Roller Derby Girls Are No Joke & Neither Is Their Beauty Advice

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Anyone who's ever played high school sports knows that, sadly, there can be vast differences in funding, attendance, expectations, and even how we talk about athletics between the genders. And now, with the Olympics at fever pitch, it's become frighteningly easy to spot the discrepancies in how the media covers and comments on men's and women's sports.

Refinery29
recently reported that in the past several months, "57% of media mentions about female athletes have referred to their beauty" and over 100 million media mentions were about their overall appearances. Shocked? Neither were we. What's more, outlets have been saying questionable things, with Fox News going as far as to say that female athletes are “sexing it up more than ever” while wearing makeup during Olympic competitions. Excuse us?

Now, the expectation that female athletes need to be skilled, strong, and look good doing it isn't new. And, we all want to look our best. But comparing athletes based on whether they take the field bare-faced (we do hope they're wearing SPF!) or with a killer cat-eye (we recommend a waterproof formula) is disrespectful. Wearing, or not wearing, makeup is a personal decision that doesn't warrant commentary by a third party. It's also a waste of air time when there's a game or match to discuss.

The moral of the story? Makeup, tattoos, and hair accessories are worn for self-expression, not to score points on the field or with viewers. Athletes such as Ronda Rousey and Heather Hardy have spoken out about what makes them feel strong and beautiful, proving that certain segments of the media don't get to control opinions about this topic.

To continue the conversation, we went where full-contact sports and expressive beauty meet: roller derby. The women you'll meet ahead are badass skaters from the tri-state area. They're tough, athletic, and, guess what, they're wearing makeup, too. We asked them how they feel about portrayals of female athletes in the media, what makes them feel confident, and more.

Because when strong women feel powerful together, a more realistic definition of beauty emerges...

You've never seen beauty quite like this before. Check out our Beauty Innovator Awards for the smartest, funkiest, most fresh-to-death products of the year.

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Photo: David A Carter Photography/Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Cheryl "Bow Chicka Pow Pow" Andrew
Team: Jerzey Derby Brigade

What do you think your derby alter ego, Bow Chicka Pow Pow, embodies about yourself?
"An independent woman that is going to strive to enjoy life and do what she wants...[and that] strong is beautiful and sexy."

How does beauty play a role in roller derby?
"We all want to feel like we’re looking our best. I still feel that way now, but I feel less pressure from myself to worry about it because I am around so many women who are supportive of me.

"A lot of us enjoy putting on our makeup before a bout; it becomes a routine. I enjoy playing a sport wearing makeup. Why? Because I can — and I want to! It can be felt from within, [just like] the confidence you get from working out or being around strong, positive, and supportive women."
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar and Tristan Offit.
What are some products you use for your pre- and post-game rituals?
"I use argan [Moroccan] oil on my hair and John Frieda Sheer Blonde almost daily. I like Clinique Superpowder Double Face Makeup. I enjoy the feeling and ease of using Garnier Cleansing Towelettes for makeup removal — they are the first thing I grab once I am home after a game. I use Secret Clinical Strength daily and keep an extra in my gym bag. I always shower and exfoliate with a body scrub after every game. If I have free time, I do a facial mask. I like Proactiv and Noxzema.

"I stick to my normal routine [for games and everyday life]. I enjoy wearing the same style of makeup as I would if I went to work. I am a creature of habit, using the same products."

What did you love about beauty as a kid? What about now?
"I loved the expression that could be made through beauty, and now, as an adult, I appreciate the freedom."

As an athlete, how do you feel about your representation in the media?
"We're not viewed with much value, and that’s frustrating. Being a woman, and seeing that depiction, makes me try harder at being supportive of other women."
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Photo: David A Carter Photography/Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Lauren "Wolfie" Moreau
Team: Jerzey Derby Brigade

How has roller derby shaped the way you see yourself?
"Roller derby has shown me that I am capable of a lot more, physically and emotionally, than I thought."

How has your view of beauty changed with that?
"My perception of beauty is always evolving. When I first started playing in games, I would go over-the-top with dramatic smoky eyes, even equipped with false lashes. However, now I’m perfectly fine not wearing any makeup and focusing on playing.

"I used to have to shave my underarms and legs, or else my day was ruined. In the derby community, no one bats an eye if a woman has underarm or leg hair. It’s great."

How does beauty incorporate itself into your personal life?
"I am a freelance makeup artist, so beauty plays a huge part in my career and personal life. As a career, makeup is diverse. There are jobs that just want clean and effortless beauty, while some jobs require more drama, wilder colors, etc. In my personal life, I don’t wear makeup unless I feel like it."

What do you wear to feel confident?
"I love the Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen Lotion, RCMA foundation (which is super-pigmented and has a vegan formula), Benefit They’re Real! in Beyond Brown, Norwex Timeless Lip Balm, Tom Ford SS16 Highlighter and Blush cream [Ed. note: These are currently unavailable.], Tom Ford lipsticks — I’m loving the shade Sweet Mystery right now. And, Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse smells so good and gives such an awesome glow to the skin and hair."
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar and Tristan Offit.
When did your relationship with beauty begin?
"I've loved playing with makeup since high school. I’ve always been drawn to the punk-rock scene, and that definitely allowed for wild expression. Now, I take inspiration from wild looks and make them more wearable and chic...

"Makeup is indefinite and is explored with imagination. I love to experiment and try new products and looks — not only on myself, but with clients and friends."

How is the role of beauty different in roller derby, as compared to other sports?
"There’s the freedom of expression in roller derby. Some players wear full face paint when playing — it’s quite amazing...the level of creativity."

What do you want our readers to know about beauty in the world of sports?
"That there [are] not enough cosmetic products that can endure the physical demands roller derby imposes. That’s why I’m starting my own line of long-wear, comfortable cosmetics fit for the athlete."
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Photo: Jean Schwarzwalder/Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Eva "Evilicious" McCloskey
Team: Gotham Girls Roller Derby

What about roller derby initially attracted you to the sport?
"I remember watching roller derby on television in the early '80s, when I was very young. It was on Saturday mornings before bowling, and I remember being most fond of the costumes and the theatrics of it.

"But modern-day roller derby is very different than the roller derby that people remember... Modern derby started in 2001 in Austin, and even since then it has gone through a tremendous amount of evolution."

How has derby influenced your perception of beauty?
"I think that something that is a universal truth for many of the folks that play roller derby is that the definition of what we see in the media, what is a 'beautiful woman,' is very different than reality.

"I think that playing roller derby and being involved in it is very helpful in cementing the point of view that the media image is not true, because strength is beautiful. A lot of teenagers and women in their early twenties have insecurities about themselves, and I think that being involved in roller derby is a significant boost in having a more realistic view about how beautiful a 'normal-looking' woman can be."

What do you think needs to change in the beauty world?
"I think a positive step forward would be for more women of color to be represented in the beauty industry, fashion, and mainstream media in general.

"I think that female athletes have an uphill battle, and I think that when you don't fit into the [typical] mold...it's even more difficult to feel represented. You can't be what you can't see, so I think that a more realistic representation of real women who are athletes in any industry, specifically beauty, is a positive thing."
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar and Tristan Offit.
What role do you think beauty plays in the roller derby world?
"It celebrates the fact that we are women and it's a female-first sport. Because of that, beauty, fashion, and anything in that vein, is more celebrated. While it is a very intense and athletic endeavor, many of us do still wear lip and eye makeup."

What’s your typical game-day beauty routine?
"I get a manicure and pedicure specific to that day, so that's a pretty serious routine that I do — everyone has to get gel manicures these days because doing roller derby is hard on your nails. And my favorite lipstick to wear for bouts is Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupté in Red Taboo."

Even today, we hear things like, "She fights like a girl." What's your take on this?
"I love the idea of reclaiming that phrase, and the concept of 'fill-in-the-blank like a girl' from being weak, frilly, or pink to a really empowering thing.

"It's most important for young girls, but I think that adult women can take a lot away from reclaiming that, too. All we can do is continue to be strong women and fight against that shitty thing by proving them wrong. I don't know if any amount of marketing and advertising is really going to fix that, because I think that men need to feel less threatened by women, so that is a change that is not happening anytime soon."
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Photo: David A Carter Photography/Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Kate “CaliforniKate” Birnbaum
Team: Jerzey Derby Brigade

What initially drew you to roller derby?
"My husband and I are a military family. We moved from California to New Jersey and I have a lot of tattoos and didn’t know a lot of people in the area, so I decided to look up roller derby to see if there were some local teams.

"Where I live now is very cookie-cutter and I’m definitely not cookie-cutter. So, I thought roller derby definitely has got to be people that were enthusiastic and outgoing, and just different — not a care about if I’m covered head-to-toe in tattoos, or not a judgmental environment. So I went to watch; you just see the camaraderie — they were like a family and I really enjoyed that."

Tell us about your tattoos.
"I have roses on my shoulder, I have bows on my chest, I have a pinup girl on my forearm, another swallow on my other forearm. I also have a mermaid down my back, a star on my finger, an anchor behind my ear, and across my whole back I have swallows with my boys’ names."

Do a lot of your teammates have tattoos?

"They do! It’s funny because I feel like girls who come to the team without tattoos eventually get one. It’s because they’re so beautiful; you see them and you’re around them, and people just end up getting them."

How has your love of tattoos shaped your perception of beauty?
"I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was almost 30. Once I did one, I loved them so much. I love the way they look on me; they make me feel beautiful. I make sure when I wear my clothes that I show my shoulders, my arms, or part of my back so they’re visible.

"When I look back at pictures without them I felt like it wasn’t me, like I hadn’t found myself and who I was yet. Now, I feel like I’m actually finding out who I am, now being 35 years old. They’re all beautifully colored and old-fashioned Sailor Jerry. They’re all very retro-looking, except the mermaid; she’s black and white-shaded."
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar and Tristan Offit.
Do you wear makeup during matches?
"I do! I’m very retro, especially when I go to roller derby. My hair is in my scarf with my pumps and cat-eyes. I think my makeup matches my personality. If my husband and I could, we would be living in the '50s with a hot rod, but with society today’s rules. We listen to Elvis, Johnny Cash, and old punk music — even our kids listen to it. Our family is just based on that vintage side of life."

What is your go-to beauty routine before a bout?
"I have really long eyelashes, so I always make sure I have my mascara and blush so I don’t look so pale on the track when they’re shooting over 100 photos a game. I love Aveeno’s daily face lotions. I put that on every morning before I apply makeup. I’m also a Benefit girl, so I wear everything Benefit. I put on their primer, and I love their BADgal mascara and BADgal eyeliner. I use those every day."

How did joining derby affect your self-esteem?
"Once I joined derby and really got into the sport, I became more confident with myself. It made me really mentally and physically confident. I always worked out, but before derby I didn’t take pride in what I did.

"Now, I have a set workout schedule, I eat right, and I realized how I loved how I look and who I am. This sport really helped me come into that. It’s also about the mental confidence, and you’re playing a game together — it’s all about teamwork, girl power, and family."

What advice would you give young women today?
"Young women today — mothers, everybody — we’re so hard on ourselves and afraid of how people will look at us and what they’ll think. I feel like if you love yourself, you’ll have that confidence to block out all the judgments and just be able to walk with your head high and be happy with who you are."
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