Paving the way for a more diverse and accepting WWE community, Daria Berenato (also known as Sonya Deville), is the first openly-lesbian wrestler in WWE history, who returns to the screen this Fall on FOX’s WWE “SmackDown Live.” Daria championed the first ever WWE Pride Month initiative and led her own “Sonya Deville” parade float at the Ft. Lauderdale 2019 Pride Parade earlier this year. Following in the footsteps of her WWE male counterparts Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena, Daria is also an actress who has her eyes set on international stardom, a real life Wonder Woman.
An exceptional female wrestler, Daria Berenato talks to Women Fitness about fitness, her future fashion line, and supporting LGBT initiatives.
You are the first openly-lesbian Superstar in WWE history and currently appear on SmackDown Live. What motivated you towards the world of wrestling? Also do share what motivated you to adopt the ring name Sonya Deville.
When I was 16 years old, I wanted a change of pace from the high school sports I played (lacrosse, basketball, soccer) I was a bit of an extremist and I always wanted to do larger than life things, so I found MMA. From there, the next 6 years I moved from NJ to South Florida, NYC, and eventually to LA where I was training full time and fighting, I was also hosting a UFC after show at Afterbuzz TV studios where I met Maria Menounos and her husband Keven. After coming to see one of my last MMA fights they asked me if I ever considered WWE, not knowing much about wrestling I did my research and became intrigued. A few months later was the “Tough Enough” tryout and that’s where it all began, I fell in love with WWE.
Sonya Deville was originally supposed to be NJ Deville to help me keep my MMA nick name of “The Jersey Devil” after debating back and forth we agreed on Sonya Deville. I love having the Deville in there cause it still reminds me of my days fighting as the Jersey Devil.
You championed WWE’s Pride Month initiative and led your own “Sonya Deville” parade float at the Ft. Lauderdale 2019 Pride Parade earlier this year. How do you feel about breaking stereotypes by these endeavors?
When I first came out it was in 2015 on WWE reality show “Tough Enough” premiere episode, it was completely unintentional and I was scared to be honest. I didn’t understand my sexuality fully at that time, I didn’t understand how to express myself, at that point I don’t even think I said “I’m gay” out loud …ever. That being said there was something about saying it publicly that almost made me own it, it was like “Well now it’s out there I can’t hide anymore”. Ironically it ended up being the most therapeutic and reevaluating experiences in my life. I now have a whole new passion, which is spreading the message that I needed in 2015, its okay to be who you are. Whoever that may be.
What are your plans on entering the movie scene?
Acting has been a passion of mine since I was young, I took acting classes through most of high school and years following while training MMA. I am currently studying via skype with an acting coach Sean Whalen out of LA, to not only prepare for a future of TV and film, but also to deepen and enhance my in ring character in the WWE. Acting is my love.
What according to you is a good warm-up & why is it so important before a workout session? 5 Key stretches before entering the ring?
Warming the body up before any kind of physical activity whether it be lifting or wrestling is so so so so vital. I remember one match I didn’t have too much time prior to warm my body up and I rolled my ankle in the very start of the match. So needless to say I am now extremely conscious of making sure I do so now. I am a firm believer in keeping the warm up active and saving the static stretching for after the training session or match.
5 pre-match warm ups:
- High knees
- Push ups
- Butt kicks
- Arm circles bend and bows
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