Adding spark to Survivor
Local roller-girl makes jump to prime-time
Jessica Smith doesn’t watch TV. So when she was recruited to be on the upcoming season of Survivor, she was unfamiliar with the premise. But ask just about anyone and they’ll tell you she’s perfect for the show.
“She has this magical quality,” described Keenan Seko, general manager of the NorCal Roller Girls. “She has a crazy look in her eye. We all talk about that crazy look.”
When Seko first met Smith, aka Flica Flame, she was shopping at Hancock Fabrics. Smith, a seamstress extraordinaire, helped her with her order. Seko was in the process of forming the NorCal Roller Girls league and was looking for players.
“I asked her if she roller skated and she said ‘yes,'” Seko said. “She told me about her flame throwing, stilt walking, face painting. She said she wanted to try stilt walking on skates. I could tell she was up for anything—that’s exactly what we needed.”
The first day of tryouts, at the beginning of the year, Ronda Reid walked into CalSkate and was approached by a petite girl with colorfully dreadlocked hair, who asked if she was there for roller derby. When Reid said yes, Smith responded with an enthusiastic, maybe even spastic, “Right on!”
Reid, whose name might ring a bell because she’s a radio personality on KALF, is better known on the rink as Kutt Throat Kandie. The two formed a fast friendship and Reid became co-captain of the team Smith had petitioned to add (there were originally three, hers made it four), the VooDoo Dolls.
Off the rink, Reid said, Smith is an avid local supporter. She has dressed up as a dove on stilts for peace rallies, she supports local businesses and DJs (her boyfriend spins). She loves dancing, camping, going to festivals like Burning Man. She custom-makes costume-ball gowns for at least one local woman. And she loves to paint kids’ faces at CalSkate—for free.
“She’s like a big kid herself,” Seko said.
When Smith put on her skates, though, a spark would ignite. Friends admit that she turned into a different person on the rink. A lot of players do. But some couldn’t deal with her conflicting egos.
“She has this super, super sweet side that makes you want to be her best friend,” Seko said. “And then she’d go out for derby and she’d be this totally crazed player.”
Captain of the Rough Riders Breanna Williams (aka Miss B’haven) agreed.
“It was hard to put the extremes together,” she said. “But the crowd loved it.”
As co-captain of the VooDoo Dolls, Reid worked on strategy while captain, Smith, took on creative duties. She sewed costumes for all her teammates. She painted their faces before bouts. She added spectacle—and motivation—to the sport.
Add to that her determination to win (at the end of the season she took home awards for Most Intimidating and Queen of the Confessional—the penalty box) and you have yourself quite a competitor. That’s just what CBS was looking for when it came knocking on league director Victoria Bentz’s door. Two other players had caught their attention, and Bentz passed along their numbers, along with Smith’s, saying she was perfect for the show.
“During our practice times, when she wasn’t here, the whole mood was different,” Williams said. “When she was here everyone was more edgy—because you never knew what she was going to do. She’s got an energy that just stirs something up.”
Reality-show junkie and die-hard Survivor fan Reid expects that will work to Smith’s advantage.
“Her vision for the VooDoo Dolls was tribalistic warrior princesses,” Reid said. “She was always pulling us all together, making us more like sisters.”
Smith’s best friend, Amanda Michaels, also described Smith as being like a sister. Michaels and Smith share a love of crafts and a “passion for glitter” that bonded them together. Michaels is now in L.A. studying fashion design.
“We’re both into making spectacles of ourselves in the most positive way,” she said. “She’s definitely been an inspiration to me. She’s always full of fun, new ideas. Always ready for adventure.”
Even though it killed her not to ask, Reid didn’t prod Smith about the show when she returned to Chico last month. Having applied for various shows herself, she understood the confidentiality agreements involved.
“I just can’t wait for her to resurface,” Reid said. For now, Smith is keeping a low profile, meaning, among other things, she won’t be involved with roller derby this season. She has been banned from talking about the past few months of her life. She can’t even log on to her Internet accounts (which is why she hasn’t been on MySpace in a while).
So, for now, friends will have to be happy watching Smith on TV—they will be holding Survivor viewing parties at Round Table Pizza on Pillsbury Road. This season takes place in the Cook Islands and the teams are broken into four races—a premise that has stirred controversy since it was revealed.
“If she uses some of the attitude and technique she used in roller derby on the show,” Reid said, “she could outwit everybody.”