions were acceptable. “I read my Bible here and there,” she said, “but I’d do whatever I wanted the rest of the week.”
By age 21, Toni embarked on a multifaceted career path. Juggling three different professions, she opened a skate shop and art gallery called The Soul Kitchen in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, designed clothing for P Clothing (the start of Phat Farm), a big surf and skate company, and she orchestrated the backstage logistics at a local nightclub, The Edge (currently known as Revolution), where she catered to famous artists.
“I hung out with (stars) on a regular basis,” she humbly shared. From hip-hop to rock legends, Toni ensured the musicians were fed and happy before taking the stage. “I took people like Prince and rap artists out to lunch. That was my job,” she added. Toni’s marketing, design and business ventures all worked together synonymously. She booked the bands for the venues, introduced them to her clothing company and in turn, the performers wore her clothes onstage and often purchased artwork from the gallery.
“I met all these people that everybody in the world dreams of meeting,” she shared. After pressing for details, she coyly rattled off names like Russell Simmons, Janet Jackson, Run DMC, Metallica, A Tribe Called Quest, Jane’s Addiction and she was even commissioned by Puff Daddy (a.k.a. P. Diddy or Sean Combs) to create pieces for his girl’s clothing line. Living her dream as a designer and artist, she partied nightly with celebrities. “It got old really fast,” she admitted. “They’re just people. They are the same as me and you.”
Working around the rich and famous, that void everyone tries to fill isn’t quenched with a disposable income. Even when the stars were surrounded by fans, Toni wondered, are they “there because they were getting free clothes and free food? You think that’s going to bring you happiness, but of course, it doesn’t.”
She laughed as she said, “It was normal for me to drive around with like Ice-T. (I hung) out with those guys, I’m like 5’2, they were always so nice.” Far from that bad boy image we see on the television. One time she remembers watching this hip-hop artist film their video for MTV; half naked girls danced around them, but “once the cameras stopped shooting, those girls went home. Everyone’s their best friend,” Toni paused, “until their records not selling like crazy.”
Years later, she married a non-believer, Uli. “We still were going to all kinds of concerts; getting (special) treatment…we’d go backstage, everything was handed to us.” She lived the lifestyle many coveted, however, Toni grew weary of the erratic nightlife and flare for the things of this world, confessing, “Clothing, shopping or having the newest stuff, that’s great and wonderful to a point. But, that’s temporary–makes you feel good for a second. Then–it’s gone.”
It took the birth of her daughter before her heart finally changed. “The first time you see your child, you fall in love. You’re like, ‘Wow. And God loves me more than this?'” With this new awakening of God’s adoration toward her, Toni started on a different journey–one where Christ was the focus of her attention. Naturally, she prayed for Uli to embrace this same passion.
After the birth of their second child, Toni recalls the times she would be home with their children, stating, “He’d be out until four in the morning, partying with friends.” In 2002, after years of battling with him to change his habits, Uli walked into a local skatepark where they were hosting a Bible study. Right then, he gave his life to the Lord. When Uli arrived home to share this News, Toni didn’t believe him. “Before this, I had heard it over and over again, how he was going to stop partying and he’s done with it. I kind of laughed at him, and said, ‘Yeah, okay,'” Toni snickered.
He did, though. Uli changed and started volunteering at the skatepark. Less than a year later, the park moved to Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. “We both got asked to come on staff. It’s been ten years now that we’ve been doing skate Life, ” she said. “God’s allowed us to use everything: my background, marketing and concerts … God doesn’t waste anything. Even the mess and the junk back then he takes and uses everything for His glory. We’ve helped with South Florida Festivals, like Cornerstone, which is a big Christian festival, (and) with Luis Palau’s festivals.” They currently travel the world helping to organize skateboarding events.
Some of the well-known skaters Toni admired in her youth are their best friends today. “Christian Hosoi, I think when he was 13 he was making around $500,000 every month or something crazy like that,” she laughed. “He used to date Drew Barrymore and he was super famous in the 80’s, and he’ll tell this story over and over again, that the fame and fortune didn’t bring happiness. It wasn’t until he met Christ. That’s what brought him happiness.”
“Jesus will always be there with you,” she said, “God’s got a plan, and it’s better than what we could imagine or what the world offers us. God’s a God of economy. He uses everything for His glory. We might not see it right now, because we’re seeing it from our limited perspective, but from God’s perspective, if you look back, you see, ‘Wow, that’s why this happened. This is why God allowed me to go through this.’ He doesn’t waste anything. He doesn’t make mistakes.”
Today, we have a generation of people searching for acceptance, spending every dime, chasing that big dream, augmenting a perfectly designed body to fill a void, only to find the ache in their soul never subsides. “I’m not going to lie, I had a great time, I met a lot of people, but I was 21 years old and it was all about what your outward appearance was, not really what your heart was about,” she adds. Toni observed band members experiencing the same fears as the general population. We all wear masks, “whether it’s that mask of ‘Hey, I’m in the band’, or whatever, even with platinum records tapped to the wall, they suffer from the world’s emptiness. Only Jesus can bring true joy.”
Toni proudly concluded, “My husband’s actually heading to Colorado this month with a whole bunch of bands and skaters to do a couple of big evangelical events in Colorado Springs and Brighton. It’s kind of cool that even though we used to be in that for the world, now we’re able to (use our talents) and glorify the Lord.”
For more information on Calvary Fort Lauderdale’s skatepark, visit: www.ramp48.com; for information on Toni’s skate Life, visit: www.christianskaters.com
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