In celebration of International Women's Day, throughout March we’ll be talking to some of the most inspiring females in fitness about women’s empowerment, overcoming adversity, and how they’re challenging gender stereotypes
This week, we spoke with WWE icon, actress and entrepreneur Natalie Eva Marie to peel back the curtain on her journey from bottle service in LA to Wrestlemania, dealing with sobriety and what it’s like to be a TV villain.
RW: One of our Ryderwear themes for International Women’s Day is about empowering women to take a leap of faith and pursue their passions. Tell us about a time in your life when you took a leap of faith?
NEM: Definitely making the decision to join WWE. You know growing up I was originally wanting to be a professional Soccer player. That was my true passion, but I tore ligaments in my ankle. Then I moved to LA and WWE came into town and did a Diva Search. Initially I only tried out to get a developmental deal, but then I got the call to audition for Total Divas, and ended up on the main roster. I just rolled the dice and happened to be in the right place at the right time. The stars aligned, and I wouldn’t be sitting here today unless I took that leap of faith.
RW: How do you think WWE has changed in terms of its representation of women?
NEM: It’s grown drastically, and it makes me super proud. When I first arrived, they cut the girls tag match at Wrestlemania. At that time for the girls there’d only be one spot for TV, so everyone was fighting for that time, and it was such a small snippet. Maybe a five minute segment, if you were lucky. That’s why it created such a tense locker room, because everyone was gunning for that one spot. Now women are main events, and the female matches are insane and super long. It shows that women deserve representation, and what we can do if we’re given the opportunities.
RW: What about the women of WWE? How do you think they’re helping to redefine femininity and change perceptions of women
NEM: The WWE girls are some of the biggest baddasses I know! Obviously what you see in the ring kind of subverts typical stereotypes surrounding women. We’re strong, we’re confident, we’re outspoken. But knowing what goes on behind the scenes is so empowering, which is why Total Divas was so amazing! Not only are we female wrestlers, we’re entertainers, businesswomen and we’re firecely independent. Nobody’s jetting around on private planes, nobody’s getting escorted to and from the arena. You’re flying in from a different city, hopping in a rental car, going to the arena, working a live event, hopping in the car and driving to the hotel, checking in. You’re doing all of that yourself.
RW: It takes a certain type of person to play the role of the bad guy. Did you find being a WWE villain empowering?
NEM: It was a journey for me. At the time Instagram was kind of new, and I wasn’t accustomed to complete strangers leaving comments about my job or myself. I found that hard because I want people to like me and perceive me well, then to have this character who’s the total opposite of who I am was hard. It took a year to really understand that they weren’t talking about me, they were talking about the character. After that I kind of relished it, because at the end of the day, you want your character to provoke those strong emotions. Being booed is good business, because it means I’m going to work, and the writers are going to work me into the story. Everyone wants to be the good guy and get all of the praise, but the only way a good guy is going to get that, is if there’s a solid bad guy.
RW: Another one of our themes for International Women’s Month is overcoming adversity. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in life?
NEM: Two things. The first thing is self-doubt. There’s just so much constant internal chatter. I’ve always had an angel and devil on my shoulder, and my devil is a hell of a fighter. She’s out for me! So that’s why my motto is One Day at a Time, because overcoming things like self-doubt is a day to day proposition.
The second thing has been overcoming addiction. I was sober from 23 to 26 then relapsed and ended up in a pretty dark place. I had to make a decision about who I wanted to be, and got back working on my recovery program with my sponsor. Now I’ll be 7 years sober in March, in International Women’s Month. I say it’s the hardest thing because you never truly overcome it, you just have to stay on course and keep working at it every single day. I’m still attending meetings and following the 12 step recovery program.
It’s the hardest but also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, because so many people are reaching out to me saying that because of me they’re getting sober, of that I’ve helped them on their journey, or that they’ve survived another day.
RW: What advice would you give to women struggling with self-doubt?
NEM: I think that maybe we question whether we belong in certain spaces because of stereotypical perceptions and representations of women. But the best way to conquer self-doubt is through your attitude. My favourite word is relentless, because that’s an attribute you need to have if you want something. You’re going to be told no much more than you’ll be told yes, so you need to have that relentless attitude and self-belief. If you love something enough, and you’re passionate about it, then you can go out and grab it. It might take you longer than the normal person, but it’s something that’s going to feed you, instead of mocking someone else for trying. I don’t ever want to live with regrets.
RW: I think a lot of women would look up to you as a businesswoman and as an entrepreneur. What’s the best piece of business advice you can give women?
NEM: You always have to have a ‘why’. Why do you want to do this, why do you want to make this move, make this transition. This goes for anyone in business really, but I think especially for women, because while we’re living in a progressive society, women are still going to encounter more trials and tribulations along the way, and things are never going to be easy. If you don’t have the ‘why’, then when those big roadblocks come up, you’re not going to have a reason to push through.
RW: Is there a final message you want to share with women in the Ryderwear community and beyond?
NEM: Don’t put yourself in a box! If you’ve got the passion for something, pursue it! I’m a hybrid, not a one-niche person. I have my own fashion line, my own collection with Ryderwear. I’ve got a TV series with Bella Thorne about to drop called Paradise City. I’ve got a movie with Bruce Willis coming up called Open Source. That’s not because I’m any more gifted than the next person, it’s because I’m always trying to challenge myself and do things people say that I can’t, because believe me there’s a lot of them out there!
Want to hear more from NEM? Click here to listen to the full interview on Ryderwear’s brand new What The Flex? podcast
You can also shop Natalie Eva Marie’s newly released NEMxRW collection here