Black-n-Blue: Flower girl by day, hell on wheels by night

'We're not just like a bunch of slutty girls'

FLORENCE, Ky. – Planning a wedding can be stressful, but how many brides make plans to hide bruises on their big day?

“I figure I have two weeks for bruises to heal,” Tiffany Work said of her April 26 nuptials.

The bruises usually are on her legs, so she figures her dress will cover those: “My mom’s not very happy about me playing… but I can’t miss it.”

The playing she's referring to is her other love: roller derby with Northern Kentucky’s Black-n-Bluegrass Roller Girls.

And she will strap on her helmet before she pins on her veil.

Time To Roll

Elbow and knee pads Velcroed.

Mouth guard in place.

Skates laced.

As Work's eight wheels hit the floor; she rolls to the concrete track.

Here she is known as Petal to the Metal. And now it's time to get her jam on.

The whistle blows and it’s go time. Eager skaters are ready to pounce as they zip over the start line, eyeing each other fiercely.

Screams.

Grunts.

Profanity.

Elbows fly, as a whirl of clunky wheels crush the floor. Ten rough-and-tumble girls zoom around the floor. Some are trying to stop the ‘jammer’ from gaining points, while others are blocking to allow their jammer free reign of the floor to rack up points for their team. Either way, there is a lot of shoving, pushing and falling. It’s roller derby.

Roller derby is nothing new. Northern Kentucky’s Black-n-Bluegrass roller derby team has been together for six years, and with their seventh season opener Saturday, the team of 35 ladies are ready to kick some serious derby butt.

Flowers By Day

They may be extreme in the rink, but after they roll off the gray concrete floor after finishing a bout, it’s time for the roller girls to go back to their day jobs.

For the soft-spoken floral designer at A New Leaf florist in Newport, Ky., the derby brings out her fiercer side at game time.

“Derby has let me find my voice,” Work said.

Tiffany Work meticulously arranges a bouquet at A New Leaf florist in Newport, Ky., on Friday, March 28. Jessica Noll | WCPO

“[Derby] means a lot to me. It has changed me over the years. It’s given me a confidence in my life that I might not have had before,” said Work, who has worked with flowers since she was 16.

“I love flowers. They smell good… and just make you happy.''

As flowers change based on the season, roller derby has also changed over the years, said the Independence native, who has been skating since she was a young girl. She's been skating in roller derby for seven years.

“We’re not just like a bunch of slutty girls rolling around in our underwear,” she laughed. “It kind of maybe started like that, but it’s not. It’s definitely a real sport.”

“We do like to party still, and yeah, we do wear short skirts but we’re all covered up and it really is family-friendly,” the 31-year-old team captain said.

VIEW PHOTO DOCUMENTARY: BLACK-N-BLUE

Formed in 2007, Black-n-Bluegrass Roller Girls has two teams, the Blackouts and the Shiners, and is one of 344 teams on the national WFTDA, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association . Work is a jammer on the Blackouts.

It’s about speed and agility, Work, who is her team's jammer, said. You can be big, small, tall, short, young or old.

The age range on the team is 18 to 43. The minimum age is 18.

Black-n-Bluegrass has two teams, the Blackouts and the Shiners. Jessica Noll | WCPO

“As long as you can still skate, it doesn’t matter,” said Christina Poe, who was known on the rink as Shaneeda Spankin’, of Middletown, Ohio. She hung up her skates after four seasons on the track to take over as coach for the Black-n-Bluegrass team.

It’s a “full-contact women’s sport,” she said. “It’s more about strategy and skill than beating the crap out of each other.”

“They use to punch each other in the face and there were cat fights… kind of like entertainment wrestling is what it was, now it’s more of a regulated sport. There’s rules upon rules upon rules,” Poe said.

For the uninitiated, the 60-minute bout, divided in halves, works like this:

  • There are two jammers and eight blockers—five from each team on the floor to begin each two-minute jam.
  • The jammer wears a large star on her helmet and scores points. She must make it around the other team’s blockers on the first lap and then accrues points for each blocker she passes in the next two minutes.
  • The goal of the blocker is to stop the jammer from skating around them and to impede the other team’s blockers -- which allows their jammer to get around the track to score.
  • The team scoring the most points wins.

WATCH VIDEO: BLACK-N-BLUE

The aggressiveness in roller derby isn't the only thing that's evolved. Roller derby outfits, which use to garner as much attention as the fights, has tamed.

“When I first started, a lot of girls were wearing big tutus and the crazy fish nets and things like that and little, mini jean skirts,” Work said.

But now, she said it’s more uniform.

“We wear little dresses and they’re short but most girls are covered with little shorts underneath or tights,” she said. “Maybe back in the day

when it was underground, you know people wore crazy things and everyone’s all tattooed—trust me, even though there are a lot of girls who have tattoos who play, but not everyone is."

Roller derby has come a long way from its beginnings, Tiffany Work, aka Petal to the Metal, said. Jessica Noll | WCPO

VIEW PHOTOS: BLACK-N-BLUE GIRLS

The time and financial commitment weeds out derby bullies from dedicated athletes.

The team practices two or three times a week at night at Ollie's Skate Park in Florence, Ky. And they all pay to play. Each spends nearly $500 a season is on gear, skates, travel and uniforms, Work said.

“I love the sport. It’s a way to be athletic as an adult. It’s a lot of time. It’s like a second job,” Work said, who first watched roller derby with her sister for a bachelorette party. It was love at first roll.

For Work, derby is addictive and her team is family.

“I couldn’t imagine not skating. Even if I’m having a terrible day before I get here, as soon as I put my skates on, I feel better.”

Once a roller girl, always a roller girl, the coach said.

“It is your life, even when you’re off the track, you’re still a derby girl—you think about it all the time.”

So how do flowers and skates mesh?

“Both things… they just make me happy,” Work said.

The Black-N-Bluegrass Roller Girls’ season kicks off on Saturday, April 12, when they will host Gem City of Dayton, Ohio, at the Midwest Sports Complex in Florence, Ky.

For tickets go to http://bbrg.brownpapertickets.com , or call (859) 474-0809.
 

THE BLACK-N-BLUEGRASS TEAM

 

 

Rebecca Obermeyer

Beka Rekanize

Erika Ravenscraft

Billie Bitchslap

Rosie Franklin

Briggs N. Smackem

Alex Sale

Corset L. Hurt

Shannon Rich

Crochete

Sarah Daigneault

Crunk-n-Roll

Frances Hoetker

Edel Vice

Cammie Schneider

Firefox

Jenni Schultz

Florence Nite-n-Hell

Debbie Drake

Gyrating Gypsy

Annette Grooms

Heavy Chevy

Dora Rice

Hot T. Molly

Kathy Voorhees

Kat Von Diesel

Kristen Burgoyne

Kris P. Cream

Stephanie Rogg

Kung Fu Hussy

Melissa Mitchell

MellKat

Debbie Scheibly

Neva Shakeababy

Diana Doyle

O'Doyle Rulz

Tiffany Work

Petal to the Metal

Sierra McGrath

Pinup Pussycat

Danielle Finck

Pretty n Pink

Mary Hoekstra

Proud Mary

Janine Ward

Psyk Ward

Reva Estain

Reva Rackentire

Jacqui Sumner

Run Amuck

Richelle Davis

Silverose

Michelle Caridi

Sinobite

Michelle Duckworth

Skinnie Minnie

Alison Hausgen

Smack Daniels

Courtney Stoll

Splintercat

 

Joyce Leonard

Tiki Von Sexron

Jackie Allen

Vaughn Babethoven

LeAnn Sanders

Willy Wonkher

Tammi Combs

Tammi Sue Nami

Kelsey Carter

Punky Bruise-her

Aubrey 'Bree' Wheeler

Crimson Chaos

Sara Heimbold

Buxom Bettie

Katie Jean

Darla Vader

 

 

Northern Kentucky Voice: Your Voice, Your Story is a periodic and ongoing series on WCPO.com  about the people of Northern Kentucky making a difference in their community. If you would like to tell your story, or know someone who should, email Jessica Noll at Jessica.Noll@wcpo.com

 

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