It has been quite the history-making glow up for WWE Superstar Naomi.
The 30-year-old Orlando native, whose real name is Trinity Fatu, ascended from NXT, WWE’s developmental division, all the way up to becoming the first Black woman to win the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship. Naomi did that via a victory over Alexa Bliss at WWE’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view event in February 2017, as the Phoenix crowd serenaded her with chants of “you deserve it.”
The victory was bittersweet, though, as Naomi was forced to relinquish the title just over a week later due to an injury that she suffered during that match. Persevering, Naomi would dance again to that pulsating glow of neon green, pink and blue lights quicker than the WWE Universe of fans expected, as she returned to re-capture the SmackDown Women’s Championship on “The Grandest Stage Of Them All” — WrestleMania 33 in front of 75,000-plus raucous fans in her hometown of Orlando last April.
Now, Naomi has a chance to add another historic chapter to her glow-up. This Sunday night (January 28) at the Royal Rumble at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Naomi will compete in the first-ever 30-woman over-the-top Royal Rumble match. The pay-per-view event dates back to 1988, with male Superstars having to throw each other over the top ropes until the last man is standing. However, with WWE’s women’s division at its peak, this women’s Royal Rumble marks an epic first — one that Naomi promises to make “everyone feel the glow” with.
BET.com caught up with Naomi leading up to the Royal Rumble, as she talks about being part of WWE history via the first-ever 30-woman over-the-top event, how far women have come in pro-wrestling and all the #BlackGirlMagic in WWE — with her and Sasha Banks leading the way.
She also opens up about juggling her career and her marriage to fellow WWE Superstar Jimmy Uso and what it was like as a former dancer for the Orlando Magic and rapper Flo Rida. (Did you know she once danced at a BET Spring Bling performance?). Now, let’s see if she can glow back up to the top of WWE’s women’s division.
How do you feel about being part of history with the first-ever 30-woman over-the-top Royal Rumble match?
I’m so excited. It’s really rewarding. For decades, women have been fighting and working so hard and I think it’s a result of hard work and a lot of effort from so many driven, strong, really talented, passionate women that got us to this point. I’m just really happy and I’m so proud to be a female Superstar at this time right now and be a part of history being involved in a match like this.
A women’s Royal Rumble match shows the growth of the women’s division in WWE. Can you even begin to sum up how the women’s division has grown through the years?
It has happened so fast. The whole women’s revolution happened and fans speaking out for us on social media and having #GiveThemAChance trending and now, to us literally being the first to do so many things. In the last two, three years, it has been something to be a part of, but also sit back and watch. I think finally now, we’ve been given a chance to do it and I think we’re delivering and showing why we deserve more and why fans want to see us every opportunity we get. It just keeps getting better and we just keep getting more and eventually this will become the norm. Eventually we’re going to run out of first things to do, but then it will just be women getting better story lines, more time on the show, possibly the main event more … that will hopefully become the norm.
What can you say about the #BlackGirlMagic in WWE?
We got a whole lot of #BlackGirlMagic in WWE right now. It’s important for us all. Of course, we have that pressure of being African-American women and representing and being good role models and showing that it doesn’t matter — your race, your background, your ethnicity, whatever it is — you can do it, you can make it. WWE has always given us those opportunities to do so and showcase that. But it’s also important for all of us — not just as Black women, but just as women, period — to showcase who we are and represent for women of all ethnicities, races and colors. And that’s what I love about WWE because if you look at our female roster, there’s so much diversity.
You spend a lot of days on the road in WWE. But before you became a WWE Superstar, you were a dancer for the Orlando Magic and also for Flo Rida. Can you tell us your fondest memories from each of those gigs?
Being an Orlando Magic dancer was definitely one of the most exciting times of my life. Being on the team was really like being in a sisterhood. On my 21st birthday, we were traveling in Japan with the Orlando Magic, doing a Slam Dunk show/contest because we were one of the first teams to ever have dunking dancers, where we cheered but also did trampoline stunts. So, we were on tour doing that and I had my 21st birthday there and it was awesome. It was so much fun. That’s probably one of the best memories I have being a cheerleader for the Orlando Magic — that tour.
Dancing for Flo Rida was a great experience. I actually did the [BET] Spring Bling and I danced to the [singing] 'Apple Bottom jeans.' I think it was 2008, 2009. I’ve been trying to find the video and I cannot find the video anywhere. That was another great experience being at a BET concert event and dancing for him. That was a lot of fun. I’m going to find that video one day.
You’re married to fellow WWE Superstar Jimmy Uso. Does it get challenging juggling your relationship and career when they’re so intertwined because of the way the hectic WWE schedule dictates where you’ll both be most of the time?
Absolutely. We’re on the road more than we are at home. Although we work together and travel together, so much of our day is taken away from work and distractions from other things. We start our day off with a workout in the morning and then we’re at the arena all day, we’re doing interviews, we’re rehearsing, we’re practicing. We’re doing so much. We’re filming a reality show on the road. Then, you drive to the next town and barely, sometimes you don’t even have much time to sleep. So, the hardest thing is just us with such a busy schedule finding quality moments, quality time even though we’re around so much chaos all the time. But we find ways to do it.
Even if you have to sneak those moments in?
[Laughing]. Correct! Yup!
Wrestling fans know your husband’s family’s bloodline is rich with wrestling history, but for those unfamiliar, what can you say about his family’s wrestling lineage?
He comes from the Samoan dynasty, one of the most legendary wrestling families in the history of wrestling. He and his brother [Jey Uso] are, to me, one of the best tag-teams ever, so being married to him … I definitely can’t have any holes in my day. Being married into such a prestigious wrestling family, it’s definitely made me work even harder. I have a lot of help from them. It’s definitely made me stand out in my career and it has been the difference in what has made me different, just having so much guidance and influence from them.
Who would you say is the funniest Superstar backstage?
Oh my gosh, Natalya. If you watch [E!’s] Total Divas, then you get what I’m talking about. We always say, ‘what would we do without Nattie?’ She’s hilarious, she has the best sense of humor, she makes all of us laugh, she keeps us all together. She has been around a long time from the Hart family, which is also another legendary wrestling family. She just gets it. Everyone loves Nattie and it just wouldn’t be the same if she wasn’t around. She’s the person that when things are awkward and weird, Nattie is the one that kind of gets everything back on track. She’s a good friend to everyone. She has always been the same from the time I met her, from day one. She has always been such a good person.
What advice would you give to a young girl, especially a young Black girl who wants to follow in your footsteps and become a WWE Superstar?
I would just say to work hard and don’t give up because it’s a very tough business to make it in. We always say it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There will be hard times. It won’t be easy, but if it’s something you want to do, you can definitely do it. I’m a perfect example of it. I didn’t grow up watching wrestling and it’s something that I fell for and took to. I just worked really hard to be successful at it just like so many other Superstars. They can do it.
Xavier Woods has made a big splash outside of the squared circle in the gaming community and Nia Jax has done the same as a model. You’re in the prime of your career, but is there something that you have your heart on doing outside of wrestling in the near future?
Absolutely! Wrestling will always be my No. 1 focus as long as I’m here, but I’ve been auditioning for things. I would love to do acting. I love music, I sing, I would love to do Broadway. There’s a lot of BET shows I like that I’m working to get on. I love The Quad. So, maybe one day I can do those things. But right now, wrestling is No. 1 and my focus. But being a woman and wanting to eventually start a family and do other things in my career, I know that those things are approaching pretty soon. My mind has definitely been on what is going to be the next chapter, but I think I’ll always be doing something in entertainment because that is my passion.
This is the “Road to WrestleMania. Can you even begin to wrap your head around how crazy these next four months will be for you and the roster?
It’s going to be exciting. The “Road to WrestleMania” is always very intense, especially coming off of my ride last year, winning atWrestleMania in my hometown of Orlando. I’m definitely excited to make a big splash this year at WrestleMania. I’m not sure what’s in store for us women, but whatever it is, we’re gonna kill it, we’re going to rock, it’s going to be exciting.
Is there anything we didn’t ask about Royal Rumble that you’d like to mention?
Yeah, everyone is going to feel the Glow one way or another, so you better get ready.
(Photo: WWE, Inc.)