These past few months have been busy for Jordynne Grace. One of the independent wrestling scene’s rising performers (she reportedly signed a two-year contract with Impact Wrestling and is the current Women’s Superstars Uncensored Spirit champion), Grace caught the eye of a wider audience with her performance in the battle royal before last month’s historic All In pay-per-view. Since then she has been back and forth between her U.S. home and a string of shows in the U.K., all while dealing with a Grade 3 ankle sprain that doesn’t feel any better than it looks.
But she’s also been kept busy by another venture: the release of two books showcasing the lewd, harassing, and bizarre messages she regularly receives from strangers on Twitter entitled DM’s of a Female Indy Wrestler. The collections, of which 10% of the proceeds are donated to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), are a window into a common experience for women in the public eye, featuring messages that range from outright vulgar solicitations to oddball inquiries to whatever you would call someone typing “ggyujujugukjhjhjjhjjkkkkkjhki,” getting no response, and then following up eight months later with “whore.”
SI.com spoke with Grace recently about how the project came to be, why she thinks fans behave this way, and the importance of her DM inbox being open to the public in the first place.
Dan Greene: What was the genesis of this?
Jordynne Grace: I think every female in the world has thought about this idea and thought about getting these crazy messages and compiling a book of these. I don’t know if I’m the first one to do it or not, but I actually executed the idea. I started getting these messages really when I started wrestling, which was when I was 14. I just started screenshotting them and have been saving them ever since then. I have literally thousands of f---ed up direct messages in a Dropbox folder so I just decided to make a book out of them.
DG: Did you have any idea that this would be something you would have to deal with when you entered the industry?
JG: No. I had no idea about it at all. Then it just randomly started happening, especially when I started posting wrestling pictures because female wrestling is definitely sexualized a lot by men. Then it was just crazy messages from people that I didn’t know I was gonna get—and that my mom definitely didn’t know I was gonna get. She wasn’t real happy about that.
DG: Did she know about them then, when you were 14?
JG: Yeah, she knew about it and wanted me to make my profile private, which I did for a couple of years.
DG: You said you’ve been saving all these DMs for a long time. How did you go about picking which ones to put in there and which to leave out?
JG: The first book I did was basically an experiment to see if people were even interested. The company that I sent the DMs to put together the book, I sent them hundreds and said, ‘Pick which ones you think are funny.’ So they actually picked out those ones. The second book I did—which I think has twice as many DMs and is twice as thick—these are all ones that I specifically picked out myself because I thought they were just insane or really funny.
DG: What’s the response been like?
JG: People are just loving these books I guess. They want me to put out more volumes. I’ve sold 500 copies of the first one and almost 200 copies of the second one. It’s insane.
DG: What have people said to you about it, either fans or people in the industry?
JG: A lot of women have said they’re glad that I’m bringing these kinds of messages to people’s attention because a lot of people don’t realize the stuff that female wrestlers go through—and females in general, but specifically female wrestlers. There have been some people that have voiced concerns about me getting more messages because I’m ‘feeding the trolls’ by putting their messages in a book. And a lot of female wrestlers are saying, ‘Oh man, I wish I had done this.’ Which they totally still could.
DG: You mentioned people suggesting you would get more of these messages as a result. Have things changed since you’ve released these books?
JG: What’s so funny is no, I’ve gotten less of these creepy messages and I’ve gotten more positive uplifting messages. When I put the first book out I got literally hundreds of messages of people saying, I know the DMs you normally get are really bad and creepy but I just wanted you to know that you’re an inspiration—stuff like that. So I’m just really happy that people are doing that.
DG: Does it reflect at all what the experience is like in real life with meeting people as a female wrestler?
JG: No, because people hide behind the keyboard. A lot of these people don’t even have profile pictures of themselves. They hide from their wives or whatever and send messages to all these different women just being creeps, basically. Mostly in person wrestling fans are really timid or shy and don’t say stuff like this.
DG: Women’s wrestling in the U.S. is on the upswing in terms of people finally taking it seriously. Is your experience in line with that?
JG: I think that no matter what, no matter how empowered women get or how much of a revolution there is, I think women will always get these messages from these specific types of men who just don’t respect women. I don’t know what their motive is behind sending these messages. But it’s not just U.S.-based. A lot of these messages are from other countries. A lot of people in India send messages, a lot of people in China. They don’t understand this women’s revolution in America. That’s one of the reasons they’re sending these messages, I think.
DG: You mentioned your mom asking you to make your profile private at one point. It seems like for the modern indie wrestler social media is such an important component to your career and promoting yourself. Is it hard to navigate this kind of stuff while you also have to be present on these platforms?
JG: I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but I would say it’s extremely annoying, especially when you get someone who just incessantly sends message after message after message. You don’t want to block them because you don’t want to even give them the satisfaction of acknowledging them. But at the same time, you can’t keep dealing with that. So in the past month or two, I’ve been very liberal with the block button. I’ve blocked basically any person that says anything s----y to me in DMs or in a regular tweet. I just block them.
DG: And you hadn’t been doing that much before?
JG: No, because I was and still am of the mentality that if you block someone you’re giving them some kind of satisfaction by even acknowledging them. But at the same time, it’s too much. I was getting a decent amount then, but now, after releasing this book and getting a little more popular, it’s insane, the amount of people that come at me a specific type of way and I have to block them.
DG: Has this ever gotten to a point where you’ve made your DMs private or thought about it?
JG: I mean, I have thought about it, but the amount of bookings that I get on my Twitter DMs—I got booked for PROGRESS through Twitter DM. Literally all of my bookings have come through Twitter.
DG: I didn’t realize it was that essential to that part of the business.
JG: What’s funny is I think it’s really easy for promoters to just go to my profile, maybe like what I look like or like what I do, and then that message button is right there, so they just go ahead and message me.
DG: Do you think that because the way a wrestler looks is often considered part of their character, that makes people feel more entitled to comment on your looks or to sexualize you?
JG: Of course. Definitely. Recently I had some gear—I make my own gear and I’m not the best at sewing yet—and my butt cheeks were hanging out. People were ravenous, is the only word I can use to describe it, with comments on what they would like to do to me and all this. It was just an insane amount of comments. I think it had like 500 comments or something like that. I don’t know, people just feel empowered to say whatever they want.
DG: Have other wrestlers come to you after this and shared their own stories and experiences with this?
JG: I’ve gotten dozens of female wrestlers sending me their screenshots like, ‘You can put this in the book.’ You know what’s funny, I’ve had some guys do it too. I had Ethan Page send me a couple screenshots of DMs he wanted me to put in the book.
DG: Besides Ethan, have other men said anything to you about getting this sort of stuff too?
JG: Yeah, guys definitely get creepy messages. One of the people I know out of men and women that gets the most creepy messages is Joey Ryan, because of his whole gimmick. He sent me a bunch of them—he gets some of the creepiest messages I’ve ever seen.
DG: Does it ever impact you in terms of how you present yourself or perform? Does it make you self-conscious that these people are acting this way, in a way that affects your work?
JG: Not at all. It’s just so second nature that I know these comments are gonna come regardless of what I wear and regardless of what I do in the ring, so I just do whatever I want.
DG: Was there an adjustment period to that where you learned to not pay attention to it?
JG: I think over time it’s just the more I get, the more it goes from a shocked factor to just an annoyance in general. Basically, at first I was like, This is crazy. Why are people talking to me like this? But then I just started to realize this is how people are. These are the kinds of people that walk among us and I just had to kind of accept it.
DG: Do you plan any more future editions?
JG: Yes, I have way more to do. I think I’m gonna wait a little for Vol. 3, just to not overwhelm people right now. I’m trying to convince Joey Ryan to let me do a book on just his DMs, because his are just insane. Then I’m also thinking about doing an all-male version which is gonna include a bunch of male wrestler DMs. I have a bunch of different ideas for future versions.
DG: Do you have goals for this going forward in terms of what effect it might have on wrestling fans or the wrestling business?
JG: One of my goals—obviously, I donate some of the profits to a charity, RAINN. Another of my goals is to just make people aware that these messages are being sent. Unfortunately I’m not able to include the names and profile pictures of the people sending them, to do a kind of public shaming. But I think the people can see these messages and they know they’re in the book. And it’s not a good thing to be in the book. It’s not a good thing at all. It’s a really bad thing. I hope that future people, if they’ve seen this book and are thinking about sending a certain kind of message to a female wrestler or a wrestler in general, they’ll give it a second and think about it before actually sending it.
DG: Have any of the people from this book tried again since then or followed up?
JG: No, actually. I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything from the actual people in the books. But I think that a lot of these accounts are fake accounts. I don’t think people go on their regular accounts where they have, like, their moms added. I think they make fake accounts and then feel like they can do anything, most whatever they want and send messages to whoever, and that there’s gonna be no consequences whatsoever.