Dana Brooke is best known for her time in WWE, but is also looking to blaze a trail outside the ring.
The 31-year-old Ashley Mae Sebera just signed a five-year extension with WWE, providing further opportunity for her Dana Brooke character to evolve and succeed long-term in the company. But she also wants to expand her impact outside of the company walls by continuing to spread her message of positivity through working with charities, anti-bullying groups, while standing as an advocate for women across the world.
Brooke, who wrestles Bayley Friday night on SmackDown, spoke with Sports Illustrated to share her goals inside and out of WWE, discuss the loss of ex-boyfriend Dallas McCarver, and express her amazement at the amount of people who have been fascinated with her back-and-forth tweets with Dave Bautista.
Justin Barrasso: You have been on the main roster since 2016, and you started in NXT in 2013. Surrounded by such a talented, motivated roster, how do you plan to stand out in WWE?
Dana Brooke: You have to make the most of any time you are given, and any opportunity I’m given, whether it was as Charlotte Flair’s protégé, standing up against Ronda Rousey, being the statistician of Titus Worldwide, I want to show my range. I’m willing to embrace anything that is thrown my way. Coming into 2020 and transitioning onto SmackDown, it’s a fresh start for me.
I just signed a new five-year deal in WWE, and part of my goal is to build my own personal brand. And women empowerment is a key in the success of my career and a key for WWE. We can do what the male wrestlers have done over the years, and now women are finally being given that chance. That also means that I get the chance to show what I can do, and I really believe that 2020 is going to be the year that people see a different side of me.
JB: Your background includes 18 years of gymnastics, as well as success in fitness and bodybuilding. You have creatively added each part of your past into your current character. What makes your background so unique in WWE?
DB: My character is something that is unique to me and also something I hold close to my heart. Wrestling has been a journey through life, connecting different parts of my life. In gymnastics, jumping off of a balance beam is something I correlate to jumping off of the top rope. My training in bodybuilding is also very important to me. When I was in NXT, I was able to compete in the IFBB professional bodybuilding industry, and I took so much pride in that. It’s all worked out in such a wonderful way.
When I was in Chicago for Survivor Series, I saw a group of girls who were there for their cheerleading competition. I met one of the cheerleaders, and I told her I used to cheer—and I told her that one day she could be a wrestler in WWE. I can relate to a different element of people in bodybuilding and fitness. I know the struggle and I know how hard it is, and the drive and dedication you need in order for it to pay off.
JB: Making an imprint outside of WWE is your priority. Obviously you have an incredible platform to reach people as a WWE superstar, but you also have limited time with your training and travel schedule. What would you like to accomplish outside of the ring?
DB: I’m here to tell my story and inspire someone. I just did an event with UNICEF. There are so many ways to be a part of their programs. I learned so much about them and they help children from all around the world who live without the simplest things that we take from granted. I also hold WWE’s anti-bullying campaign close to my heart. Children deserve a happy childhood. No one has the right to take that away from them.
JB: You were in a relationship with Dallas McCarver, who tragically passed away at the age of 26 in 2017 following a cardiac event. Although it has been extremely difficult, you have remained committed to honoring his memory. What have you learned from this heartbreaking experience?
DB: Dallas McCarver is my angel. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of him. I tip my hands to Dallas every time I walk to the ring.
He was my number one supporter, and he pushed me to beyond what I thought were my limits in the gym. We used to joke together that he would jump over to wrestling after competing in bodybuilding.
Two years ago, I couldn’t even talk about losing Dallas. He was the love of my life. I was in a dark place, I couldn’t move forward. My career in WWE saved my life, and losing him reminded me that tomorrow is never promised. It is not promised to anybody. We have a start date and an end date, and we have to give forth the best energy we can when we’re here.
I have that platform in WWE to inspire, encouraging people to live life to the fullest. We all have bad days, I get that. But what can we do to fix those bad days? How do we make a change? So that’s why I remain so positive and keep pushing forward. You never know when you’re going to lose someone you love, so make the most of every moment. I wish I had one more minute with Dallas.
JB: I know fashion has been a big part of your life and you briefly operated a boutique before you started with WWE. Now you are starting your own fashion line. What resonates with you most about your work?
DB: I fell in love with fashion a long time ago and enhancing a woman’s beauty.
A big goal for me is to remind women that they can achieve whatever they work toward. It’s OK to fail, because you can learn from that. But quitting is an entirely different mindset. Women are constantly told, ‘You can’t do this.’ The world needs women and men that are constantly reaching for their goals. Parents and single parents who still chase their goals. Finding time for that extra workout, or going back to school for a class.
That’s why I am pushing myself with my makeup line, Play Time is Over. It’s designed for girls and women who want to enhance their beauty and feel pretty with that extra little sparkle. Eventually I want to own an all-in-one fitness facility called “All About You.” It will be a gym, hair salon, makeup, and a clothing boutique in the front.
JB: There have been multiple tweets between you and Dave Bautista. Are you surprised that so many people have enjoyed following the back-and-forth conversation between the two of you?
DB: I’ve known Dave for a couple years, especially when my ex was bodybuilding. Dave was big in the fitness and bodybuilding scene, and that’s how we met. I’ve always respected what he’s accomplished in WWE and in the movies, and I was quite surprised when he tweeted at me.
I’m a very private person, so it was a little shocking for me that everything was out there. But it’s so awesome that people have been so supportive. We’ll see where it goes, but we share a lot of similarities and a lot of respect for one another. It was a little uncomfortable at first that everything is out there, but the way everyone has been so positive about it, it has a warm place in my heart.
JB: What is your goal for the upcoming year?
DB: I have so many goals in WWE, but I want people to know that I am always going to stand by my fans. I am always going to relate to each and every person, and I am going to remain so grateful for my fans. That’s what keeps me motivated. They make me want to spread my message. And for those who don’t believe in me, I hope I can find a way to relate to them, too.
In 2020, people will see me keep working. I’m going to keep trying, keep training, and I’ll keep fighting and spreading my message.