Sonya Deville isn’t always prominently featured on WWE Smackdown (and a lot of fans are disappointed she’s not on the Survivor Series team), but thanks in part to joining the cast of Total Divas, she’s become more well-known as one of WWE’s female stars. Of course, she’s also particularly important to LGBTQ WWE fans, as the first out lesbian to sign with the company and the only openly LGBTQ Superstar currently on the Main Roster.
Sonya gave an interview to Boston’s Local CBS Affiliate, in which she talked about her self-discovery and coming out process, and the awkwardness of being on Total Divas with a partner who doesn’t want to be famous. The interview began with Sonya’s story of how she became aware of her lesbian identity:
It’s kind of a long journey for me. It took a while to feel comfortable with my sexuality. I dated guys up until I was probably 18 or 19. And then I actually was producing an independent film and in South Jersey. The basis of the film was an LGBTQ script where two women fall in love, and I ended up playing the lead. And the girl that I cast opposite me ended up being my girlfriend, and art kind of imitated life. We ended up kind of playing out the story and moving to LA together. That was my first real relationship with a female.
Here I am, that was six years ago, and obviously it’s not been easy. But I think I would say coming out on Tough Enough four years ago, saying it out loud and saying it on such a public platform was probably what made me have to be comfortable with it. It was almost like I put it into the universe and I made it real for the first time ever by saying it out loud. And so then I kind of had to find a way to be comfortable with who I was.
Sonya attributes her long journey of self-awareness in part to the sheltered environment in which she grew up, although she never found it anything but accepting.
I grew up in a really small town in South Jersey, and I really didn’t know many gay people. So I think that may have made it a little challenging. But that being said, my family was always accepting. They weren’t judgmental when it came to that kind of stuff. My mom was always so open and loving. So I never feared that I would be disowned or abandoned or anything like that, which I was grateful for. In my high school, I don’t think there was any openly gay people at the time. So for me to come out, it would have taken a lot of courage. And I just… I was in denial for a long time.
I moved out of my house when I was 17 to pursue martial arts. I moved to South Florida to train with the best fight team, American Top Team. So I was living on my own, and that’s when I got to really explore and kind of do my own thing. One day one of my best friends’ mom was down in South Florida, and she was like, “Daria, I think you’re gay.” And that was the first time I ever heard anybody kind of say those words to me. And I was like, “Whoa, I think she’s right.”
But I still even denied it to her at the time. So it was a long process of kind of figuring myself out and just… I was the one that had to be comfortable with me in order to be open about it.
The interviewer asked how she reconciles representing the LGBTQ community with the fact that Sonya Deville is a heel, but she doesn’t seem bothered by that.
Sonya, at the end of the day is a fighter, right? She likes to kick ass. She likes to get in there and take names and she sometimes does take unorthodox measures to get there. So if that’s what you consider a bad guy, then yeah, Sonya’s bad. But she also is someone who represents equality, and that’s something that’s very close to my heart and something that, whether I’m a good guy or a bad guy, I’m always going to represent, because the really cool thing about WWE is there’s always a larger message.
I work a lot with Girl Up and GLAAD, and I had the opportunity to be in the New York City pride parade this year, WorldPride, on the GLAAD float. There’s so much more to our job than just what you see inside of the ring.
Sonya’s also unconcerned about encountering less tolerant members of WWE’s audience.
No matter where you are in the world, you’re going to have people that accept you for who you are and you’re going to have people that don’t. And my goal is to show my fans and my supporters that I’m not afraid of the critics and the haters. I’m not going to hide who I am because I make people uncomfortable because of who I love. So I think that strength and that kind of courage to be who I am, regardless of what everybody says, is the message that I’m exactly trying to send to my fans.
The interview then addresses Sonya’s role on Total Divas, and the role of her girlfriend Arianna, whose appearances on the show have been noticeably secretive and unforthcoming, apparently because she never wanted to be on the show in the first place.
Yeah, it’s crazy. Nobody kind of warns you for what’s to come when … It’s crazy enough being in the spotlight and sharing your life with the fans on WWE, SmackDown, and Raw, but doing it on Total Divas and getting on that more interpersonal level is super crazy. Then with me and my girlfriend, Ariana, we were only, I don’t know, four or five months into dating when Total Divas came about. So we were still pretty new in our relationship. So originally Ariana didn’t want to do the show. She’s not about the glitz and the glam, and she didn’t date me because I was WWE superstar. It was actually one of the downfalls of her dating me. She didn’t like all the attention and the publicity. So she decided not to do Total Divas.
Then a couple of weeks later, we kept talking and she decided that to miss out on our relationship and how much we cared for each other just because of a show would be silly. So she agreed to do it with me, and it ended up being a really fun experience that we got to share together. Now we have memories of the beginning of our relationship kind of documented for eternity. So it was definitely a bumpy road, and it’s been a really kind of fun thing to experience together.
Sonya Deville is, at this point, the number one reason that I hope Total Divas gets more seasons after this one. She gets more space to shine there than on Smackdown, and it gives you an idea of just how much of a star she could be.