Part One. June 24, 2006. 2:30pm.
I am living every guy's dream' and every girl's nightmare. I am standing in the Ballroom of The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina del Ray, surrounded by dozens of nearly naked girls with perfect skin, huge breasts (no, I didn't check to see if they were fake) and impossibly small waists. It's the third annual World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Diva Search, and 75 girls from all over North America are sparring for the chance to bag $250,000 and a one-year WWE contract (not to mention possible advertising gigs and a Playboy cover).
Today is the second and last day of the casting competition, and already half of the girls have been thrown off the ring by Simon Cowell-like judges Ashley Massaro (2005 Diva Search winner) and Mike 'The Miz' Mizanin. By tonight, only eight girls will remain, earning the right to debut live on WWE's RAW and Smackdown on July 10.
As I've always been curious to see what's behind the scripted dialogue, skimpy outfits and choreographed scenes, I jumped at the chance to sit down with two aspiring Divas, Jennifer Walcott (Youngstown, Ohio) and Leyla El (Miami, Florida). Here's what we talked about.
So why do you want to be a WWE Diva?
Jennifer: I did Playboy for five years, which meant I wore a bunny outfit, looked pretty and stood like a little statue most of the time. Don't get me wrong' I loved the experience and I think Playboy is a great company but I want to act crazy and do things instead of just standing there looking pretty. I want people to see beyond the centerfold cutesy-pretty look and see me as the rough house crazy chick that I am.
What's the competition like? Any catfights?
Jennifer: The energy is generally positive, which is not what you'd expect. We're all friends, we're all helping each other out with bikinis and double stick tape and all the fun stuff that goes on behind the scenes.
Leyla: It's been a long stressful process because we're all waiting, waiting, waiting, then watching people, then waiting, waiting and of course more waiting. But you do have two minutes where you can show the judges what you have. There are girls who crack under the pressure or shine under the pressure and hopefully we shine.
What did you do to get this far in the game?
Jennifer: I was actually asked to come out a year ago but I was so dedicated and loyal to Playboy and my promotions that it wasn't something I was interested in. I'm lucky I didn't have to audition. I was just called and asked to come in and here I am.
Leyla: My audition tape was 'take your clothes off and get into a bikini and talk about yourself,' which is thankfully something I love to do. Since I danced for the Miami Heat, they also asked me to dance. In a bikini. With no music. And I just did it.
Any families, boyfriends or husbands who may be ready to throw in the towel?
Jennifer: My boyfriend is professional football player Adam Archuleta, and he's all about working out and being in perfect form and health. I'm also a strong woman and I'm fiercely independent. People tend to judge you by how you look and just because I put on a little bit of lip gloss and do my hair and throw on a cute outfit doesn't mean you can tap my shoulder at a bar and, you know, get smart with me.
Do you get nervous or insecure competing with so many beautiful and perfectly proportioned women?
Jennifer: Everybody gets a little insecure but I think you just have to hide your insecurities like you hide your flaws. Personally, if someone tells me no, I tell myself yes, and that's always been my motto. If I'm not right for WWE then I don't want them to make a bad business move and I don't want to do something I won't be good at.
Leyla: There are times when I don't even want to step outside my house or into a bikini, but you just have to love yourself and embrace your flaws. I'm just happy to be alive and to wake up the next day. That's how I look at things.
Is this the craziest thing you've ever done?
Jennifer: Well, I already showed my birthday suit to the world. Everybody takes their clothes off at the end of the day; some people just look good enough for the world to see. I've always said $25,000 wasn't enough for me to take my clothes off and I parlayed my experience into something very huge by becoming "Playmate of the Month." I feel like with the WWE, I can also turn it into something very big. It's not just the apple pie; it's the whole bakery for me.
If this doesn't work out, what's Plan B?
Jennifer: I'm actually a life coach and I'm getting my private pilot license. Hopefully down the road I can help some of the girls who are beginners in Playboy since I've had the experience. I'll also be opening my own skincare spa in Arizona where I recently bought a house. And hopefully getting married.
Leyla: I don't even want to say it's not going to work out for me. I feel like even if I don't win this, they're going to give me something, I'm sure of it. But if not, I'm just going to keep pursuing my career. I know I am someone the public is going to want to see and I know I'm going to be a celebrity. I'm not backing down on that and I will mark my words on that. I am a hundred percent sure you will see my face out there.
What do you want the world to remember you by?
Jennifer: I believe in living in the present and I hope all these girls will leave thinking, well she tied my bathing suit and let me use her hairspray and helped me with my lip gloss and she was a really nice girl.
Leyla: That I'm first and foremost a beautiful woman. Second, that I have a great personality. I want to be remembered as someone who had a great spirit but who's also deep down a decent person and no matter what came my way, I dealt with it right.
Part Two. June 24, 2006. 6:30pm.