You know when you’re on Instagram, and you’re in so deep, like really deep, and you don’t know how you got there? Yeah, that’s what happened when I found Laura Manganaro one night. I had gone through I can’t even tell you how many profiles, and scrolling down to like 2016 (DON’T ACT LIKE YOU DON’T DO IT TOO), doing my BEST TO AVOID AN ACCIDENTAL LIKE, and all of a sudden landed on these colorful pictures of this girl on a roller derby team with bright hair, a badass attitude and who also had a SKATE RAMP IN HER VENETIAN BACKYARD and I was like OH OKAY LAURA, I SEE YOU GIRL, I SEE YOU. YOU’RE A BADASS WOMAN IN ITALY. So I wrote to her. And she replied. And here we are.
Laura aka Crash Test Salmon (she’s #420) is on a roller derby team called The Anguanas, promotes body positivity, rides quad skates on big ramps and is a reminder to everyone that being authentic makes you beautiful.
And sometimes we tend to forget that there are women like this in Italy — a country I love but is very behind in terms of female sports and mainly any sport that isn’t soccer — who are doing their thing unapologetically, and I think we need to start supporting them and talking about them a bit more — especially these days.
Hi Laura, tell us who you are!
My name is Laura but most people call me Salmon because of my derby nickname Crash Test Salmon, I’m a colorful person (I think my orange hair can confirm this) and I love skating with my quad skates, not to be confused with inline skates!
Where are you from and where do you live?
I’m from Milano but I’ve been living in Venice for a little bit over one year.
Do you remember the first time you put on a pair of roller skates?
Yes, of course! In 2015, my boyfriend gave me a pair of skates for Christmas, and I haven’t taken them off since then. I’ve kept doing more on skates, from roller derby to ramps to being part of the Roller Glows from time to time at a few 80s theme parties.
When I was scrolling your Instagram, I noticed that you have a skate ramp in your backyard, that’s completely wild! Tell me the story of how that happened, because I’m very jealous and I need to know.
Jacopo (the guy who gave me my first skates) and I have always had this idea of building a mini skate ramp in the garden. Covid-19 and the lockdown meant we had a lot of time to finally build it! We had the tools, a lot of recycled material and even some tubes leftover from the previous tenants who probably had built a roof for a parking spot with them and voilà! We had to wait for the first reopenings to buy the missing material but the actual build was pretty fast, a few days of hard word and the ramp was ready to be skated on. It was my birthday present from Jacopo!
If I understand correctly, you’re on a roller derby team, but you also ramp skate! Can you talk a little bit about both sports and how they’re different?
Roller Derby is a team sport and a contact sport, you have to be ready to give it your time, your skills and to trust your team members to be able to play whereas you can skate a ramp by yourself, whenever you want, and you’re the one who sets up the challenges to learn new tricks. Both words have one set of values in common: they always encourage inclusivity, body positivity and the freedom of personal expression. Right now, I play for The Anguanas in Vicenza — I originally started with the Harpies di Milano — and on the ramp, as much as it’s a solitary sport, there’s a fantastic group of women who support each other and connect in both Italy and abroad called CIB Italy, where we share experiences, new spots to go and new tricks to try out.
They’re two different sports, but they’re the same because both stimulate you to be a better person and accomplish objectives all while having fun and doing it for yourself.
What is your relationship with fear like?
I’m very slow at learning new tricks or adding new tricks. I have my own timeline that I need to learn and confront my fear of a higher ramp or a new jump…
But this is also the beauty of it, challenging yourself or pushing yourself a little more every single time. Plus, both sports teach you that falling isn’t a problem, you just have to get up and do it again and again and again.
From the outside, the roller derby community seems super body positive and very welcoming and supportive of the LGBTQ+ family. Can you expand on that?
Yes, this is one of the main reasons why I liked this sport right from the start. It’s not always easy, especially now during this historical moment where we’re talking about all of the bad behavior that still exists in our society. Roller derby is open and keeps evolving into something even better, there’s always a constructive push to shape a better environment and to make it a safe space for everyone.
Italy is a very male-dominated country when it comes to sports. What should we know about roller derby and its badass athletes?
Besides being male-dominated and soccer-dominated, there’s never been enough room for sports that aren’t soccer in Italy. In comparison to other places in the world where roller derby is played, it’s really hard to find places to practice our sport or locations that will welcome us and give us space. It’s also a sport paid for by its athletes, you can find a few sponsors here and there that will be able to raise a bit of money with merch or activities to finance the team, but it’s really hard. And you have to dedicate a lot of time to your team, every player and coach has a very important role on the team, from graphics for events to managing the merch to the bureaucracy. You’re not just playing a sport on a human level, the experience is 360 degrees.
At what time do you wake up in the morning and what is the first thing you do when you get up?
I usually wake up at 8 if I don’t have work that requires me to get up earlier, and the first thing I do is give my dogs something to eat, cuddle them and then coffee!
What is your go-to aperitivo drink?
I would say spritz since I live in Veneto, but mainly Spritz Select or a Spritz Cynar.
If someone was visiting Italy for the very first time, where would you take them?
Rome, it’s a beautiful city that I still don’t know well enough, so I could take advantage of getting to know it too.
If you could give one piece advice to someone who would like to be on a roller derby team, but has no idea where to start, what would it be?
Don’t be scared just because you don’t know how to skate. I, like most, learned from zero. Get out there, learn and most of all have fun!
THIS GIRL IS ON FIRE ROUND
Favorite female superhero? I think I have to pick Harley Quinn.
Who is the woman you admire most in your life? My nonna.
Should women break the rules more often? No, do what you feel, always, and if that makes breaking a few rules then okay.
If you could choose one woman to have dinner with, dead or alive, who would it be? My Nonna, during this lockdown I couldn’t see her and I’d love to have a big dinner with her.
If you knew the world was ending tomorrow, what would you do tonight? Throw a big party with my friends and family in a skatepark and say goodbye the right way, with smiles, partying, dancing and toasting.
And finally, where can everyone find you online? (Instagram, YouTube, share it all!) My Instagram is @laura_manganaro but I would suggest these Instagram pages and all the women featured on them @theanguanas @cib_italy @harpiesrollerderbymilano
A big thank you to Laura for answering my questions. Go give all of these girls a follow and support your local roller derby teams! God, I LOVE GIRL POWER AND WOMEN WHO SUPPORT WOMEN.