March 2, 2015
Loco Chanel got her start on the track with roller derby 2005, and previously served on the WFTDA Board of Directors for several years. An icon in the roller derby world, Loco Chanel exemplifies roller derby's strength and grace on the track, while demonstrating leadership off the track through her continued involvement in WFTDA and the roller derby community. Learn more about Loco Chanel and her hopes and ambitions for her next year of roller derby!
What is your derby name?
Loco Chanel. I respond to a lot of other things too… Lokes, Josie, and most recently Big Poppa.
Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
So this is fun. This is my second “name”. I started out back in 2005 as Josie Massacre (hence “Josie” as mentioned above), and back around 2006, I started boutfitting myself with a sharpied Chanel logo neck tattoo. Because I’m kinda fancy and kinda crazy. I came up with “Loco Chanel” and thought it was a much more clever name (despite “Loco” not being grammatically correct, or an actual name) so I switched. A few years ago, a teamie asked me how I was able to get such a clever name, how it wasn’t taken. My answer: “Register it in 2006.”
What is your number?
37! This number has absolutely no meaning except that it’s mine.
My first uni as Loco was “No. 5” (remember letters, numbers, and punctuation?). I switched to 31 when I started with Windy City, because there was already a 5 on the league. 31 is the address of the flagship Chanel store and Coco’s original atelier on Rue de Cambon in Paris. Fast forward a few years… I move to Seattle, get drafted to Grave Danger—there’s already a 31 on my team. At my first team scrimmage, Sheeza Brickhouse wrote “37” on my arm. “It looks like 31.” And it stuck.
What is your home league?
Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls!
Which team(s) do you play on?
I play on Grave Danger… your worst nightmare!
What is your skate gear of choice?
Oh, I’m the WORST person to ask this. I am totally not a gear person. And this is probably OK because my coach works at our local skate shop. I basically go to Fast Girl Skates, give Vito my credit card and say, “I’ll take whatever you think I need.” I’m INCREDIBLY fortunate that my coach knows skates, knows me, and I completely trust his recommendations.
Right now, I have Riedell 495s, Crazy Venus plates, some wheels, toestops, and black laces. Oh, and an S1 helmet with my name on it.
Having gear that works works for me. I’m not the most sensitive skater, so if I feel different at practice, it could be that I changed my wheels, or that I’m sore from lifting, or it could be that I ate a better lunch. Or I could not notice (most likely).
Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
If I did, I would have had to adapt multiple times over the years. There’s one thing I love that Danger does, that I’ll call the Circle of Confidence. We sit in a circle, heads down. Look up and then make eye contact with a teamie. We go around the circle telling each other the amazing, successful things our partner will do in that game. I really love the calm confidence in each other that we have and this just reinforces that.
What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
That I need to get new laces. Seriously. The aglet on my left skate (on the outside) broke, so I can’t get it through the top hole. I should just go to the store and give Coach Vito my credit card.
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
I’m a fan of outlandish swagger. One year, in the week before a season championship game, I posted quotes from Muhammad Ali’s “I’m baaad” speech on Facebook one line at a time. People thought I was losing it because it kind of made no sense, but that was fun.
Do you have a theme song?
Oh, not really… I do like Marie Douceur/ Marie Colere (aka the French cover of Paint it Black) and if Loco Chanel had to have a theme song, it’d probably be that as there’s a bit of the crazy/ fancy dichotomy.
Am I overthinking this? Yes.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
Oh, I probably have a similar story as most of the women who started in pre-Whip It… Fall and winter 2004, I heard about this THING that was happening, found out it was happening in Chicago too, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
It was about a year from when I heard about roller derby to when I actually did something about it. The Windy City Rollers had closed recruitment for a while (I think almost a year or more) because there was such insane interest from the get-go. So much demand that other leagues started up. Summer 2005, a friend of mine told me I needed to check out a new league that was starting up or just stop talking about it all together. So I did. I emailed them that I was interested and just showed up for practice. And kept showing up.
The crazy thing, looking back, is that I found it so much less intimidating to try to join a start-up league than an established one (and yes, one year was very established in 2005). I remember being kind of terrified about being accepted by skaters, about fitting in, probably because I was absolutely clueless to be intimidated by the work and stress that was involved with starting a league that would be competing with established one.
You started your derby career in Chicago and then relocated to Seattle where you currently skate as a Rat City Rollergirl. What was it like to shift to a new team?
The league I started with in August 2005 is the Chi-Town Sirens (I know, the name makes me cringe now). We folded in 2007, and many of us went on to join Windy City. Many of the skaters and league leadership realized we could better meet our goals by joining Windy City as opposed to competing with them. Some of the other former Sirens went on to start the Chicago Outfit.
I joined Windy City in October 2007 and spent three wonderful seasons there. Because many of my leaguemates from the Sirens joined when I did, it was an easy transfer. I moved to Seattle in September 2010 and transferred to Rat City in November 2010.
In some ways, it was a pretty easy transfer as I think they’re peer leagues (similar size, history, competitive level), plus Rat City had had a decent number of transfers at that point, so they knew what do with us. One thing that made it extra-easy is that I transferred from the Hell’s Belles (WCR’s red-and-black evil team) to Grave Danger (RCRG’s red-and-black evil team), so I made lots of jokes about transferring to the Seattle branch. Plus, I didn’t need to buy a whole lot of new red shirts for scrimmages or team practice.
I’ve now been with Rat City a bit longer than I was with Windy and while I love my team here, I can’t shake feeling like a transfer still.
I was involved in league leadership and management at WCR and joined at a more formative time, back when interleague play was beginning to grow, so I got to be part of the development and evolution of the league, at least some aspects of it. When I joined Rat City, there was a lot more “this is how we do it” that I had to catch up on before I could really contribute. I did feel valued as an experienced transfer when I joined RCRG, and that—plus my amazing teammates—made it easy.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I rowed in high school and college (D1). Then a bit of a gap until I started skating because I like sports of asymmetry.
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
Oh gosh. I remember being absolutely terrified of doing a weaving pace line/ snake drill. And how scary skating backwards was. And now backwards hockey stops are taught in Fundamentals?!?!
How we went from a weaving pace line to figuring out roller derby, I honestly don’t recall. I wasn’t quite at the vanguard where we were figuring out what it was as we were doing it (for example, there was a standard track layout when I started), but I was a pretty early adopter. My first year, the emphasis was much more on just DOING IT--having bouts, getting uniforms, making teams--than playing strategically or even winning. Skate fast and hit people. I still kind of do that, except not always successful on the fast part.
What is your position of choice?
I’m a blocker, and usually line up in 3.
If my coaches ever give me the star (typically only happens at scrimmage night and maybe only once a month or so), I ask them if they’re sure…
If they say yes, I tell them that I would have passed to Lynch.
What is your signature move?
Hitting people. And then winking at them.
How would you describe your derby playing style?
Meat and spinach. (That’s the paleo version of meat and potatoes). I work with my teamies to be a strong defensive wall. I do sneaky offense if the moment allows.
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
Last year I got to go to Australia for a few weeks to play some AP sanction games. That was pretty amazing, so thank you Sydney Assassins and Canberra Vice City Rollers for inviting us! Being a WCR cheerleader during the 2008 season was also pretty fun-- we practiced our lifts and stunting and I still have my cheer sneakers. Traveling with WCR fans was also a blast in those days.
My second bout with Rat City at Key Arena--it was a 4x4 vs Rose City Rollers home teams and a crowd of almost 7,000… I whispered to a first-year teamie “Pssst, all of these people are here to see us do our hobby.”
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
I’m most proud to have been part of a championship team 4 years (1x for the Hell’s Belles, 3x for Grave Danger). Maybe more to come.
I’m proud of sharing in work that got us there, both seasons we won and those we didn’t. I hope people remember me as a being a good teammate. If that’s something people think when my name comes up, I’ll be happy.
Off the track?
Some of these things feel a little obsolete now, but they were huge at the time, but a few things that come to mind are launching the Apprentice Program, expanding WFTDA insurance, starting WCR’s B-Team, working on Tournaments. Gosh, textcasting was so much fun!
I like that I convinced Windy City to host Champs in 2010 and then basically dropped it into the incredibly capable hands of Karmageddon to manage (thanks Teeny!) and it was an amazing event.
And now RANKINGS! I love using numbers and logic models to better understand, organize, and explain things. I’ve been super fortunate to have a place in WFTDA on the Rankings Committee after I left the Board of Directors.
Who are your derby heroes?
This is so awkward because lots of people who are “heroes” are also my friends, derby colleagues, teammates. If we’ve ever skated or worked together, it’s incredibly likely that I saw something in you that’s inspiring. But people like lists so:
The first time I met Rocket Mean, I decided I wanted to be her when I grew up. I still kinda do. Carmen Getsome is one of the hardest workers in the biz. And she makes me want to work harder (which is good, because she’s now my coach).
Sara Problem and Athena DeCrime for keeping it real.
And one of my favoritest things is watching Sexy Slaydie absolutely kill people on the track.
How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
I had to give myself a pep talk in the car before my first practice ever. When you could just show up at a practice. I still have to do that sometimes before I do things that scare me a little. So far nothing really scary has happened. I’m trying to practice courage on a regular basis, and roller derby definitely helps. To do this, I have to find little victories all the time, and in the process, I’m more observant of the journey. (This totally sounds kind of woo-woo, I know)
We have a lot of new skaters on Danger this year and I really love it. I referred to myself as “Big Poppa” at our first practice of the season, and I’m trying to own that role. I’m the one who reminds teamies to have fun, who gives high fives, and reminds folks not to sweat the small stuff. Because seriously, a fan won’t remember that there was a typo in the program, but that they had a lot of fun and got a picture with the team. Or if my teamies get down on themselves for missing a play, I remind them that their friends who came out to see them will probably only remember the killer apex jump or takedown. And that they had fun seeing you play.
How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
I think the key to finding balance is to not see the parts of life as separate lives. My family, my professional colleagues, the people at the gym, heck, the guys at the grocery store know that I play roller derby. It’s been on my resume since 2006. Many of my friends are current or former teammates… we talk about roller derby a lot, but we also talk about plants, furniture, family, travel, hiking, shoes, pets, food (so much talk about food), TV, work, dating, interesting articles I read in the NY Times, terrible puns.
Part of it is living in Seattle-- Rat City Rollergirls is a HUGE presence here and there’s just so much roller derby in the area, so I don’t feel like I have to keep it private here. I’m still a fairly recent transplant, but I think there’s something special about community here that’s just very receptive to “alternative” (ugh, I know) sports, grass-roots organizations, and people following their passions.
Personally, I believe we should strive for a balanced portfolio of things over the course of our lifetimes… which means that any individual week or month or year, one aspect might be at the forefront while others are more in the background, but it’s balanced in the long run. Of course, in the long run, we’re all dead, but whatever.
What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I work in modelling.
No, really, I work in HR analytics and strategic planning at a large Seattle-based coffee company (this is like Wheel of Fortune where we can’t actually name our employer, right?) and get to build and run models all day. I’m incredibly comfortable working with numbers and to structure and solve problems, so whenever there’s a problem to solve (and there ALWAYS is in roller derby, amirite?), I’m your girl.
You served on WFTDA's Board of Directors as Treasurer for several years. What are some of the biggest skills that derby has taught you that help translate into your working world?
Summer 2007, even before I started getting involved in WFTDA, I had a flash of inspiration where I should write a book called “The Roller Derby MBA.” (Of course, I never got around to writing it…) A few years earlier, I had graduated from business school in Chicago where I learned, academically, how to think about business—strategy, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship. After graduating, I worked in finance and consulting and was staffed on projects where millions, and a few times, billions of dollars were on the line.
However, I really only learned the reality of running a business, learning management skills like how to make tough decisions, what to do when you’re not making enough money, and conflict resolution when I got my hands dirty with a league.
I came into the Treasurer role, and the BoD overall, with probably the most “traditional” business background of any BoD member at that time... I think it really was a right fit at the right time. It was right before Bloody Mary was hired to be Executive Director and in that first year, we were launching programs left and right. It was exciting to be part of the big picture leadership when we were transitioning from being held together my gum, safety pins, duct tape and A LOT of moxie to a true international sports (not even just women’s sports!) organization.
It’s great to casually mention that I managed a million-plus dollar budget in my spare time. Oh, and presenting at WFTDACon for a few years has been a great way to work on those pesky public speaking skills.
As you celebrate a decade of roller derby, what are some of the biggest changes you've seen in the sport? Where do you see roller derby and WFTDA going in the next ten years?
What’s funny is that so much changes and we think it’s going to totally change EVERYTHING, but really, looking back it’s minutiae… East v. West? Nationals v. Champs? Remember two-whistles? Knee starts? Pinky cuts? 1-minute penalties? I think the elevation of skills across the board is the biggest change.
In 10 years? Who knows… 10 years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d be skating, let alone for Rat City.
Some of the big trends I see are already hitting, but will become a bigger influence: junior derby and high level international teams. Former juniors have begun to make an impact, but it’ll be a flood soon. In Seattle, there are two very competitive junior leagues, the I-5 Rollergirls and Seattle Derby Brats, so we’re seeing it at Rat City. I’ve skated in some mixed practices and scrimmages with I-5 (Grave Danger and I-5 share coaches)-- they’re ridiculously talented athletes and good kids all around.
And international? I’m happy I have a passport and will continue working on my German so I’ll be a reasonable candidate to GTO a tournament when Berlin hosts.
(In the who-knows future.)
(Because I’m not spreading rumours.)
What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?
The sport’s grown so much that there’s a place for everybody who has interest in learning, working hard, and being OK with being uncomfortable.
But also, don’t do it to be superstar. To play in a big arena or be on a billboard. Yeah, that’s cool, but those things might go away.
I looked through the list of previous Featured Skaters of the Month and it’s a veritable Roller Derby All-Star MVP gallery. And then there’s me, who’s pretty psyched that I can confidently call myself a solid intermediate player.
Never played at a Big 3/5/7 tournament [WFTDA Playoffs]. Never on a charter team. And I’ve had a pretty great time playing roller derby and wouldn’t trade it for almost anyone’s. I’m playing at a level of competition that’s right for me. I’m challenged all the time, but also have lots of successes to celebrate. I’ve had (and still have) amazing teammates who have become my dear friends and “family”. I have gotten lots of high-fives from Rat City fans (not claiming them as MY fans) on the way out of Key Arena telling me I had a great game.
Many people who have roller derby aspirations will never be an All-Star or play in the biggest arenas. Hard work might get you there, or it might not. Or your hard work might not be enough. We all have a different journey, but it’s the same for everyone—you get out what you put in. Just because what you get out of it might not look like someone else’s doesn’t mean it’s worth any different.
Do you have any advice for staying with the sport long-term, as you have?
Lift weights. Do yoga.
See a doctor if there’s something that is keeping you off skates for a week.
Have other interests (to keep you sane), but find a league job that is energizing. Also, you don’t have to do all the things. Just some of the things.
Don’t get wrapped up in stupid drama, and there’s always stupid drama. Also, don’t make stupid drama.
Be nice to yourself. Having goals and aspirations shouldn’t make you discredit where you are now and how far you’ve come.
Say thank you to your teammates, leaguemates, officials, and WFTDAmates who do work to make this happen.
Appreciate every practice, every scrimmage, every game, because crazy stuff can happen at any time and we’re lucky to do this.
A big part of longevity is having a good attitude.
Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
Every game! We adjusted our home team season this year to have more games, so I’m bouting almost every other week. It’s been great!
Do you have a special message to your fans?
I have fans? Thanks fans!
Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
Yes. But I’m not going to list people because I’m sure to miss SOMEONE and then I’ll feel like a jerk.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.