What skates, wears red hot lipstick, and is covered in ink? Jean Schwarzwalder, aka Suzy Hotrod
, is the roller derby matriarch of the up and coming sport. As a major player in her league, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
, she embodies the epitome of hard core. She's an internationally recognized derby girl, ravaged in ink, and oh yeah, she was in a couple punk rock bands.INKED:Where did your name, Suzy Hotrod, come from?
SUZY: Suzy Hotrod was actually my band name before I played roller derby, so that was like my stage name, so cheesy. I'm a guitar player. It was actually an all girl band so I'm pretty well versed in the "all female" business.What drew you to Roller Derby?
Well when I joined Roller Derby in 2004, it was really unestablished at the time, not a lot of attention or anything. There were probably only 4 or 5 leagues in the country. A girl I was playing in a band with, CC Bullets told me she had been doing it with one of our coworkers. So I just went, I don't know why, I just did. I hadn't exercised in like 4 years because I'd gone to art school, so I was definitely not thinking about being athletic in any way shape or form. I was just out of college and had a lot of free time, I wasn't in the dark room or anything for like, incredible amounts of time. So I just blindly joined out of... Boredom maybe? (laughs)Maybe it was fate.
Yeah, it was weird, because I didn't even really enjoy it at first, I thought it was kinda stupid. There was nobody there, about four girls in all this protective gear at disco night in the South Bronx. And I'm like "Why do I keep going to this, its stupid?". But it turned out to be a really good thing that I stuck with it.When did you realize it was your passion?
It's funny, it just kind of became that way. It just became my life, I don't think there was a moment when I stepped back and realized it, it was definitely like an organic figment, it just kind of happened over a long period of time.Often when people hear about roller derby they think fights break out every five seconds, or that it's a violent sport. Is there any truth to this or is it just a myth?
It's definitely a myth, we actually work really hard to keep it with athletic integrity. It should be treated with the same eyes that view hockey or any contact sport. When roller derby first started we didn't really know what we were doing, so it was pretty normal to have choreographed moments, just cause we hadn't really decided what we wanted to do with this thing. At half time if you were the skater with the most penalties you would have like, a pillow fight with someone else. In order to play roller derby, you have to put so much time into just being on skates. It's not like "hey! lets try this kooky thing", because it's actually really dangerous if you don't understand how to skate. So it just naturally became really really serious, really fast because of all the time people were putting into even making it happen. Like having a small, informal event, everyone had to work together to plan things and actually be able to play the game, so the cheesy fights and elbows just went away fast. We get hurt really bad, just playing by the rules, just like you would see a football player get injured. So it's not like you're missing out on any of the theatric moments because there's nothing more satisfying than a genuine hit that knocks someone bluntly to the ground. It's way better than something choreographed when its genuinely someone's physical impact on another person, it's got a lot more power to it and it's incredible to watch.What's the roller derby community like?
It's like a really positive gang. It's definitely like a secret society in a way because you don't need to know somebody at all, but if you know that they play roller derby you know that they've made certain sacrifices in their life. So theres a lot of natural trust there between people who play the sport because of the amount of effort we have to put into it. It is its own micro world, you could move to any city, and the girls there are going to help you find an apartment, they're going to help you find a job, if your A/C broke–somebody has one. It's pretty cool, it's a good network, everyone gets jobs through each other or a sofa. It's like being in a band, only there's a lot more band members and nobody steals your stuff.There seems to be a lot on ink on derby girls, what do you think the relationship is between roller derby and tattoos?
Well I don't think I represent the majority of roller derby girls, I represent kind of the cartoon version of a roller derby girl. People want to see girls with lots of tattoos and two toned hair, and that's what they expect. But my other team mates are by all standards, average ladies, they're like school teachers with no tattoos and dress conservatively. What we're seeing as roller derby continues to mature, is a shift away from that traditional punk rock aesthetic. Sort of keeping the less traditional vibe, but because it's so athletic it's not so much about the aesthetics anymore. We've created our own thing now, and this is how it is. The thing that's great about it is, there are no rules. I can have tattoos and colored hair, and my team mate doesn't have to, and there's no pressure for her to look any certain way. Some girls will wear really short, shiny shorts with fishnets or whatever, and some wear Nike athletic pants. It's great because everybody's encouraged to do whatever they want. We're all wearing the same jersey, but we're all allowed to be individuals, no one is forced to conform to any kind of aesthetic standard. I think it's a really comfortable place to be where you get to choose whatever you want.