WWE star Nia Jax on how sports gave her confidence: 'My body had its purpose'

Elena Sheppard
Wellness Editor

Nia Jax is a powerhouse. A dominating force in the WWE (she’s a WWE Superstar) and a familiar face on the reality show Total Bellas, Jax has amassed scads of fans the world over, including more than a million Instagram followers, and it’s easy to see why. Strong, confident, personable, funny, Jax is a role model; her brand a combination of intimidating athlete, curvy beauty, and best friend goals.

“I’m living a dream,” Jax tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It sounds cliché, but I am. I get to go out there and truly be myself and show young girls, ‘Look, I can be whatever I want to be. It doesn’t matter my size, or what I look like, or what people think of me. If I put my mind to it, and I work really hard, I can do this. I can do whatever I want.'”

This weekend, Jax will be a keynote speaker at theCURVYcon 2018, a three-day event in New York City for plus-size celebrities, influencers, and their fans, which focuses on fashion. Jax will take the stage with her friend, and fellow WWE Superstar, Nikki Bella for a panel discussion, on Saturday at 2:45 p.m., entitled “Body Positive Besties: Supporting Each Other in Our Journey.” The entire theCURVYcon event will be live-streamed on Yahoo Lifestyle Sept. 7 and Sept. 8.

Jax took part in the event last year as well, going back to her modeling roots by walking in theCURVYcon fashion show. “theCURVYcon is just one of the greatest events that I’ve been able to be a part of,” she says.

Nia Jax on the runway. (Photo: Getty Images)

Though Jax may be living a dream now, it wasn’t always so easy for her. “I never looked in the mirror and felt beautiful,” she remembers. “I never looked in the mirror and said, ‘Look at me! I have a great butt and great abs.’ It was always negative. Every time I watched TV or opened a magazine, I never looked like any of those girls — none of them had a bigger butt or bigger boobs. I had big boobs by the time I was 12 years old.”

While Jax’s feelings about her body have evolved, and she’s done her part to diversify what girls today see in magazines and on television, she credits her mom with helping her get to this place of confidence and self-love. “I have been incredibly blessed with a mother who supports me 100 percent — she sees nothing but perfection in her daughter,” Jax says. “She’s always instilled in me, ‘Honey, it has nothing to do with the way you look on the outside. Your true beauty comes from within.’ As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized she’s 100 percent right. Our bodies are always going to change, and we might not always love that, but it really has nothing to do with true beauty. True beauty comes from within.”

Another thing that helped Jax love her body was sports. “Sports helped me become super, super confident in my body growing up, especially in my high school and college careers,” Jax says. “I wasn’t going to be a hot prom chick that everyone wanted to go on dates with, but I was a stellar athlete. Yeah, I was a bigger taller girl but I could kill it on the basketball court and was unstoppable on the volleyball court. That gave me my confidence, knowing that my body had its purpose.”

When Jax was considering what to do after school, wrestling was only a flicker of an idea. Even though Jax grew up around the WWE — her uncle is High Chief Peter Maivia, and her cousin is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — Jax assumed she wasn’t right for the wrestling world. But that’s because there weren’t women who looked like her in the WWE. Not yet.

“When I first thought about getting into wrestling I was definitely skeptical,” Jax remembers. “Not to knock the women, but they were skinny — they were beautiful! I felt like I couldn’t wrestle because I didn’t look like any of those girls.”

Nia Jax in the ring. (Photo: Getty Images)

A trip to Wrestlemania 28 changed Jax’s mind. “I was sitting front row with my aunt, and I turned to her and said, ‘I feel like this is something I could do, but I’d have to lose a lot of weight, right?’ My aunt said, ‘No! Are you kidding me! You are exactly what this company needs. They need to be able to see a woman who looks like you, who is athletic and beautiful and has curves, and goes in there and shows how powerful and strong you are.'”

That was the encouragement Jax needed, and she decided to go to a WWE training school, the same one her cousin the Rock had attended. “I specifically asked him, ‘Please make sure that nobody knows we’re related,'” she remembers. “I wanted to go in and have a fair shot.”

Jax remembers arriving and looking completely different from the other women there — she was taller, bigger. “Every girl had makeup, hair done. I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m not going to get signed. I thought for sure they’d laugh me out of the building.”

But Jax was dead wrong. After only one day of the three-day tryouts, the coaches told Jax she was their top pick. “I was like, Are you kidding me!?” Jax remembers. “I didn’t realize that me being so different and me having the confidence in myself shined through to them, [enough] for them to be like, Look, we need somebody like you.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Jax is now a WWE favorite, with a legion of fans — both inside and outside of the wrestling world — who look up to her for her confidence and strength. Jax even finds herself serving as a body-positive role model for her famous friends. “I remember Brie Bella, we were in Miami filming Total Divas, and I was wearing a two-piece and we were out having fun and Brie was wearing a one-piece. She had just had a baby and wasn’t feeling so secure. I was like, Are you kidding me! You’re gorgeous! You gave birth to a baby, that’s amazing. Wear that badge of honor. You created a human life,” Jax says. “Then we went to Tahoe, and she wore a two-piece and was like, Nia, after Miami you inspired me to embrace my body and love it. That makes me feel like, Holy crap that’s amazing.”

Jax wants to bring those same feelings to the fans who follow her story both in the ring and outside of it. “Every time I go into the ring, I have to remember there’s a little girl out there who might not fit in with the crowd that she’s in, and she can see that somebody like me, who didn’t fit in with the crowd I was in, got to where I am,” Jax says.

Reflecting on the advice she’d give to her 16-year-old self, Jax shares words of wisdom applicable to all of us: “Appreciate and love the body you have now,” she says. “You’re beautiful no matter what, and it has nothing to do with the way you look on the outside.”

Yahoo Lifestyle will live-stream theCURVYcon 2018 on Friday, Sept. 7, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bookmark this link to tune in!

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