Words by Kimberly Haddad
When it comes to the intricacies of human connection, nothing prevails the bond of two sisters—let alone identical twins. Transplants of Scottsdale, Arizona, Brie and Nicole Bella are both former Divas Champions and have been a part of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) tribe for over a decade. From playing competitive soccer and cowriting their bestselling memoir Incomparable to becoming WWE Hall of Fame Inductees, mothers, and launching their very own wine, Bonita Bonita, the Bella Twins have not only excelled at doing life side-by-side, but they also overcame diverse challenges throughout their journeys, molding them into the multifaceted women they are today.
PHOTOGRAPHY & ART DIRECTION SEQUOIA EMMANUELLE @sequoiaemmanuelle
PHOTO ASSISTANT MARIANGELA QUIROGA @mariaqphotography
STYLIST MELVIN SANDERS @melvinstyles
STYLING ASSISTANT NINA YUN @ninagiyea
HAIR PAUL NORTON @paulnortonhair
MAKEUP EILEEN SANDOVAL @honeybeileen
Outfits @giyeabynina, Sunglasses @rabbanilabel, Earrings ANAYAH JEWELLERY @anayah_jewellery, Black Shoes @gianvittorossi, White Shoes SAM EDELMAN
What was your childhood like growing up with in your family in Arizona?
Brie: Our childhood was interesting. We grew up middle class, we were soccer players, and we lived on what you can consider, an urban farm. Scottsdale, Arizona has a lot of horse land and in our backyard, we had horses, cows, two lambs, a pig, a chicken, and a rooster. It was really great because we would feed the animals before school and took care of them when we got back. We loved riding our horses in the allies. My sister and I were also competitive soccer players, so at a young age, we really learned what it was like to be on a team, travel, and what it meant to work hard. We had a lot of ups and happy moments, but we also faced a lot of obstacles at a young age.
“We had some darkness in our lives at a very young age. Being twins though, and having each other, really helped us to see the light at the end of the tunnel during very difficult situations.” – Brie
What kinds of obstacles did you face?
Brie: We came from a broken home. I think divorce is hard on any child. We were 15 when our parents split up. I will say, it was never a happy home, so the divorce was kind of nice. My parents were high school sweethearts and they had us at 19 years old. They were kids raising kids and they were trying to stay together for their kids, which didn’t work. We dealt with issues with our father and in high school, my sister was raped and I lost my boyfriend to a drunk driver. We had some darkness in our lives at a very young age. Being twins though, and having each other, really helped us to see the light at the end of the tunnel during very difficult situations. I feel like always having a sidekick and best friend throughout your entire life, someone who is your age and lives every single day with you, a support system—that’s huge. It really helped us grow stronger.
“When we were younger, we definitely fought more and our fights were always physical. It was like we were in the making of becoming WWE superstars without realizing it.”-Nicole
What was your relationship like when you were younger and how has that sisterhood developed over the years as you’ve matured and built an empire together?
Nicole: We have always had an incredibly close bond. When we were younger, we definitely fought more and our fights were always physical. It was like we were in the making of becoming WWE superstars without realizing it. We were pretty physical for girls. At least that’s what our friends thought. My sister and I also had the type of personalities where we would be over it in a second, so one of us might have had a bloody lip, but we could still go grab a popsicle and sit outside and be fine. But as we got older, it just got more mature. I think overcoming diversity in different areas of our lives brought us closer together in a different way because we understood each other. We started to be there more for one another, whether it was death or rape, or not being able to pay our bills. We were there for each other because we went through it together. I think too, when we became moms, we got even closer. We were also fortunate enough to work together in a male dominated industry where we both had to break barriers throughout our careers and fight for women equality. That strengthened our bond to a whole other level because not only did we have a blood blond, but we really started to respect each other in a different way.
Brie: It’s really neat to hear Nicole talk about how much we have evolved as sisters, as a tag team, as business partners, and mothers, and what that does to a relationship. From being little kids fighting over toys to becoming mothers together, having boys 22 hours apart, and giving each other mommy advice, it’s wild to think about. Our bond has evolved so much over the last 38 years.
Brie, how did you break into the wrestling industry and at what point in time did you decide this was what you wanted to do?
Brie: I guess I did pull Nicole into the business. We were actually Hooter’s girls and we worked there from 2002 to 2004. I used to always watch women’s wrestling on television because we would showcase the fights. I mean, we’d have people sitting at our tables for three hours, order a drink and fries, and not tip us. That wasn’t fun, but I got to sit and watch the wrestling shows and I was really blown away by how athletic the women were. They would come out as over-the-top characters and tell these stories though, and my sister and I always loved drama and theater. We used to dress up as the Spice Girls and lip sync to our parents’ friends when they would have these boxing match parties.
Oh my God, stop. My cousin and our friends used to do the same thing. We would dress up as the Spice Girls and hide in the closet until our parent’s would come watch us perform.
Brie: Yeah! Our parents would be like, okay, so our daughters want to sing to you now. We would do this all the time, almost until high school actually. It was crazy. We just loved the character aspect of it, the dressing up and entertaining. But we were athletes and we trained every day of the week or we were traveling. So, for me, when I saw wrestling, it was one of the first things I felt a connection to. It was the first thing where I actually thought, wow, this is what my sister and I are supposed to do. It was the two things in life we loved: our natural athletic ability and our passion for theater. I also heard that WWE Diva Search was coming to Los Angeles and they were looking for women wrestlers. Nikki, at the time, was looking to play pro soccer in Italy and I told her to come with me, but I ended up going to the interview first. I told them there were two of me and showed them a picture of Nicole. They wanted to meet her, so I got her to come with me. We didn’t make it in Diva Search, but we told them we really wanted to wrestle, so we flew to McDonough, Georgia to a place called Deep South, and were there for a week to audition. They wanted to see if he had what it took to become female wrestlers. They ended up giving us to a tiny contract and opened a facility in Tampa, Florida where we trained and the rest is history.
What was this experience like and what did they have you do in order for them to decide whether or not you were cut out for the sport?
Brie: I think one thing people really don’t understand is that actually have to learn how to wrestle. People think it’s all fake, but you have to learn the moves. I will never forget the first time Nikki and I took our first bump. My body was like, what just happened? I didn’t tuck my chin properly, so I smacked my head, and it was a type of pain I can’t even explain. I mean, I can do a hammer lock with my eyes shut, but even to learn that twirl was hard. I think our soccer background really helped with balance and footing in comparison to some of the other women we were auditioning with at the time. We also had a lot of determination though. With soccer, to become a champion, you have to practice every single day, and we brought that energy into our wrestling. We’d practice moves in our hotel rooms all the time. There was actually one week when we actually broke the TV in the room because we were trying to practice. We wanted it so bad. I can’t tell you how many girls I saw go home because they said it hurt too much. It takes a lot physically to make it in wrestling, but once they see you can handle it, you get to bring in the fun costumes and storylines.
Nikki, I understand you strived to play professional soccer until you ended up with a leg injury. What was your journey like, deciding to follow in your sister’s footsteps and make your way onto the WWE roster?
Nicole: It was one of those things where it was love at first sight. When Brie brought it to my attention, I thought it was really bad ass. Not only were these women characters, but they were also kicking ass. I just remember feeling so much excitement and being very drawn to it. I remember the first day I got into the ring actually—it’s funny, we call it ‘bump at first sight’—but after my first back bump, I just knew it was what I was meant to do. I loved the smell, the feeling, and the challenge. I looked at Brie and was like, this is it. I’m in. I was obsessed. I quickly realized too, where females stood and that it wasn’t going to be easy, that there would be people who hate us and we’d have to earn their respect. I knew it was going to be a really tough journey, and it was definitely one of blood, sweat, and tears. But in those hard moments, I also knew I would succeed and conquer some of the toughest barriers in a male dominated industry. I truly believe the universe brought it to me because I was destined to be a champion and do great things. I always try to tell people that when doors close, there truly are other ones that have opened. And this was one of those open doors.
Can you talk about some of the challenges you faced as two thriving females in such a male-dominated industry? I imagine there were a lot of moments of scrutiny and self-reflection throughout your career.
Brie: One of the biggest things is there really aren’t a lot of spots for women on television when it comes to wrestling. When you look at it, there are probably about ten matches in a show and nine of them are for men. There were 20 or 30 of us women fighting for that one match and it was a hard fight. We were always trying to gain more TV time, more spots for women, and granted, some would be sprinkled in here and there as managers or valets, but for those of us who really wanted to wrestle and be at the same level as the men, we had to fight constantly. We had to prove that we can not only bring audiences to these spots, but also hold those audiences. I think another thing was being taken seriously. In any industry, whether wrestling, business, or sports, women don’t get taken as seriously as men do and we had to fight harder for that. When you are brave enough to use your voice, it feels good, but then you get the eye rolls and negative comments about us nagging.
Nicole: I also think we had to fight a lot for creativity when it came to the storylines. It was always about a girl stealing another girl’s man and we were always told that no matter how beat up we got, to look pretty and smile. Trying to change that perception and push creative storylines for women was another big obstacle.
Your podcast The Bellas Podcast has returned after being on a hiatus last spring. What does this project mean to you?
Brie: Nikki and I are just obsessed with our podcast. Since our reality show, we don’t grace screens with our family and us anymore and I feel like with our podcast, we get to do that, just without the visuals. You always get total Bellas on the podcast. It’s our way to connect with all of our fans and to be open books—like we’ve always been—but we get so many compliments about making our fans feel like they aren’t alone because of how honest we are. And you know, people love us and people hate us, but we always know someone out there needs to hear what we are saying. We also just love talking. If it’s one thing the Bellas can do, its talk. Our podcast is one of our favorite things to do weekly.
Nicole: It’s such a cool platform to have, to be able to use our voices and be authentic and unapologetically us. I feel like it’s an extension of our reality show. We get to fully express ourselves, our opinions, and our views on life. We also give people a moment to step away from the world—especially with everything happening now—to listen in and laugh and have drinks with us. Podcasting is such an elevated platform for people to use these days. We always try to leave you with inspiration or an affirmation because we want people to always be able to take something away from each episode, whether it’s trying something new or just feeling enlightened.
Nicole, describe Brie in five words or less.
Strong, bad ass, hippy, mama
Brie, describe Nicole in five words or less.
Courageous, bad ass, bossy, and nurturing
What do you admire most about each other?
Nicole: Brie’s honesty
Brie: I really admire Nicole’s determination and hard work ethic.
What has been the worst fight the two of you have ever had?
Brie: Oh man, that had to be when we were younger.
Nicole: Maybe when you broke a brush over my face and almost broke my cheekbone.
Brie: Yeah, but why did you instigate me? Let’s think about that. Just being good ole bitchy Nicole?
Nicole: The Bellas have gotten into too many fights!
What childhood memory still makes you laugh?
Nicole: When we were younger, we were in Lake Tahoe and for some reason, we thought we’d take our bathing suits off to lay them out on the porch to dry. The door was locked, so we sprinted all the way to the front of this cabin lodge. But why we didn’t think to put our swimsuits back on? We have no idea. We were like 13 at our grandparent’s condo complex, running butt naked on the street. And we had pubic hair in the fourth grade, so there’ that.
Which sibling got into the most trouble as a kid?
What is something you wish more people knew about the two of you?
Brie: That we are such history and art nerds. We are obsessed with museums and anything historic. We are moved by art. When we were wrestling and traveling around the world, Nicole and I would wake up early before the shows and get a tour guide to see all the history everywhere. The other women would be at the gym and there’s Nicole and I at a museum. We just soak that stuff in.
Nicole: Brie and I are really hard workers and if we are doing something, it’s because we really love it. We are also big softies and it really affects us when people try to take our hard earned work away from us. We have really big hearts, but we work so hard that it makes us sensitive sometimes.