One Night in Miami with the Latex-Clad Lady Wrestlers of Sukeban


Members of the Japanese women’s wrestling league Sukeban, photographed by Rachel Miller.

Time moves differently in Miami. The traffic is notorious during Basel, and you’ll take an hour-long car ride to be at an event for twenty minutes. But the things that could happen in those twenty minutes! By Wednesday morning, I keep telling people I have been there since Monday, when in fact it’s only been 24 hours. I’ve heard “Water” by Tyla fifteen times so far. 

I wake up feeling delicate and hungry because I went far too hard for my first night. I kept telling shy people I met, “You have to circulate!” 

By noon, my hair still smells like cigarettes and I am running out of time, so I spray it with lavender hand sanitizer, which miraculously works. I take a car up to Soho Beach House for the Evian x Coperni lunch. The first person that talks to me airdrops me his media kit and reveals they have cleared away the food. 

Now I’m on the brink of tears, thinking I have missed another opportunity to be fed. I lie on the beach chairs staring at the ocean and, after a good twenty minutes of despair, see a group of people on a balcony holding glasses of wine. Could it be? With sand in my shoes, I weakly make my way over and ask if there is something happening upstairs. 

It turns out I have not missed my lunch, which improves my mood immensely. Diplo walks in with shopping bags and asks, “What’s going on here?” There is no name card for him on the table.


By five, I’m back in my room at 1 Hotel trying to put myself together for the evening. Everyone is asking me to send them a screenshot of the detailed spreadsheet I have made for all my events. I text a friend to say my spreadsheet is famous, but I hear I was just waving it around on my phone last night.

At the Cartier event, I go up to one of the handsome servers and ask him if he works at Cartier full-time. “No,” he says. “I’m signed to Wilhemina.” Alix Earle, Miami Girl and Tiktok star, has just walked in with a rose gold Baignoire on her wrist. She tells me her tips for surviving Art Basel: “buckle up” and wear comfortable shoes, the second of which I am already disregarding. 

From the door girls to the concierge, at least everyone in Miami can pronounce my last name. I leave the glitz of the Design District and dash off to the main event of the evening, the Sukeban wrestling match. My driver drops me off in front of the stables for police horses, under a highway overpass. A skater and what looks like his girlfriend are walking on the side of the road. I run across the street and follow them towards purple lights in the distance. 

Sukeban, its name an homage to the word for “delinquent” girl gangs from the 60s and 70s, is a Japanese all-female wrestling league, with legendary 80’s wrestler Bull Nakano serving as commissioner. Tonight is a landmark evening: it’s only the second time they’ve come to North America to perform. 

The match is hidden from the street in the Lot 11 skatepark. I’m led backstage, past the ropes, security, and growing crowds, to a white tent that has been set up for the wrestlers to get into costume. So far, Sukeban is the one thing here that feels dynamic, surprising, and most of all fun.


Oddly, I’m no stranger to being backstage at a wrestling match. I’m familiar with the world of WWE wrestlers, simply because an old friend of mine is one. I have always loved its campiness and melodrama, though I do wince. Often, I suspend disbelief and worry that they may actually be hurt, which is the very thing that lends these matches their potent sense of entertainment, magnifying what in the wrestling world is called “kayfabe.” 

Nevertheless, being backstage at Sukeban is markedly different from what I’m used to. The wrestlers all stand somewhere under five-foot-four, bedecked in costumes by Sukeban co-founder Olympia Le-Tan, with makeup by Isamaya Ffrench. The league is made up of eighteen women (one missed her connecting flight to Miami), four teams, and one loner character called Stray Cat. Each team has a distinct look Le-Tan built inspired by each girl’s personality. “In the west there is a lot of shiny spandex, which I don’t love,” Le-Tan tells me. “I just thought latex would be a good alternative.” She loves watching them perform, she adds. “It’s like they transform into these wild superheroes.”


While finishing touches are made in the tent, the wrestlers stretch their limbs in full costume. “Take your pictures now,” Ffrench tells me, “In an hour it’s going to get destroyed.” She’s talking about the intricate makeup she’s done on the girls. As match time approaches, the energy backstage becomes frenetic. 

The crowds around the ring have filled in the gaps. I take position leaning on one of the barricades. It’s 10 past 10 and the crowd is yelling, “SU-KE-BAN! SU-KE-BAN!” The Cartier party feels like years ago. Announcer Kunichi Nomura steps into the ring, and “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways plays, the crowd joining in to sing, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!” The sweet girls I met backstage rare into the spotlight, their metamorphoses complete.