In this edition of Wrestling For the Culture, I had the honor of catching up with the two-time NYWC Starlet Champion, Willow Nightingale.
BW: As a woman of color, what are some of the challenges you face in the wrestling business?
WN: I’m actually very glad to say that my experiences as a woman of color in the wrestling business have been more positive than negative. Obviously, I’ve had my fair share of “fans” saying cruel things to me regarding my race, specifically targeting my hair—something I take so much pride in. Another concern not just for me, but all wrestlers of color are that you do a lot of traveling in this business. Sometimes crowds or town people of wherever you’re traveling may give you judging looks or be more hostile towards you just based on your ethnicity. Fortunately, I’ve never had any big confrontation arise because of this, but I’ve definitely had times where I’ve felt judged negatively based solely on my race. I take a lot of pride and comfort in the sisterhood of wrestling though and that really carries me through any of these struggles.
BW: After your knee surgery you worked your back to the ring and won gold. What would you say was the biggest life lessons you learned?
BW: You bring energy to every promotion you wrestle at, and the fans love you. What was the best thing a fan said to you?
WN: One time at a show during intermission, a woman came up to me and said that because her 8-year-old biracial daughter saw me wearing my hair out naturally in the ring, that she now wants to stop straightening her hair and start embracing her curls. That made my heart so so happy. Hands down the best thing I've heard from a fan.
BW: Describe the feeling you had when you first won the NYWC Scarlet Championship and compare it to the second time you won it.
WN: The first time I won the NYWC Starlet Championship was in February 2016. That really meant a lot to me because I think in a way, it was the first time I realized that other people have faith in me. At the time, I lacked confidence as a performer and I think the validation of winning that championship really helped me find comfort in who I am and my expression of it. When I won the Starlet Championship just a year later in February 2017, I was even more proud of myself. It was a sign to me that everything was going to be okay. While I was out injured, there was a lot of time I thought that maybe wrestling wasn't for me or that this was a sign from the universe to stop, but my heart couldn't accept that. I'm so happy I didn't accept that. Like I mentioned before, the setbacks just make the rewards sweeter.
WN: My dream WrestleMania moment would take place at Madison Square Garden. Beyond that, this is actually a really hard question haha. Throughout my time as a wrestling fan, I've adored and looked up to so many women wrestlers, so narrowing this down to just one dream opponent is so tough. As a kid, my absolute favorite wrestler was Trish Stratus though, so I'm gonna have to go with her as my dream WrestleMania opponent. No gimmicks, just a straight-up, one on one, singles match. My 10-year-old self (or any age really) would jump up and down crying joyous tears.
Make sure you follow Willow Nightingale on Twitter @w_nightingale_.