- On the morning she's set to make wrestling history, Salina de la Renta sat down with Sports Illustrated.
Salina de la Renta is set to make history later this evening, as she will become the first-ever Latina to executive produce a pro wrestling show in America on national television.
The 22-year-old is one of wrestling’s rising stars. She is an on-air talent for Major League Wrestling as “The Empresaria of Promociones Dorado” and works behind-the-scenes as its Latin American liaison. She is also the first female analyst in Spanish for MLW’s weekly television series, Major League Wrestling: FUSION, which airs on beIN Sports en Espanol.
Sports Illustrated spoke with Salina de la Renta, discussing her role as executive producer of tonight’s broadcast of Fusion, as well as her background, ambition outside the ring, and what makes her presence in wrestling so exceptional.
Justin Barrasso: Your on-air work with MLW is outstanding, but the opportunity to produce this Saturday’s show is especially meaningful. Pro wrestling, especially behind the scenes, is largely run by men. What does it mean for you to have this opportunity?
Salina de la Renta: This is a sign of change. Not only for women, but for Latinos as a whole. We are often not in a position of power or influence in American wrestling. For MLW to encourage me, and others, to break barriers is important and yes, historic. It is a huge honor to be able to be the first-ever at something.
Not only I am the first-ever Spanish female commentator in the history of professional wrestling, I’m also the first-ever Latina executive producer of an American wrestling show. That is definitely not lost on me despite being just 22. I work hard every day and I have big goals. I work hard and this opportunity shows the confidence and, in a way, is an acknowledgement that I have arrived at a major level in this sport.
Barrasso: You have brought your own presence to the character, but the Selina de la Renta character was built off pieces of Konnan and the late Gary Hart. Not many talents at your age of 22 have that deep of an appreciation of the history of the business; what made you decide to pay homage to the past? And what makes your character so distinctly unique?
de la Renta: I work directly with [MLW CEO] Court Bauer, and I have had the privilege of working with Konnan and Alex Greenfield. Konnan is a legend and Alex just has the best ideas. I like our freedom and our ability to showcase such fresh, new ideas.
Look at where we are now. One day I heard, ‘We need a Spanish broadcaster. Who should we pick?’ Then there was a list, then there were a bunch of males on that list and me. I signed up for the job without even knowing I was going to become the first-ever Latina woman to call wrestling. The opportunity to become executive producer came to me, and I’m grateful for the team of people behind me trying to make Salina better.
I do not identify as the second coming of anyone. I’m the first and only coming of Salina de la Renta. I grew up in Dorado, Puerto Rico and by 21 was managing luchadores from Mexico and negotiating their deals with MLW. So while I do see the comparison to Konnan as that pipeline to America, I’m also producing television programs, developing a reality series with MLW and pursuing other ventures in Latin America.
Barrasso: People may be surprised to learn that, in addition to your work in pro wrestling, you are also pursuing your PhD. What gave you the motivation to pursue that degree?
de la Renta: It was always part of my plans growing up to go to college and get my degree. My undergrad work is in dramatic arts, and I am pursuing a PhD in sexology. I will be the first in my family to earn a doctorate degree, and I want to help people who have had traumatic experiences.
My education is also what led me into pro wrestling. I moved from Puerto Rico to the United States in 2014 when I was 17 with my mother. My goal was to study screen writing, and a part of my screen writing course required me to watch reality television. I watched Total Divas, which was the first time I’d ever watched professional wrestling. I immediately asked myself, ‘How could these beautiful women also fight?’ I wanted to know more about that, and I felt like I belonged as soon as I saw it. Everything changed when I met wrestling.
Barrasso: Your character is so ambitious and full of confidence. Off-camera, away from wrestling, who is your inspiration?
de la Renta: I have big dreams, and that comes directly from my mother. She’s dedicated her whole life to me. She wanted to be a Broadway actress, so performing arts was always around me–I was in classes for acting, modeling, dancing, singing, everything. When I told her about my screen writing dreams, she moved us here to the United States so I could have the best chance of succeeding.
Barrasso: You work with an extraordinary collection of talent, including LA Park and Hijo de LA Park. Although Lucha Libre is embedded in the Mexican culture, its popularity has also exploded in the United States. How has it grown so quickly in the U.S.?
de la Renta: Lucha libre is one of the top three sports in Mexico along with boxing and soccer, so it isn’t so surprising to me given that Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the United States and with many being Mexican American, they want to experience something from the homeland, they want to see something spectacular. Lucha libre is fast, it’s electric, it is full of so much history and is synonymous with Mexican culture. It has really transcended even the sport. It is in movies, fashion, hip hop and TV. Lucha is like watching a super hero movie come to life. Who isn’t with that?
Barrasso: How will those watching recognize your touch as executive producer during Saturday’s episode of Fusion?
de la Renta: The biggest difference between a producer and executive producer is that the executive producer gets to call the final shots. That’s what the producers follow. Producers produce different characters and promos, but they’re following the executive producer’s guidelines. As executive producer, that’s what I discussed with my producers: how accurate they captured my vision, which is everything from colors to shots to music.
People should watch tonight to see the first-ever wrestling produced show by a woman, and I can assure you it will be different. I have added a woman’s perspective to a product that is already great. Women tend to care more about color and look, and I paid so much attention to detail to ensure that we’re making an impressive product even more extraordinary.