IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, we’ve heard a lot about how representation matters. We’ve heard about it in terms of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and religious beliefs, and I’m here to talk about it with regard to size.
I’m a skater living in a bigger body. I’ve always had a bigger body. As an adult, I’ve been as small as a size 14 (briefly) and as large as a size 26. Derby is the first athletic world where I’ve not felt out of place, or even ostracized, because of my size. Prior to joining roller derby in the summer of 2013, I was a runner and triathlete, and I played volleyball and softball when I was younger. My larger body stuck out like a sore thumb. People gave me incredulous looks when they found out that I was a runner. I’ve literally been mooed at while daring to exercise in public.
In derby, I see people with bodies of all sizes. One of my first derby heroes was shaped like me and basically destroyed everyone’s souls on the track. It made me realize that if I stick with it and work hard, I can be good at derby. She was a huge supporter of me as I learned and struggled and found my place on the track. Big shout out to Trixie Von Tease! I finally feel like my size can be a PLUS (pun intended), not a MINUS when it comes to my performance. To other people with bigger bodies, this may sound familiar. I am downright hard to move. It’s simple physics in a lot of cases, but I’m also very strong because my muscles carry my larger body around all day every day. I’ve also learned how to leverage my particular assets to my advantage. Representation does matter.
I’ve always been the biggest one on my team, no matter what team that was. I’ve always been the slow runner, the worst jumper, and it can feel pointless to even keep working when that deck is stacked against me. When we do off-skates workouts, I’m frequently the last to finish things like burpees. The reality is that none of that matters, as long as I work hard and do MY best. I’d say it’s not a competition, but we all know that’s not really true. While we are team and league mates with people, the reality is that we are often competing against our team and league mates for a spot on a charter or a roster.
Since joining FoCo Roller Derby last fall, I’ve cut off the bottoms of my practice tops. I’ve purchased crop tops specifically. I practiced outdoors in my sports bra. I wear shorts & skorts instead of capri length pants. It’s hot, and I’m a hot, sweaty person. I don’t need to suffer because I feel shame about my body. That shame comes, in part, from never seeing bodies like mine represented. For the first time in my six years in derby, my picture is on a bout-day flyer. That may seem like a small, insignificant thing, but it’s not. Seeing bigger bodies on these flyers can help other people see that all bodies are good bodies in derby. Representation matters.
I’ve found some great role models in derby. I’ve met (either online or in person) some athletes who have stopped focusing on their size or weight. These folks are doing things on the track that are amazing, strong, revolutionary, and just downright cool. They are wearing crop tops to games and working out in their sports bras, and they are not embarrassed. Representation matters.
I recently made a self-deprecating comment about no one wanting to see my belly when I was wearing a crop top, and one of my teammates turned to me and said, “Oh shut up,” and it warmed my heart because it was genuine. No one cares what my belly looks like, honestly. They care if I get my butt to the right spot on the track to stop the jammer.
If you are looking for some body-positive, kick-ass people and companies to follow, I have some suggestions.
KAYLA WOODWARD | @kla_8100 | Arch Rival Roller Derby
K-Woo is a force to be reckoned with on the track. She’s an amazing athlete and roller derby player. She rocks a two-piece bathing suit or a crop top and not only looks great, but she talks openly about her body and her feelings. You can watch her in action at Champs in November!
ELICIA NESBIT-SMITH | @eliciafrances | Rose City Wheels of Justice
She has continued to speak up about the lack of representation of bigger bodies in derby in pictures, advertising, and sponsorship. I took a class at Rollercon from her; it was the first time I’d learned from someone shaped more like me, and it was refreshing (btw, she’s a great coach!). Elicia is a rock star on the track, obviously, and she works for Left Turn Clothing, who has really upped their game in terms of offering more size-inclusive offerings in the crazy fun patterns we have come to associate with them. See Elicia at Thin Air Throwdown in September and at Champs in November as well!
GINGERSAURUS WREX | @ginger.87plus | Omaha Rollergirls
I first noticed her when she skated for Arizona’s charter, and she’s a force on the track. She proudly wears her crop tops to skate, to lift, and she loving refers to her “Power Belly.” She skates, and is killing it at powerlifting right now. Follow her. She’s hilarious, and she’s fiercely supportive of other skaters and athletes.
MIRNA VALERIO – The Mirnavator | @themirnavator
Mirna doesn’t play roller derby, but she’s a plus- sized, black woman who runs – a lot. She runs all distances, including ultramarathons. She’s candid, funny, and she talks about loving our bodies for the amazing things they can do, and the discrimination she’s faced for her size and the color of her skin. I met her through SkirtSports where she is a sponsored athlete, and I’m a brand ambassador. They have always had a solid selection of sizes, but they just introduced a plus-size line this year, and I attended the kick-off event where Mirna spoke. It was engaging and, honestly, made me teary as I identified with the things she talked about.
LATOYA SHAUNTAY SNELL | @iamlshauntay
She is an ultrarunner, chef, and a plus sized black athlete, who is sponsored by Hoka Running Shoes and SuperfitHero (see below!). She is a body-positive role model for all of us. She shares a lot of her gym workouts on Instagram, and they are KILLER. She’s smart and funny, and done taking crap about her body. She runs a Facebook group called Fatgirlrunning, and she doesn’t tolerate diet talk, or diet culture.
Now, this is obviously not a person, but it’s a company started by retired skater Micki Krimmel (Angel City Roller Derby) and she offers high quality performance wear in a big range of sizes. We all deserve to be comfortable, and in clothes that fit us while we skate, or workout, or even when we lounge! You might recognize Superfit Hero from some of their sponsored athletes like Sarah Robles, Olympic weight- lifting champion, and Latoya Shautay Snell, ultra runner.
This is another body positive, size inclusive brand. Honestly, if you haven’t heard of Frogmouth in derby, you are either brand new, or you’ve been in hiding for a while. My current team jersey is from Frogmouth, and it was such a welcome change to not have to worry that the biggest size offered wouldn’t fit me. They are leading the crop top revolution. In fact, I am currently arguing with myself over getting a crop top version of my game jersey for next season.
CHUB CLUB @chubclubofficial and STRONG ATHLETIC @strongathletic (started by derby’s own Smarty Pants, Collaborated recently on a Strong Athletic & Fat shirt offering that sold out almost immediately at Rollercon. I wasn’t able to go, but luckily a friend got a shirt for me! Caitlin @caitinskates, the creator of Chub Club, is a lovely human, who I had the pleasure to meet at Moxi Skate Camp this past May. Follow her. She’s rad.
This is a Facebook group devoted to plus size skaters who can ask questions, and talk about the things we deal with. Not sure if a skate plate is going to be responsive for a bigger body? Ask them. Are you struggling with a skill? Ask them. You won’t get judged for having a bigger body there, and you will get great advice and encouragement.
We’re each on our own journey through this life. Our bodies are our vessels, and we should give them love and nourishment (and pizza). Be who you are, wear what you want, and if you are feeling unsure about this, check out one of the rock stars I mentioned above. There are many others on social media doing this important, good work, and we should support them with views, comments, and our dollars when we can. You can find me on Insta @jude_e_boom doing my thing, and figuring out how to love the body I’m in.
In the words of Lizzo, “If you can love me, you can love yourself.”
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