Some people spend their free time creating things. Anna Ivarra spends hers wrecking them. For five years the hairstylist has skated with the Rat City Rollergirls, channeling the energy that she’d struggled most of her life to find an outlet for and laying fools flat in the process. “I always wanted to be in a band, but I’m not good at singing and I’m not very good at playing music,” she says with a laugh. Over the years she’s climbed the ranks to play on the RCRG’s traveling all-star team, but this January she’ll be back in Seattle as her home team, Derby Liberation Front, begins its season and the hunt for a third straight local championship. Let the face smashing commence. —Matthew Halverson
I was introduced to roller derby via a film class that I was in. We watched a local documentary called Blood on the Flat Track, and I was like, “Oh my god. I’m a punk rock chick. Those are punk rock chicks. They get to hit each other. That looks rad.”
My dad was a superbig jock, so I grew up playing sports. We had Roller-blades as kids, and we would go outside and rollerblade all the time. But I took a brief sports break when I was in high school. I was like, “I’m not doing any sports. I’m way too punk rock–goth for this.” I refused to wear a uniform.
Each team has a jammer and four blockers. The jammer gets a point for each of the opposing team’s members that they pass. So my job, as a blocker, is to hold back the opposing jammer and not let her get by me. Or if she does get by me, I have to try to get back in front of her and keep her back so she doesn’t get out.
People think of it like wrestling: “Oh, you play roller derby? You must body slam people.” I mean, I’m not picking people up and pile-driving them. So sometimes you have to explain that it’s actually a sport with strategy. We’re not a pack of wild cats, all just pawing at each other.
I wanted the name Cookie Stackhouse because of Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood. But then I picked Punkin’ Pie because I could go by Punky, which is a nickname that me and my best friend used to call each other in middle school. Sometimes when people pick derby names they’re like, “I wanna go by Selina Smashum,” and you call them and they don’t respond to it because they’re not used to hearing that nickname.
I used to draw a fake tear tattoo on my face, but people thought it was real.
At first I didn’t work out at all. And I was getting frustrated: “Why can’t I skate any faster? And why can’t I hit any harder?” So two seasons ago I decided to take the summer off, and my friend was like, “Why don’t you start working out with me?” He did classic squats, dead lifts, and benching. So I started doing that, and I started seeing progress in my skating. I used to hit people and they’d kind of fall down. But now I barely tap them with my hip and they go flying.
I work in a barbershop, so I cut a lot of dudes’ hair. And it’s very empowering to talk about weight lifting and skating. I say stuff like, “I can deadlift this much. And I can squat this much.” And they’re like, “Oh, I can’t do that. That’s awesome.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s right. I’m strong.” So we can bro down about the weight room—because not everybody roller skates.
I love lifting really heavy shit. Because I can.
When I was younger I played soccer, and there was always some girl that was kind of aggressive and you were like, “That person isn’t very nice to play with. She has bad sportsmanship.” But with roller derby you can knock the shit out of somebody, and they’ll get up and say, “Hey, that was a good hit.”
There’s nothing more satisfying than being aggressive as you want to be.
You have to have a little bit of aggression or a little bit of craziness or a little bit of hardcoreness to skate. Because it takes a lot of time and effort and mental game, you know?
When I first started, I was like, “Offense, defense, strategy—what?” I just knew that I was supposed to skate and stop and hit people. Now I’m the captain of my home team. It’s a lot of hours: practice, scrimmage night, reading emails, working with skaters, watching footage and saying, “Maybe we should work with you on this thing.” And there’s a business side of things that people don’t take into account. Like I had to learn how to use an Excel spreadsheet, and I don’t know how people use those things because they are literally impossible.
Like, I love roller derby. I keep on saying, “This is my last season,” but I find myself coming back to it because it’s something that when I found it, I realized it was my calling. I need to do this.
It was always hard for me to find friends. I was mostly friends with guys. So finding a group of girls who are into the same thing and have the same ideals is really awesome.
Nobody can mess with me. I can hold my own.