Friends know you as Leah, but millions of fans know you as Carmella. How did you first get into WWE?
Honestly, I never imagined I would end up in the WWE. My dad was a wrestler in the early 90s so I grew up around it. I was a dancer my entire life and I cheered in the NFL and NBA. I have a huge passion for performing and I knew I wanted to continue to entertain after my dance career was over. I had an opportunity to try out for the WWE and I fell in love with it. It was the perfect combination for me with my dads history in the business and my love for entertaining. Shortly after my tryout I got signed to NXT which was the developmental brand at the time. I trained for about two years, learning how to wrestle and developing my Carmella character until I made my debut on Smackdown Live in 2016.
Fans get a taste of your life on E! Total Divas. Talk to us about your involvement on the show and how it has impacted your career and personal life.
Reality tv is a lot harder than it sounds! Not only is it difficult to put your entire personal life out there for the world to see, but we have to live through everything on the show twice. Last year was one of the most difficult years of my life, personally. I decided to just be open and honest about it and let cameras capture everything as it was happening. If anything, it has made my relationship with my boyfriend even stronger. We knew we had to stick together through that hard time and couldn’t listen to the trolls and critics, and thats exactly what we did. Being on Total Divas allows me to connect with our female fans on a different level. Before Total Divas, they only got to see us as our characters on WWE television. Filming the show allows them to see us and who we actually are outside of the ring.
Biggest misconception about being a female WWE wrestler?
I think sometimes when people are unfamiliar with what we do, they just assume we are these big body builders who walk around beating people up. Don’t get me wrong, our women are strong and total ass kickers, but I think its ok to embrace a feminine side as well. I like to be both. I think its important to show young women that you don’t have to fit in one specific mold.
You’re a boss woman in and out of the ring (correct me if I’m wrong about this verbiage!).
Talk to us about your wine brand, Capo Cagna.
Capo Cagna means Boss Bitch in Italian. I want everyone who drinks my wine to embrace their inner Capo Cagna. I love to drink wine, but I’m definitely not a wine snob. I like a wine that’s easy to drink and won’t break the bank. Capo Cagna looks fancy and fabulous but costs under $20/bottle. So if you’re boujie on a budget like me, then this is the perfect wine for you!
What made you get into the wine business? What is your favorite kind of wine?
I wanted to create a brand that empowers women and men to embrace their inner boss bitch. I grew up in a big Italian family. We had Sunday dinners every week and everyone had a glass of red wine with their pasta, even as kids. It was a staple in our house and I just fell in love with the tradition and how it made me feel connected to my family. I love the Italian culture and it always reminds me of my childhood. I love to unwind after a big show or match with a glass of red wine, it just makes me so happy and I want to share that passion with my fellow wine drinkers.
Being that your brand literally translates to “boss woman”, talk to us about what being a boss woman means to you. How do you hope to spread this mindset and empower the women around you?
Being in the WWE has allowed me to have this huge platform on social media. I have a voice and I would hate to see that go to waste. I think there are so many pressure now a days with social media and its impossible to keep up. I know I’m constantly having to stop comparing myself, my looks and my life to what I see on social media. I have to remind myself that it is not real life. If I’m doing that as somewhat of a “public figure” I cant imagine what my fans or followers are going through. Its important for me to be authentic and spread the message of self acceptance. We all have struggles and we all bring something different to the table. Lets stop comparing ourselves to others and focus on living our best authentic lives.
If you could dine with any famous figure, dead or alive, who would it be?
Lucille Ball. I loved watching I Love Lucy as a kid. There weren’t many women on tv who were allowed to be funny and do the kind of things she was doing on tv. She wasn’t afraid to make fun of herself and I loved that about her. She’s the epitome of a Capo Cagna,
Favorite show to binge watch at the moment?
I’m always binging Friends.
Where can we follow you on socials? @CarmellaWWE
CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER- MIKE RUIZ
PHOTOGRAPHER – CINAVA
INTERVIEW- DYLAN JADER
TALENT – LEAH VAN DALE
MAKEUP- DONALD SIMROCK
HAIR- JOHNNY STUNTZ
STYLIST AND EDITOR IN CHIEF– MICHAEL BISHOP
STYLING ASSISTANT- JOHNNY BYRNE
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR- ANDREA ALLISON