Sharifa Simon says size doesn’t matter. In roller derby, that is.
Our Crush queen’s slender physique is a fraction of the stereotypical derby bruiser’s, but the North Star Roller Girl is no pushover on the flat track.
“The big girls might be big, but they’re not working out as hard as I am,” Sharifa says. “My core is way stronger than theirs.”
Chocolate Moose, as the 24-year-old is known in the derby world, may be dwarfed in stature by some of her teammates on the Delta Delta Di squad, but her physical presence isn’t lost in the bustle of the bar area of Fuji Ya in Uptown. She sits with perfect posture, flashes a heart-stopping smile and rocks an eye-catching Amber Rose haircut (BTW, totally pulling it off). But it wasn’t a desire to mimic that curvy model that prompted her to shave her head.
Working at a cafe in Methodist Hospital’s cancer center, Sharifa, whose aunt died of cancer, was compelled to donate her hair to chemotherapy patients. “They would come in with their shaved heads, they’re losing their hair, and [say] ‘Oh, I love your hair!’ ” she modestly recounts. “Well, I don’t need it. It’s just hair, it’s not important. I can get it back.”
Sharifa is the rare beauty who can execute the “G.I. Jane” without sacrificing femininity. She says she enjoys getting dolled up in heels and makeup for a night out, but she’s hardly the helpless girly girl. She knows how to drive a stick. She grew up a tomboy, pulling the tails off geckos while living in an adobe hut in Mexico with her brother and carny parents until age 5. Lately, she’s developed an affinity for high-intensity workouts, taking CrossFit classes with a friend.
“I guess people throw up at them because they exert so much energy,” she says. “I haven’t gotten there yet. We do a dead-lift thing — weight on the bar and you basically squat with it. Do you know anything about exercise?”
I pause, trying to answer without sounding like a total wuss. She giggles as I stammer. She grins widely, her alluring Monroe piercing catching the light. “I can’t do a pull-up,” she admits, somewhat comfortingly.
Sharifa spent most of her childhood in Baraboo, Wis. She swam in high school, but hung out in the art room. Before moving to Minneapolis last May with her now ex-boyfriend, she was a self-described nerd. With a thirst for new experiences, she adopted the YOLO spirit, without its douchey, drunken connotations. She says roller derby — along with “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Living Social and, ahem, this very publication — became her social gateway. But her beau of nearly two years preferred staying in and wasn’t very supportive of her derby passion, which became increasingly important to her.
“I feel like if he liked magnets, even though I hate magnets, I would be like, ‘I got you tickets to a magnet convention and I’m going to go with you because I know you like magnets,’ ” Sharifa said.
Fairly magnetic in her own right, Sharifa is slowly exploring the Twin Cities in her first year, but without a partner in crime there are a lot of things left on her to-do list, such as the Walker Art Center (there’s your in, fellas). Sharifa says she’s open to meeting someone, but seems to have a go-with-the-flow approach to dating. Any man in her life might have to compete with Gertie, a Jack Russell mix that Sharifa adopted from a rescue shelter. The droopy-bellied pooch had a heartworm when Sharifa took her in. Amid months of medication and care, she nursed the pup back to health. “She’s cured and happy now,” Sharifa says. “It’s a dream come true.”
There’s little doubt that this brown-eyed beauty has a big heart. Even in tough-girl derby mode, she internalizes her competitiveness, because showing up the other team would be “mean.” She almost sounds apologetic talking about the smackdown the North Stars traveling team recently laid on the Des Moines Derby Dames (the final score was 194-92).
A strong, sexy fun-seeker, Chocolate Moose seems determined not to let life pass her by. Sometimes that means joining a mass tomato fight during the Midwest Tomato Fest, or getting “Black Ass” tattooed on her you-know-where (it’s an old nickname). And hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. “I may have mooned a bar or two in Green Bay,” she says coyly.
Now Sharifa is making her mark on the Twin Cities without risking indecent exposure charges (as far as we know). But if there’s a man out there who can keep up, perhaps he’ll get as lucky as those Cheesehead barflies.
Lives in: Minneapolis.
Occupation: Cancer Center counter attendant, amateur dog trainer, North Star Roller Girl.
Hangouts: Art museums, Fuji Ya, Lake Calhoun and the North Star Roller Girls’ practice space.
Turn-ons: A guy who takes the initiative, can appreciate a good zombie flick and is capable of a thing or two in the kitchen.
Nominated by: My co-workers Ashleigh and Becky. It was quite the surprise.