This Scholar Is on a Roll

By Liz Galst

Barnard Magazine first met Mia Ciallella ’19 through an online profile. “When I’m not making zines or obsessing about [the band] One Direction,” she wrote, “I’m probably playing roller derby.” Roller derby? We wanted to know more.

Turns out, there’s a lot more to know. Ciallella is involved in a dizzying array of activities: Zine Club; Hoot magazine; Writing Fellows; on-campus community education; Collective Advocacy Project. Did we mention she’s taking four courses?

For a few weeks last autumn, we tried keeping up.

To see more images of Ciallella in action, click on the photos and the video at the bottom of this page.

Let’s get our priorities straight: Roller derby. And not your grandmother’s roller derby either, or Laverne & Shirley’s. Think: derby 2.0. There’s still some camp — Ciallella’s derby name is Lavender Menace, a reference to second-wave feminist Betty Friedan’s fear of lesbians in the 1960s women’s movement. But there’s lots more power. “It’s very much like we’re athletes now. It’s not theatrical. It’s a contact sport.” Plus, there’s the strategy element. “Chess meets football, basically,” she clarifies.

New York’s Gotham Girls Roller Derby, the league Ciallella skates in, is “the third-best league in the world,” she notes about the little-known sport that boasts about 2,000 leagues worldwide. Practice is at least five hours a week, plus the 90-minute commute each way to the rink in Brooklyn.

Roller derby?: “My local town had a team,” she says by way of explanation. Starting in middle school, she and her parents would watch the matches, called “bouts.” When she got to Barnard, Ciallella wanted “to do stuff that I’ve never had the chance to do, like I was too scared to do. So I literally googled ‘beginner roller derby.’” Gotham’s rec league came up.

En Vogue: Ciallella serves as fashion director of Hoot magazine, the much-lauded Barnard/Columbia glossy. “I look at fashion through a critical lens. To me, it’s not just an outlet. It’s how fashion acts as embodiment; how fashion acts as an archive; how fashion is both exclusive and inclusive, radical and hegemonic.”

Double major — English and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies: “Coming in, I knew this is exactly what I wanted.” Then Ciallella got concerned about her postgraduation marketability. No longer. “I’ve worked through some of that internalized stuff to get to this point of self-assuredness with the path that I’ve chosen.”

Does she ever sleep?: “One thing that Barnard has definitely taught me is time management.” And, she says, she hasn’t pulled an all-nighter yet. •


Latest IssueWinter 2021

In this issue, learn about three alums who have devoted their careers to racial justice.