It’s hard to fathom how 10 years have passed since an excited Leah Van Dale signed on the dotted line with WWE and became Carmella, the “Princess of Staten Island,” but the 35-years-young pro wrestler has certainly made her mark during the last decade.
Having made a welcome return to “Monday Night Raw” in January, following injury and two heartbreaking experiences with pregnancy, the first-ever female “Money in the Bank” winner says that she is more amped than ever in a brave and wide-ranging chat with M&F Hers that discusses a tumultuous 2022, the importance of listening to your body, and the value of sharing emotional experiences with those who can relate.
Carmella returned to WWE “Monday Night Raw” in January, after several months away from the limelight and there’s no doubt that 2023 is hers for the taking, but last year dealt both incredible highs and devastating lows. In happy news, the former SmackDown Women’s Champion tied the knot with her WWE colleague, Corey Graves (real name: Matt Polinsky) back in April, and the loved-up couple were able to let loose and even indulge in a little wedding cake.
“We didn’t have like, a big, grandiose, several tiered cake, we actually got our cake from Publix and it was amazing. It was so good!” says Carmella.
But with the married couple still basking in the glow of being newlyweds, 2022 would prove to throw up some devastating challenges. On Oct. 25, partway through her hiatus from the ring due to a concussion, the WWE Superstar shared her story of having suffered a miscarriage in September, and then an ectopic pregnancy just weeks later.
Carmella reached out in support of others following her own tragic loss
“It was a very difficult time in my life,” shares the popular member of WWE, who shows immense courage in telling her story to help support and raise awareness around this important issue. “I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even know what an ectopic pregnancy was until it happened to me. It only happens 6 percent of the time, so it’s not very common.
“Unfortunately, I was rushed to the emergency room, and I had no idea what was happening but I was just trusting my body, that something was not right,” Carmella adds. “I’m so grateful that I did listen to my body…I think because of years as a dancer and as an athlete I know my body so well, and I knew something was off. I was in the emergency room when I got the terrible news that it was an ectopic pregnancy and for anyone who doesn’t know what that means; basically it’s when the baby is forming in your fallopian tube, and not your uterus. So, it’s not a viable pregnancy and a lot of women aren’t even aware of it happening. The fallopian tube can just burst and a lot of women will die from it.”
Of course, the effects of living through an ectopic pregnancy aren’t just physical. There is also the immeasurable emotional hurt of losing a baby. “It was just awful, and I felt so alone, sort of isolated,” says the talented athlete. “And I just felt like, if I’m feeling this way then certainly there are other women out there who are feeling the same way.” After sharing he story, the lady that we know and love as Carmella was approached online, and in person, by people around the world who either know her from WWE or could relate to her loss, and the star says that she has been comforted by those that have felt less alone as a result of her message.
Carmella says that she received much-needed support from her loving husband and family at WWE. “I just wanted to share my story, and make sure people realize that it happens, and there’s nothing that I could have done, even though there were times when I felt like I was blaming myself,” says the warrior. “Social media can be used for so many different things and I’m guilty of projecting this perfect lifestyle and I just felt like, let’s use this for something that’s real, and I’m grateful that I did, and the outpour of support and love that I got was amazing.”
The gym has become a sacred space for Carmella
Before making her highly anticipated returning to the ring in the new year, Carmella rebuilt her relationship with fitness thanks to a love of the process. She grew up in a fit and healthy household and has stayed in consistently great shape through disciplines such as dance, cheerleading, and of course, WWE, but the gym also means far more than just a space to workout for her. “For me, when I’m having a bad day, I’m in the gym. When I’m having a good day, I’m in the gym,” she says. “When I need a distraction, I’m in the gym. When I need focus, I’m in the gym.”
And, while Carmella still loves to lift weights, she tells M&F Hers that she doesn’t lift quite as heavy these days and also loves to spend her time on recovery rituals. “I’m really into Pilates and yoga,” shares the former LA Laker Girl. “With Pilates, it’s about resistance, and time under tension,” she says. “Over the last few months, I have really gotten back into yoga, and I have never felt better.” With WrestleMania 39 just a few weeks away (April 1-2 on live Peacock, WWE Network everywhere else), our girl certainly has her eyes on the prize.
When Carmella wants to score an epic workout in a short space of time, the “Princess of Staten Island” opts for HIIT style training, implementing moves such as medicine ball slams, pullups, and pushing a weighted sled.
Mercifully, having gone through so much pain, the decorated pro wrestler is finally in a great mental space and is loving life back in WWE. Pro wrestling has been a childhood dream come true for her and as a second-generation pro wrestler, Carmella tells M&F that she was first inspired by iconic ladies like Miss Elizabeth.
“I really liked Miss Elizabeth, because she was always so fabulous with how she dressed and how she carried herself. She was always so classy,” ‘Mella says. Later, she would gravitate to trailblazers such as Trish Stratus and Lita, but having now established a name in her own right after ten years with WWE, there’s still plenty of motivation to look ahead to. “Ten years is so crazy, because I feel like it just flew by,” says the star. “I have such a new zest for my career. I was away for seven months and I had no idea if I was going to come back. Are people going to remember be? What am I gonna do when I come back? And, of course, as much as I would love to win the Raw Women’s Championship because it’s the one title that I have never had, at this point I really just wanna focus on my character. I really love stirring the pot. I really love being the bad guy and just making people really upset and them wanting to see me get my butt kicked! That’s what I want, so if I am doing that, then I’m doing my job.”
Take our money, ‘Mella!