She is fast, she is peppy, and she is dedicated to the derby life. You probably have not had the opportunity to see Mazzu on the track yet, but she is worth keeping an eye out for. Mazzu has recently joined Hard Knox and is already leaving her mark on the track. I got the opportunity to discuss what motivates her and how her dedication for the sport has had a positive impact on her life.
Hey, Mazzu. Bleu nominated you as featured skater for May. She said that you seem to be “in love” with derby and would like to know more about you, your future plans, and your passion for the sport. What you are studying in school and what are your post-education plans (derby and other)?
Currently I am in my first year at UTK in their pre-med program, but I will probably officially declare a major in neuroscience or biochem. Something like that. I am also minoring in Italian. So after I get done with undergraduate, I will probably, hopefully, go to med school. I have talked about and looked at med schools just for fun. I want to go somewhere where there is a really competitive derby team so I can play, but also, it is med school, so I will be really busy. I am going to try.
What got you involved in roller derby?
Actually I was born in Memphis. So this was early derby: like 2006/2007. My mom was really into it so we would go to the games. It was really theatrical back then. She didn’t skate or anything, but she just loved it. She and I would go to the skating rink and pretend to be derby girls. I even dressed up like a derby girl for Halloween one year. But they did not have a junior derby team. So when I moved to Nashville, they had a junior team that had only started around a year beforehand. I started skating with them when I was around 11.
And you skated with them until you moved up here, or did you take time in between?
I skated with them until the summer going into my junior year of high school. Then I took some time off to focus on school. I went to a performing arts high school so I did a lot of theater. I got really into theater those last 2 years, and worked, and did other things. I just pursued a lot of other passions.
And you joined Hard Knox because of school, essentially? Because you were here?
Why I joined Hard Knox? Well, I didn’t skate with y’all last semester. I joined Hard Knox, yeah, I guess because of proximity. I really missed it. I missed the sport so much. I missed having that community and family.
It is a great outlet for frustration.
And that is another thing. When I was in Nashville, I was super involved in the DIY local punk scene, which kind of became my outlet for aggression. But when I moved to Knoxville, I wasn’t as involved in that community. I missed having the aggression of roller derby.
Do you have a pregame ritual?
Listening to music, definitely. I like to listen to angry music like Minor Threat or the Descendants or something like that. Then also I sometimes just want to listen to Rihanna. I love Rihanna.
How would you describe your derby playing style?
I think that right now in this season I am getting back in the swing of feeling super confident in my style. I definitely like a slower game of derby. I cannot rely too much on hits. I feel like since I’m so small, I can’t get enough power for that. I want to be a very agile skater, but I am still getting back into it. Slow, agile, controlled.
You just went to an awesome tournament where you played 3 games against 3 different teams. What was your favorite memory or “I can’t believe that just happened” moment from the tournament?
Honestly, the tournament was super special to me. Just because I am skating with a new team. I am new to Hard Knox. I loved that I got to bond with everyone. That was probably my favorite part all around: just getting to know everyone. I learned so much about Val and Jen and everybody. At practice, I look up to them on the track and understand how they play and everything, but I didn’t know them as people. That was probably my favorite part of the tournament: Getting to know my teammates as people.
What advice do you have for anyone getting interested in roller derby?
So for people who have never, ever played roller derby, go online and find some used gear if you are going to start fresh because it gets really expensive really quickly. Then make sure you are going to the skating rink and practicing basics. My advice is to realize that roller derby takes a lot of work and the hardest part of roller derby is when you are fresh meat. Getting those basic skills down is the hardest part. Remembering that and it only gets more fun once you get to hit people.
What is your current gear set-up? Do you have any preferences?
Right now a lot of my stuff is very old since I am a college student. I am trying to introduce new pieces, but right now I have some Reidell skates that I want to upgrade to Mota skates probably this year. I love them as a company. My one thing that is different from other people on the team, that I swear by, is a custom mouth guard. They are amazing and that thing has lasted for years. You won’t chew through it and it actually makes me feel like my teeth are protected. And it doesn’t fall out. So invest in a custom mouth guard.
So you are going to school to be a doctor. What made you choose that career path?
In high school I had this chemistry teacher, Mr. Chumbley, who was amazing. And I have always really liked math and science. They are my favorite subjects. AP calculus was my favorite class my senior year. I took AP chemistry, too. I honestly love math and science. When I was 15/16 trying to decide what to go to college for, because you have to start applying, I was looking at all the majors. And I like that if I am a doctor, I can continue to learn every day. I like the idea of doing something that seems worthy: like I am helping people. That was really important to me. I wanted to use math and science and I wanted to help people.
You are relatively new to Knoxville. What is your favorite part of the city/surrounding area?
I really have been enjoying Old City and going to the Pilot Light for shows. There is this crepe place downtown that my friends and I are kind of obsessed with. We go down there and have Sunday brunch a lot.
People always talk about soul animals, but what about a food that matches your personality?
If I could be a food, it would probably be pasta. Not because I have a deep connection to the food, but because I eat it all the time. My composition as a person is, like, 70% pasta.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Well, this summer I am going to Italy for 6 weeks. That is really exciting. Next on my bucket list of places I want to go is Thailand and Australia. Hopefully within the next few years.
So you mentioned music being important in your history. Tell me about how music shaped the Zoe we know today.
I went to a performing arts high school. All my friends in high school were some kind of artist, whether that be theater, dance, or visual arts. A lot of them and my core friend group were musicians so they were in bands. I spent a lot of time in high school, pretty much every single weekend, going to these really small DIY house shows and listening to music. Sneaking into shows when I wasn’t 18 yet, I did that a couple times. So it really shaped who I was because it was kind of that same community. When I stopped playing roller derby, I gained that in the music scene because it is everyone doing something that is more grass roots, nothing super big. It was all kinds of people and the acceptance of being weird. And also, hand-in-hand, a lot of my friends in that group were skateboarders so I still spent a lot of time around things on wheels.
Thank you so much for spending time talking to me. It was fun getting to know the true Mazzu. Now it is time for you to choose our next featured skater. Who would you like to know more about?
I would like to pick Armr’d Rose.
I want to know more about her progression as a skater, because she has been involved in derby for a long time. The beginning attitude of derby as more of a thing just for fun shifted more into the athleticism of what it is today. I want to know how she stayed so in love with the sport through the transition, and how she as a skater has changed from the beginning of her derby career to now.
Thank you for joining me in getting to know Mazzu, and come back next month when I sit down with Armr'd Rose and discuss her derby career. We have a lot of new faces on the track this year to get to know. Join me and my teammates at our first home bout of the season June 2. See you there!