Real names in roller derby: A case study

Enough of you have searched “women’s pro roller derby real names” to get to my blog, that — the thinker that I am — I figure you want to know about derby skater using their real names. Interestingly enough, my best friend, Mistress of the Knife — or, these days, Shevawn Innes* — recently joined Rose City Rollers’ Wheels of Justice and the home team the Heartless Heathers and plans to skate — get this — under both names.

She was kind enough to put up with me interviewing her:

This is Mistress of the Kni-- uh, Shevawn Innes.
This is Mistress of the Kni– uh, Shevawn Innes.

You’ve been skating under Mistress of the Knife for, what, 8 years now?

I’ve been skating on and off for that long but I didn’t pick a derby name till I was with my second league. I avoided picking one in the early days of Detroit.

Why did you make a derby name?

I showed up in Nashville and they wanted me to register a derby name so they could put it on the roster. I distinctly remember saying “can I just be myself?” Man they thought I was weird. I was told I had to have a derby name. I picked Mistress of the Knife because that’s what my beloved former (ship) captain had jokingly introduced me to passengers the prior winter sailing. Then there was the awkward time of people trying to shorten it, “Mistress” felt regal and dirty at the same time — not for me. Knife… now that I can relate to.

Me: "Want to stop the jammer Shev -- Knif -- wait, what do I call you?" Shevawn: "Baby, call me whatever you want" (hits jammer into infinity.)
Me: “Want to stop the jammer Shev — Knif — wait, what do I call you?”
Shevawn: “Baby, call me whatever you want” (hits jammer into infinity.)

But, to me at least, it’s always seemed that you haven’t cared what people call you. As your teammate I didn’t start calling you Knife until you moved here and then only because it’s confusing when people have two names.

I don’t care what people call me there is no difference between Knife and Shevawn. Turns out I’m the same person.

So why will you be skating under your birth name for the Wheels of Justice (travel team)?

Personally, I feel like the sport on a national — let’s also call this international —  level has gotten so amazing that I’m taking huge pride in my years of hard work paying off, so much so I would like to put my family’s name on that. Am I trying to ligitamize the sport? Yeah. I want to do this for a living — for a paycheck.  I wanna see derby in the Olympics. I want the “good people” and the huge sponsors to take this sport seriously and put a bunch of money into my friends’ pockets. Too legit?  Too legit to quit.

So then why skate under “Mistress of the Knife” for your  home team, the Heathers?

When I’m playing national derby I see myself as an ambassador for my city, my family and the sport of roller derby. I want to represent by being me. Shevawn Innes. When I’m home I’m home — I’m not an ambassador for my city if I’m in it. But I’m always an ambassador for the sport. When it comes down to it, I guess it just feels right.

What are your teammates saying about your choice?

No one has said anything. Well, except, “what should I call you?”

Do you think other people should skate under their real names?
If they want to. Everybody else can represent themselves however they want — that’s the beauty of this ever-evolving sport.

Do you think you have anything to lose by skating under your birth name?
Maybe some street cred. Maybe gain some.

OK, thanks for the interview, bffls.
OK, thanks for the interview, bffls.

*Innes rhymes with Guinness, announcers.