Birthday: January 15, 1987
Favorite Wrestler: Stone Cold Steve Austin. “He’s always been my idol.”
Guilty Pleasure: “I’m obsessed with fast food. Nuggets, fries, hamburgers—everything.”
Embarrassing iPod Song: “Probably ‘MMMBop’ by Hanson.”
Desired Christmas Present: “Shoes. I love Louboutin and YSL. Just putting that out there.”
Desired Celebrity Opponent: “Lindsay Lohan. She needs some sense knocked into her.”
College freshman Barbara Jean Blank didn’t bat an eyelash when her modeling agent asked if she’d be interested in wrestling. Less than a year later, she became the youngest Diva in WWE history when she debuted as über-babe Kelly Kelly. Quickly winning fans with her megawatt smile, Kelly was chosen to participate in the WWE’s USO tour that year, traveling to Iraq to show off her killer moves. Since then she’s been overseas three more times, and crushed her competition to become the current Divas champion. Not bad for a former high school cheerleader!
Were you always a fan of wrestling?
Oh, yeah, since I was a kid. My mom thought it was too violent, but my dad would sneak me into the bedroom to watch with him. It never crossed my mind I could do this kind of stuff. I thought wrestlers were larger than life, so when WWE called and asked if I wanted to train, I was like, “Oh, my God, yes!”
Did you feel like you had to prove yourself?
Definitely. A lot of the guys there didn’t like me at first, because they were used to training with girls who had wrestling experience. I was the youngest Diva they’d ever had, and one of the first models, so I was like, “I’m gonna work my butt off.”
Well, the fans certainly warmed up to you, thanks to your routine stripteases.
It was funny, because I’d only been training for two months when I found out I was going to start appearing on TV—as an exhibitionist! When Vince McMahon showed me the routine, I was in shock, but, you know, anything to get my foot in the door. It was the most nerve-racking minute of my life.
How did your parents react?
You should’ve seen their texts! They were like, “We thought you were going to be wrestling!” Luckily I had only one month of “Kelly’s Exposé” before I got in the ring, and now they’re my biggest fans. My 80-year-old grandma will come when we’re in my hometown with a sign that says WE LOVE KELLY.
What’s been your most memorable match?
The championship. To win the title after being in the ring for five years—it felt like I’d really achieved something. It was my time.
And you have some proof that you’re actually a wrestler, ’cause you don’t look like Chyna.
Exactly! The belt weighs, like, 30 pounds, so I have to check it when I travel. Everyone’s like, “You wrestle? Like, mud wrestling?” When I started seeing my boyfriend, I had to show him matches on YouTube to convince him I wasn’t a ring girl. He was speechless.
As far as dating, are you into really buff guys?
I have dated a wrestler, but it’s a breath of fresh air to be with someone outside of the business. Guys definitely get intimidated because they see who I work with, but I don’t care if a guy works out every day of the week—different strokes for different folks.
Have you had any crazy fan experiences?
WWE has some hardcore fans! I’ve had people ask me to sign babies, and I got a marriage proposal on live TV. We also work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and I talked to an eight-year-old boy on Skype. He was like, “I love it when you do the Stink Face!”
For readers who don’t know what the Stink Face is, please elaborate.
I put my shorts up my butt and stick it in my opponent’s face. I think it’s the best move. I got it from this old wrestler Rafiki, who used to do it in a diaper. It was so obnoxious.
You also work with the USO. Any memorable experiences from your trips overseas?
The first time I went to Iraq I was 19, and to see guys who were my age fighting for our country really hit home. My latest trip to Afghanistan was actually a little scary. I was showering when all of a sudden this alarm went off telling us to stay in our bunks. Turns out we almost got hit by a rocket!
Are you excited for this year’s Tribute to the Troops? [Airs December 17 at 9 p.m. on NBC.]
So excited. It’s what I look forward to every year. Those are the matches where you pull out the big guns, but also just have fun with the troops. I’ve already picked out my Christmas Army gear. It’s gonna be cool.