QUEEN of the WWE RING: Naomi Fatu

QUEEN of the WWE RING: Naomi Fatu

Photos by Michael Letterlough Jr.
Makeup and Grooming by Rodney Jon
Styling by Chad Foley

Professional wrestling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up, Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, and CoCo B. Ware were my favorites. Then there was The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, Randy Savage, and Jake the Snake Roberts. Fast forward to the late 90’s and two men took wrestling to another level. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s arrogance, comedy, agility, and catchphrases were echoed throughout society. Wrestling was at a peak and Everyone wanted to be a character in the ring. Everyone except Trinity Fatu.

Born Trinity McCray, Trinity was raised, with her brother, by a single mother and a huge family in Orlando, Florida. She was always surrounded by a lot of love and extremely talented people. Her family was full of singers and Trinity wanted to dance. She started taking dance classes at age 8 and knew early on that she wanted to be some type of entertainer. She wasn’t sure what but knew that it was in her cards. At that moment, dance was her outlet.

Trinity was graduated from high school and had taken that experience from the years of tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, modern hip hop, as well as competing all over the nation and began trying to figure out what was her next step. Initially, Trinity wanted to go to the renowned Alvin Ailey Dance School in New York City. However, at the time, with that dream, where her life was at the time with finances and ultimately leaving so far away from home for the first time, urged her to push her dance dream to the back burner.

The decision to stay home led the lover of dance to her first audition for NBA team The Orlando Magic, which she made the team and stayed there for two and a half years. One day, randomly, she went to a wrestling event. She had no idea what it would lead to and where she would go. But, the opportunity came, she took on the stage name Naomi, and she went and became a professional wrestler. The rest is history.

Trinity: My parents and my family thought I was crazy. The show came to the Amway, the Orlando magic center at the time. A friend of mine, one of the Magic dancers, told me about it and we went together. I was just blown away when I saw the women perform. I didn’t know women could go like that and actually wrestle. Right then I was like, man, I could do that. I want to do that or at least want to try. At the time, the wrestling developmental audition was only about an hour and 45 minutes. I drove from Orlando to Tampa to audition, you know, just on a whim, just giving it a try. Nobody else wanted to try and do it with me, but I was crazy enough to attempt it. Months and months went by and honestly, I kinda forgot about it and didn’t think I would get picked to their developmental program. I was about to start my third season with Orlando magic and that’s when I got the call saying that, WWE would like to have me in their wrestling journey. My mom couldn’t believe it because, I was taught for a very young age, to be the complete opposite. To be a dancer, to be graceful, you know, all these dance skills, it was kind of like going to wrestle and beat people up was the complete opposite. She was very concerned about my health, my wellbeing, and me getting hurt. Obviously, she did support me and I swear I love about my mom. She’s always the most positive influence in my life and she just kind of waited it out to see how it was going to go. She came to those little shows at the little arenas all around central Florida. That really gave me the confidence to keep going because man it was hard in the beginning. It was really rough.

SUAVV: I can, I can believe it. I’m gonna I’m to jump from wrestling and bounce back to Alvin Ailey. I know that they have adult training. Do you, do you see yourself at any point going back to classical dance?

Trinity: Absolutely. I love dance and I love the arts and I love theater. So that’s still something that I would love to pursue is some point. Dancing on Broadway. Oh yeah, that’ll always be a passion.

SUAVV: Now does your, your agility from being a dancer, does that correspond within your wrestling? Have you added implements of that?

Trinity: Absolutely. I feel like a lot of what I do is definitely influenced by dance. But, at the same time, it is kinda been a double-edged sword because in the beginning, it was a little difficult to adjust to be more scrappy and not look so choreographed in the ring. But at the same time, it totally helped me with my agility, athleticism, and a lot of the move set and stuff I do is totally from, from dance. But yeah, it has its pros and cons.

SUAVV: All right, cool. Now you and Jonathan, how did you guys meet? Did you meet in wrestling?

Trinity: Yes, we just so happened to start training together. I pretty much got signed around the same time he was there. Maybe like a month or two before Then I got in the ring and I was like, hi. He was like, Hey, how are you doing? Little did I know. Boy, Little did I know that he was going to be my husband. He was like, I’m going to have to fight you in a second. So pretty much he definitely gave me some tackles and rough me up a little bit when I first got there.

SUAVV: When you did your photoshoot with Mike and Rodney, they were like, you would never think that they’re wrestlers. Is it challenging for you guys to leave the wrestling persona at work and have a life outside of wrestling or are you always in some kind of character?

Trinity: Um, I think it has is definitely has its challenges because work is so hard to turn it off sometimes because work is so much a part of our lives. We’re performing on the road 300 days out of the year. So, and a lot of times when we do come home, our days off, we’re still working. You know, we’re still watching the product, we’re still watching the shows that come on, we’re so watching the pay per views, or we’re filming Total Divas. So that’s something we’ve had to learn and adjust to with as we’ve gotten deeper into our careers and become a little more popular and living in a small town. We do get recognized a lot, but it just comes with the territory and it’s something we’ve had to adjust to and really set boundaries so that we can be healthy as a family and operate and function normally. I have two stepkids who are 11 and 13, so the days we are home, it’s very important like to be there for them and give them everything they need and be really present. So we’ve learned how to adjust.

SUAVV: Okay. Okay. Gotcha. Now, I have Jeffrey from Jeffrey Show Live on with me. Jeffrey is a wrestling enthusiast. So he’s going to ask you some of the wrestling-related questions that I don’t know.

Jeffrey: SmackDown Women’s Championship. How were you feeling when you found out that you were going to win it at the elimination chamber? Can you take me back to that moment?

Trinity: I just felt it like at that time, I was hearing the reactions I was getting, you can just feel it when you’re in that moment and when your time is coming. So I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know it was going to be that night. It honestly just felt like a huge accomplishment and relief to me because it just took me so long. Like I always knew I would have that moment, but I never expected it to be six years. Especially seeing so many women that I started with and came in with have that shot at that moment and then (for me) to still not be here. I’m the only one from that time period, of those women that I came in with, the original NXT group, that was still there at the time and that hadn’t held the championship. Then seeing the new women come in and kill it and be champion. It was really frustrating to me, that I hadn’t accomplished that yet. So for me, it was huge, it was validation for me and something that I really needed at my point in my career and that I wanted to achieve.

Jeffrey: I love it. We’ve talked about that Kofi mania moment. You were the first African-American woman to hold the WWE Women’s Smack Down Title. I feel like you have one of your own at WrestleMania 33 when you regained the title after your injury.

Trinity: I did. First of all, how amazing was, Kofi his moment? I was crying. It was so crazy. The energy and just knowing the struggle. And that’s something not everyone will understand. For me, being a woman and being a minority, I know I’ve faced certain challenges that others haven’t had to face. And I think it is beautiful because it makes me who I am, makes me stronger, and it makes it so much sweeter when you do finally climb that mountain and accomplish what you set out to do. It was just great to see that for Kofi. We’ve known how dope and amazing Kofi’s been for years. But to see it happen in front of everyone, and to be the first African-born World Champion in WWE history, it was beautiful. So, yeah, definitely had a taste that I hadn’t experienced winning the championship back at WrestleMania. I had a lot of my family there. So it just made me feel like it was all worth it. The last 10 years since I’ve had this career, I really haven’t been home and around my family, so they don’t really understand the grind and you know what it is. But it’s different watching me in the arena at WrestleMania to see how what we do, how it impacts so many people and the power it really has. I was glad that it happened at the time it happened and having it twice, you know? I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to retain it or get my championship back because I really did get injured, which is why I had to relinquish it. And that was all real. People think that was a storyline, but that was real.

Jeffrey: I remember the blog saying “Oh, she doesn’t want that moment for WrestleMania.” I don’t know if you saw those reports, but like she doesn’t want us to have storylines.

Trinity: No, when I won the championship in the chamber on the finish, I actually tore my MCL. It wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough to where I had to be off of it and I’ve fought. I told them (WWE executives) please don’t take this championship off me. I’ll be good (healthy). I’ll be fine. And literally I had to fight even up until WrestleMania because they were worried about me hurting my knee more. But it all worked out and people really don’t know how I was really fighting for that moment behind the scenes. Thankfully it all worked out and I didn’t get hurt again. It was painful and I had to rehab it. I was rehabbing it like crazy. Nobody thought I would make it back in time, but I did everything and beyond to get that knee at least good enough to where I could perform.

Jeffrey: I’m always asked about restlessness because a lot of people question if this is real or not and then injuries happen. I want to talk a little bit about mental health. During the injury, a lot of wrestlers talked about how being an entertainer, they sometimes get down, like “I was at the top and then like all of a sudden sidelined.” How was that experience? Did anything mental go on with you during that time?

Trinity: A whole lot of things. We are still in work mode and we’re so ambitious and driven like all of our wrestlers. One of the most important things is staying healthy because the second you’re not, there’s always someone there to take your spot or to fill your shoes and all you can do is hope and pray that when you do come back, you pick right up or you do better. So that’s definitely stressful when you’re used to being in the groove or in a routine and then it gets taken away from you and not on your terms. So it’s definitely stressful during those times. But, that’s a part of the game and it really just puts life and things into perspective when stuff like that does happen. It gives you a lot of time to think. And for me, it definitely gave me time to think of more ideas and storylines so that I could come back with something new and something fresh. Overall, it’s always scary because you just never know what the outcome is going to be. You don’t know if the injury is going to be one month, if it’s going to be six months, or if it’s going to be a year. Meanwhile, you’ve been doing this your whole career. It’s like, okay, what am I going to do for a year? I want to be on the road, I want to make my name, I’m on a mission, I got a journey. When that just gets stopped it’s very, very stressful mentally. But I think it makes everyone stronger when they do go through that because everyone comes back with more fire than they had before.

SUAVV: I know with wrestling, overall, it’s still a business. So when it comes to the business aspect, I read that the MIZZ, Mike, when he saw your talents and all that you were striving for, he pushed himself in a way to help build your career. Is that accurate?

Trinity: Yeah. Mizz has always been super supportive and super informative. I got to work with him on The Marine 5: Battleground. To me, he’s one of the hardest working people in our business and he’s so talented. He’s so smart. It’s definitely been a great help to me throughout the years, a good friend, and I love him.

SUAVV: I remember when he was on The Real World and he created the character “The Mizz” on the show. To see him fully become that, has been an amazing journey to watch.

Trinity: It’s crazy. And he didn’t have it easy either first coming in, but it just goes to show how relentless he is. He’s been consistent and he’s incredible. Like he’s great. He’s helped me a lot, especially when we did the movie. I was so nervous but, he had so much to remember and so much of the movie was on him and he was so professional, gave me pointers, taught me how to read my script, and went over my scenes with me. Just a lot of stuff that he did not have to do. He just really made sure I was good at it. That’s the type of person he is. He’s an awesome guy and a very hard worker.

SUAVV: You’re now 32 years old, you walk into an arena with tens of thousands of people cheering for you. What does it feel like walking through that curtain?

Trinity: It’s a feeling that I feel like a lot of us are addicted to. It’s an adrenaline rush and it’s a feeling of belonging and your hard work paying off. It’s so fulfilling and it’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else. Performing in front of a live audience is, just real. You know? No matter what, these people are going to either connect with you or they’re not going to connect with you. And if you’re good at what you do, and if you leave it all out there, you’ll get the job done. And that’s just something that I need in my life, my personality, and it really makes me happy.

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