WWE's Sonya Deville is currently involved in one of the hottest stories going on SmackDown, but it also might be one of the best stories going in the entire company period. While Deville (also known as Daria Berenato) is embracing her villainous new role in the ring, that's far from the only thing on her plate at the moment, as Deville is currently a part of Total Divas and Quibi's Fight Like a Girl, and recently even started her own clothing line. ComicBook.com recently had the chance to chat with Deville about all of it, and Quibi's newest project was the perfect way to kick things off.
"It was one of the most rewarding and fun things I think I've ever done," Deville said. "I got to work with Samantha, a young woman who was struggling with telling half of her family that she was gay and she had a girlfriend. It was kind of living a double life because she wasn't able to freely express that, so I could really relate to that story. It's very similar to my own, so it was really cool to get to work with her, and just to work with somebody who wants to make changes in her life for the positive and for the good of her own mental health and wellbeing. We did that through physical activity and exercise."
"She got to train with the WWE Performance Center coach Sean Hayes, and really work on a total mind and body transformation, which I think the two are often connected," Deville said. "At least they are for me. I know when I played sports and was training to fight MMA, and even now with wrestling, that's my outlet. That's my way of expressing myself and getting out whatever emotion I keep in on a daily basis. So I think she was able to do the same, and it was so fun to ride that ride with her, go on her journey with her. It was definitely nostalgic to my journey so it was really cool."
Because their journeys were so similar, Deville shared one piece of advice that she's picked up over the years. "I just wanted her to know that it's okay to be whoever she is," Deville said. "I didn't want her to change who she was, because who she was and is now is so beautiful already. I just wanted her to know that it's okay to be in her own skin and feel comfortable sharing that with people that love her and care about her. The people that are meant to stay in her life will stay, and people that aren't meant to be in her life will leave, you know? And that's just how life works sometimes, but I believe that everything happens for a reason, and when you have good intentions, you can't go wrong."
Deville is also part of Total Divas, and that has allowed fans to get to know her in a more personal way. One of the more revealing moments took place during last year's WrestleMania, as Deville expressed frustration at not being able to represent for the LGBTQ community enough. That partly comes from the extremely high bar Deville sets for herself, but also from things out of her control, such as how much time is available and multiple storylines going on at any given time.
"Yeah, well, I think a lot of people in the industry and in entertainment and sports in general, we're all really hard on ourselves, and we always want to be the best and do the best that we can," Deville said. "Part of my career and my passion is being the best wrestler I can be, being the best actor I can be, the best performer I can be, but it's also representing my community and being that voice for people that may not have one yet or feel that they can't have one. I think that's something that's really close to my heart, and that I always want to advocate for. So at the time on Total Divas, I was upset because the storyline Mandy and I had pitched for a long time, it wasn't able to come to fruition at WrestleMania, which it happens all the time to all of us. It's just, like you said, there's not enough time allotted and there's a million other storylines going on. So that happens often, in a lot of circumstances."
"So I was just upset at the time because I did want to give that representation at WrestleMania, on the grandest stage of them all. I was still able to, which is the crazy part. I went out there with the rainbow flag in my back pocket and my rainbow shoelaces and I just represented it in a different way. I just want to be that voice. When I was growing up, besides Ellen DeGeneres and a few others, there wasn't much representation in Hollywood or on TV from the LGBTQ community. So that's something I struggled with because I always wanted someone to relate to. Someone that I could believe in and aspire to be so open and free, you know? So that's what I've been trying to do over the past five years, because it's very easy to remember back to five years ago when I wasn't comfortable with myself in my own skin. So I really just want to be that person for the next me."
She still made a big impression on fans with those subtler but no less important gestures, and she was a bit surprised (but happily so) to hear they resonated with fans. That said, Deville knows it's more about the person than the symbols, and just being her is enough.
"Yeah, I mean, it was subtle in my mind, but it was also loud enough to obviously for people to hear and see, and so that was super cool to me," Deville said. "Something I've learned over the past few years too, just evolving as a human, is that just being me in this world is enough. I think just being gay and a wrestler is plenty. Obviously it's so cool to represent in physical and literal ways like the rainbow flag and stuff, but I think just being me and being who I am and authentic and honest about my life and my sexuality and stuff is enough, and I think that a lot of people just relate on that level."
Deville opened up about her life in a brand new way when she started appearing on Total Divas, which did take some adjusting. Sure she's used to being on television, but that's as a character, and something like Total Divas sheds some of the armor that comes in playing an amped-up version of yourself in the ring.
"Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's easy to act as a character and play a part on TV, but it's so much more pressure and nerve-wracking being yourself on TV," Deville said. It was definitely an adjustment. I had fun with it though. As soon as I was asked to do it, I was like, 'Hell yeah. Definitely.' I didn't think twice. I knew it would be a great opportunity to share my real story, and for people that don't follow me on social media or didn't see Tough Enough to hear my journey and what I've been doing and going through. It was definitely a really cool opportunity to show a different side of me too, because everyone always sees badass fighter Sonya Deville on camera, but to show a more vulnerable side of myself through a reality show and with my friends and my family. It was a fun experience. It really was."
Deville is a badass fighter in the ring though, and with a career in the WWE comes a somewhat constant and ever-changing relationship with the WWE universe. There's always a lot said by fans and media (including us haha) about what goes on in the ring and what happens behind the scenes, but if there was one thing that isn't always completely understood and appreciated, it would be just how hard and how often WWE superstars work.
"I would say not that it's misunderstood, I just don't think it's known how hard we really work," Deville said. "Our schedule is second to none. I don't think any other sporting organization or performer in that right has the kind of schedule that we have. We have no offseason. We go 52 weeks a year, and we have four shows a week, per brand really. So if you're booked full time, I mean, you're on the road four or five days a week and you're home two or three maybe if you're lucky. Sometimes your weeks overlap, and so you don't go home at all. I've been on the road sometimes for a month and a half at a time before even going home to switch out my suitcases. So we really work hard, and we want to give the fans and our supporters the best show possible 52 weeks out of the year. I think that's something that's important for the fans to understand because we are always giving our all and trying to do with what's best for the product and them."
Recently that product has included a storyline that is allowing Deville to absolutely shine as a villain, though it's also worked out incredibly well for everyone involved. Deville has been waiting for this kind of moment since she got here five years ago, and all the hard work, pushing for mic time, and story pitches were all worth it.
"I've been waiting for an opportunity like this for five years since I got here," Deville said. "I always knew and believed in myself and knew what I was capable of, but I was just dying to show everybody else. Everything happens when it should. Timing is everything in this world, in my opinion, and this storyline has been incredible. It's been so much fun, and working with the people that are involved in it has been even more incredible. I pushed for this. I have been asking to give me some mic time for years now, if you want me to be honest, and I finally got the opportunity and I was able to give the world a taste of what I can do. It's just the tip of the iceberg. It's just scratching the surface with this. I think there's so much more to come, and it's just been a really fun process. I'm really grateful and blessed to be a part of such a cool storyline right now."
Deville isn't content with just growing in the ring however and has recently revealed her own clothing line, one that has a very special meaning to her.
"So couple of months ago, maybe it was six, seven months ago now, I reached out to my friend Bobby who owns BlackCraft clothing, which is a big clothing line in Hot Topic and some other stores. He was looking to do a new line and wanted me to come on board and have a brand of my own within his line. I was like, 'Yeah, absolutely.' I love his stuff already, so that was a no brainer. And I was like, 'What if we do an LGBTQ forward line? Let's call it rainbow love,' And we came up with the name. It could be a lot of things, but I just want it to be colorful, and I want it to be authentic, and I want to come up with the designs and really put some thought and heart into every piece that we make. Not just throw a bunch of stuff on some clothes. So one of the first shirts that we launched, it says you are not alone on the back and has the suicide prevention hotline, which I think is really important."
"It's a bold line," Deville said. "It doesn't hide behind anything. It's very to the point and forward, and I want people to know that through this line it's okay to be who you are and it's okay to talk about your feelings, whether they be dark or colorful. So that's why I say it's okay to have a heavy heart but rainbow love, because the name of the brand is Heavy Heart."
Names with meaning make everything better, and we can't wait to see what Deville not only does with the line (which can be found right here) but also with this big-time storyline in the ring and possibly even more, though we'll get to that at a later time. In the meantime, you can see Deville every Friday night on SmackDown, as well as on E! on Total Divas and on Quibi on Fight Like a Girl.
Are you excited for what the future holds for Sonya Deville? Let us know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things WWE!
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