We Can Do It - An Interview with Melina Perez

In our “We Can Do It” series, we talk to women who have careers in male-dominated industries. A few weeks ago, former wrestler Melina Perez visited Comicazi to do a signing. In her career with the WWE, Perez was a two-time Women's Champion and three-time Divas Champion, and is recognized as having one of the most impressive arrays of offensive moves in the industry. She graciously agreed to chat with The Red Menace about comics, her career, and the joys and pitfalls of being a woman in that world. Their conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Red Menace: What initially drew you to wrestling? Melina Perez: I grew up with the trinity of DC: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. I LOVED Lynda Carter, she was the only person who looked like me on tv - only role model I had other than my mom to look up to. So superheroes were important, and then my brother started watching wrestling. They were superheroes too. These were fond times - my brother didn't beat me up while we were watching.

In high school I wanted to be a doctor, so went to school to become a medical assistant to get my foot in the door. While doing that, I was pushed to participate in a modeling contest by my boyfriend. I felt humiliated but did it and won! I feel like my personality shone through.

From that success, Melina decided to participate in fitness competitions, but since she couldn't afford the training, she attended a friend's wrestling school instead. From there she joined the independent wrestling circuit. She was scouted by the WWE and decided that there might be a future for her in wrestling.

MP: I still had to fight for tv time. Because this was a place that was hiring models, I felt ostracized by the serious women wrestlers - they thought of me that way [as just a pretty face], but wrestling is what pushed me to [put on] make-up. I was a tomboy, but wrestling made me embrace my femininity. I didn't have to fight like a man - they can't fight how I can fight. My flexibility and moves can't be duplicated by a man.

We have so much as women to offer and to be. We need to embrace what we have.

TRM: With the popularity of the Nextflix series GLOW, more women might be interested in pursuing a career in wrestling. What advice would you have for them? Any do's and don't?

MP: The hardest thing was being told I wasn't good enough, I'd never make it. Embrace the people who support you, but you still need to believe in yourself. YOU are the one who has to have the strength to push through. We KNOW we were meant to do this.

TRM: Do you feel like things have opened up more for women in the wrestling world or is there still a lot of work to do? What inequities do you see as the most critical? What would you change?

MP: There's still a lot of work to do; how we view women and how we sexualize women still needs to be worked on. It's okay be a sexual being. Having a sensual nature doesn't mean that you belong to someone else. We should admire people for their talent and their work.

TRM: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career so far?

MP: To appreciate people while you see them. Your family, your friends. You never know when they'll be gone.

TRM: What is your current passion?

MP: I was going to school for psychology, but right now I'm traveling.  I will settle down eventually, but right now I'm trying to see as many fans as I can. Social media and Twitter helped me get strong again so I want to hug as many of [my followers] as I can. Especially the kids - they were inspired by me and I help get them through stuff. They're like my kids - someone to pass knowledge on to.

You can find out where Melina will be next at https://www.facebook.com/RealMelinaCom/