Mar. 3 2020
Are the cameras rolling? Because Michelle Steilen is. Also known by their skate name, Estro Jen, Michelle is the Founder & Brand Manager of Moxi, a company that makes roller skates in basically every color. Oh, and they’re also one of the stunt doubles for Margot Robbie in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. We talked with them about becoming a stunt person, starting a company, and how skaters gonna skate, skate, skate… (Sorry.)
How did you get the job as one of Margot Robbie’s stunt doubles in Birds of Prey?
I dated Spiderman for three years… the stunt man, that is. Through him, I got the background of what stunt work is… The skating and stunt world really collided during this relationship (which eventually ended, because he totally cheated on me and was a liar, and it totally crushed me). But a week after, I got a call [to audition for] Harley Quinn, because I knew how to skitch… Skitching—skate hitching—is holding on the back of a car while you skate, and it’s so fun (as long as there aren’t potholes… then you’re f–d).
What was the audition process like?
On the way to the audition, my friend had the idea to see how fast I could go while holding on to their car. [Editor’s note: Guys, PLEASE don’t actually try this. She’s literally a trained superhero.] I got up to 44 mph, but when I got there, they were like, “We don’t need to know that.” I was like, “Please, I just practiced…” so they let me skitch, and when I let go [of the car], I slid across the intersection and kind of just popped up and laughed maniacally. They were like, “Oh, you are Harley Quinn.”
What was the stunt training and choreographing like?
It’s really freaking cool how it works: all of what is not in the script is built by the action team. So we get to workshop ideas and make up the fight scenes. It’s a joint effort with the stunt coordinators, who are relying on the stunt team and their expertise to say what they can (or can’t do.) And then you get into costume and act it out.
What was being on set like?
This film gave stunt women a completely different excitement about their work. Usually they’re the token tomboy. In this film, all the “Birds” got to work together often, and it felt like the first time I went to roller derby, when I realized this was a female dominated space. I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone else.
How did you get your start in skating?
I think my father always wanted boys. He skateboarded his whole life and wanted my sister and I to learn, too. But she took to it and I didn’t. I got a second chance at it when he gave me a pair of roller skates. And what was awesome about that was I couldn’t fall off of them. So I was roller skating through my teens, and even though I really loved skating, I was never very good at it. There wasn’t anything significant about my skating until I joined roller derby after college.
Why is that?
Most people, when they join roller derby, they’re so new. So because I had any background at all, it gave me a jump start on everyone else. I was immediately put into leadership positions and teaching people how to skate. I started a league, and then another league, and I ended up playing for several years.
How did you channel your love for skating and roller derby into starting your company, Moxi?
After college, I promised myself I would take a year off to just not follow the rules. When I graduated from Temple in 2005, I was really anxious as a person, I was really wrapped up in politics and I wanted to breakaway and take a year off. So I went to California, and I was waitressing, babysitting, and skating. Some of the people I worked with were in a Sports Business Marketing Master’s program and they hired me to do PR for the company they started. [That’s where] I realized roller skating could be as popular as rollerblading or skateboarding and I decided I wanted to create a brand that catered to non-competitiveness.
How did you take that idea and make it into a whole company?
There was this moment when I saw this old lady on the beach with purple hand weights that matched her purple pom poms and her purple bikini and purple wheels, and I was like, “Oh my god, I want to be that woman when I grow up.” It was the first time I realized you could skate outside, because I had always associated skating with the roller rink. So I found a made-in-USA skate supplier and wrote to them. That’s when I pitched the idea to take outdoor skating all over the place and so I started a store, Moxi, and it took off.
Why do you think Moxi is so successful?
I’ve always set really high goals for myself. I’m a Capricorn, so I’m not afraid to look crazy and am super goal-driven. And roller skates, before this, were so boring. There was no innovation; they were black and low rise. Roller skates deserved to come into the future, just like black and white T.V. did, and be memorialized with beauty and color.