Leah Van Dale has found success in every step of her career. She has been a cheerleader for the Patriots, a member of the famous Laker Girls cheer squad and the SmackDown Women’s Champion as WWE’s Carmella. Now, she’s tackling a new venture with her own line of wine.
“I knew I needed to do something with all of my creativity, and I love drinking wine,” said Van Dale, who has helped turn Carmella into one of WWE’s most beloved characters. “So I started researching and networking. We’re still in the early stages because I’m very busy with my WWE schedule, but it’s all very exciting.”
Van Dale’s wine includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, which are sold under her Capo Cagna line.
“That means ‘Boss Bitch’ in Italian,” said Van Dale. “It’s important to embrace your inner ‘Boss Bitch.’ I want women and girls who follow our shows to see that, and it’s important to empower them to follow their dreams. I’m a product of that, so it’s important to spread that message.”
Van Dale is a second-generation WWE star, though that is not highlighted too often on the weekly broadcast. Her father, Paul Van Dale, was an enhancement talent in WWE. He had some memorable moments, like wrestling Razor Ramon in Scott Hall’s debut match on Superstars, but the highlights were always about the opponents. He never reached the same level of stardom his daughter currently enjoys, but that does not change the impact he had on her.
“There is a story my mom tells me about when I was two or three, and we were watching my father get beat up in a boxing match,” said Van Dale. “He was bleeding all over, but I was in the audience cheering, ‘Go Daddy, go!’ Watching him fight was normal to me. Then he started wrestling and training with Killer Kowalski. I’d record Monday Night Raw on the VCR and watch the next day with my dad because he worked overnight. I never in a million years thought I would grow up to do it, that was something my dad did.
“I loved dancing, performing, and fitness, so when I heard about an opportunity with WWE for a tryout, I thought it was so perfect. It had everything—my passion for performing, working out, training, and it connected to my dad’s history. Growing up, my dad used to say, ‘You should be a Diva!’ And I’d say, ‘I’m not going to do that!’ And here we are.”
Van Dale excelled before her time in WWE. She was a cheerleader for the Patriots, and was with the team during the 2007 season when New England won its first 18 games before losing an excruciating game to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. She also danced for the Los Angeles Lakers for a season as a Laker Girl. As talented as she was as part of an ensemble, WWE has provided her with an opportunity to stand out in a solo act.
“When I finished with the Lakers, I had an itch to keep going,” said Van Dale, who has always had a never-ending quest to attain the best version of herself. “That’s the way I’ve always thought, ever since I grew up in a very small town called Spencer, Massachusetts. There were about 100 kids in my graduating class, and I knew I wanted to do more. I cheered for the Pats for three years, and then people thought I’d settle down. But then I went to LA to keep dancing, and that’s when I became a Laker Girl. Then people thought I’d settle down, but no, that’s when I got into WWE. I always know I want to keep going.”
On the subject of settling down, Van Dale is in a relationship with Matt Polinsky, better known to wrestling audiences as WWE’s Corey Graves.
“Matt and I just moved to Pittsburgh, and I couldn’t be happier,” said Van Dale. “I’m living in a great home with my boyfriend, and we have a very happy life.”
Van Dale has worked in WWE as a villain and a fan favorite. She just finished a very entertaining run where she was partnered with R-Truth in his unrelenting pursuit of the 24/7 Championship, which is a title she wore twice during that stretch. But Truth was moved to Raw and Van Dale remains a fixture on SmackDown, with a chance to create new content for her fans.
“I’ve only been on SmackDown for about three-and-a-half years, but I’m most proud of making the most of every opportunity I’m given,” said Van Dale. “I’ve been consistently involved in a story, and I’m so incredibly thankful for that. I just got a little bit of a breather, which was nice, but I try to take whatever is given to me and run with it. That’s what I’m proudest of with the Carmella character. You can love her, you can hate her, but you’re going to feel something about her.
“I’d love to get the title and have a run as a fighting champion. I’d love to have a match against Bayley. At the end of the day, I’m excited about my future.”
Van Dale’s versatility is now visible outside of her work in WWE, as she looks to enhance the Capo Cagna line.
“It’s nice to focus on some things out of WWE,” said Van Dale. “Sometimes we get caught up in that bubble, but it’s so important to explore. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the title. I want to be champion again. At the same time, I need to broaden my horizons.
“I love WWE and playing this character, but I also want more—and I’m so excited about the wine. I love working out and staying healthy, too, but this is OK because there are antioxidants in wine. This is a really special opportunity, and I’m going to make the most of it.”