If you are one of the WWE's tens of millions of religious fans, perhaps you did. For the remainder of us, those more likely to think 'The Rock' was actually cooked up in Hollywood, let me be clear, we have a lot of WWE catching up to do. Lucky for me, I share a place with a 9 and 7-year-old who study the WWE with the intensity of molecular biologists. They've dedicated their very existence to dissecting the comings and goings, winnings and losings, history and certain future of the remarkably profitable wrestling-as-soap-opera, 40+ year old entertainment franchise.
This is why when my very committed kids ask (plead) if they can watch the E! network's sleeper hit reality show Total Divas because THE FUNKADACTYL'S ARE IN IT, MOMMY!, I aaallllmost give in. How many times have I asked them if, say, there happen to be any Black WWE wrestlers they admire? What do you know? The Funkadactyls are African-American women.
Ultimately, Mean Mother doesn't agree to the kids watching (instead I get curiously sucked into a particularly good episode), but comes one better with the offer of us interviewing the Funkadactyls together. Yes!
The Funkadactyls, silly, are also known as the 2012 freshman class, dance-turned-tag team consisting of "Naomi" (Trinity McCray) and "Cameron" (Ariane Andrew) and you can mostly find them flanking their homeboys, superstar wrestlers Broadus Clay aka The Funkasaurus and Tensai aka Sweet T; together they all make up a fight crew called "Planet Funk." The WWE is full of over-the-top names and characters, no ridiculousness is spared, yet it's important to know that the brute force and athleticism on display is also choreographed improvisation, if you will, one that follows a very real story line. Die-hard WWE fans of all ages are deeply invested in the twists and turns their favorite characters take in the ring both physically—and though their dialogue. It's a world of bodily theatrics and emotional drama, one defined by ongoing, unresolvable—unless I crash you in the head with this chair—beef.
In real life, as seen in Total Divas, there is still requisite drama, but more revealing are some of the particular life struggles and behind the scenes realities for women of the WWE. On the show, Trinity and Ariane experience the challenges and personality clashes that any close friends and colleagues might, but here, in this chat with my sons and I, they are wildly united in their enthusiasm about the WWE as the opportunity of lifetime, and in their well-qualified assertion that, hi, they are your kids' role models.
EBONY.com: How exactly do two young Black women make their way to the WWE?
Trinity McCray: At the time I was dancing for the Orlando Magic, I had been there two years. I was just looking for the next step and a friend of me told me that WWE had Divas (women) that wrestled. So when they had a live show in Orlando, I went and I saw it and I fell in love. I just knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. I saw all the girls' muscles and I was so excited watching that I just started picturing myself being in there. From there I got a tryout and I've been here ever since.
EBONY.com (kid 1): Wow, so the first time you saw wrestling it just excited you?
TM: Yes. I was blown away. I was in awe. In my head I was like, 'Man, these girls are so tough, these girls are beautiful they are strong. I want to be like that.'
EBONY.com: And what about you, Ariane? What was your start? How did you get introduced to WWE?
Ariane Andrew: Well I ran track and I always had an athletic part of me, and I just felt like there was something missing. There was a Diva search back in 2011 and I went to that, and from there I did Tough Enough. Tough Enough is a WWE reality show where you pretty much do all of these obstacles to get a contract. So I did that. Sadly I was the first eliminated but that just pushed me more. I knew it was something I really wanted to do.
EBONY.com: Growing up for me it was all about the WWF--and I don't recall popular Black wrestlers at all, let alone women. My impression of entertainment wrestling was that is was completely... insane. My boys have taught me a lot about today's WWE, but what would you say are some of the stereotypes that you would like a larger African-American audience to reconsider?
TM: I think that our fan base is very diverse as well as our roster of talent. We have people from 14 different countries and a whole bunch of ethnicities. There is something for