In the words of Jay-Z, Ricardo Laguna is “a business, man.” Even though the 30-year-old often dresses in jeans and a cap like the international BMX racing champion he is, he is well on his way to building an empire. Laguna already has his own line of helmets and bikes, and is internationally sought-after to build BMX competition courses.
But his accomplishments to date are just the beginning for the athlete-turned-businessman who aspires to one day be the Latino voice for his sport—a Tony Hawk-type figure. “I look around, and there is no one doing what I do,” Laguna says.
If you’ve seen his reality TV show, The Ricardo Laguna Project (MTV Tr3s and MTV Latin America), you know he immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13 and grew up against a humble background. His father worked as a dishwasher at the Stardust while Laguna attended English-as-a-second-language classes, eventually graduating from Eldorado High in 2000. Meanwhile, he was emerging as an amateur dirt-biker the old-fashioned way: lots of practice, leading to lots of trophies. By age 19, he had turned pro.
Thanks in part to his good looks and a charismatic personality, he quickly became a celebrity in the extreme-sports world, serving as an announcer for the X Games and host for an Extreme Thing bike competition. The TV show, which debuted in March, took his career to the next level—and put his life under a microscope, 21st-century American-style. “With success comes sacrifice, risks and temptation,” states a promotion for his show, “and juggling it all can be quite the balancing act.”
What seems to keep Laguna balanced more than anything else is his steady attitude. “When I go out and people ask me for my autograph, I still can’t believe it,” he says. “I still can’t believe I get to do this for a living. I am so blessed.”
In return, even with so much happening on and off the BMX course, Laguna rarely turns down a charity event or an opportunity to contribute to his adopted hometown. Throughout the year he donates helmets to kids and gives free bike lessons, and his holiday season calendar was filled with toy drives and children’s events. This, he says, is his measure for success: making a positive impact in the lives of others.