NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell talks to Billie Jean King about the impact of Title IX
HOLLYWOOD – Our lesbian wrestler Daria Berenato, known worldwide by her WWE stage name Sonya Deville “The Pride Fighter”, attends her first-ever LA Pride Parade on Sunday, marching with NFL players along Hollywood Boulevard.
“I’m super happy,” Berenato told me in a Zoom chat before the show started. She posted messages for fans of the parade on her social media.
— The OFFICIAL boss (@SonyaDevilleWWE) June 12, 2022
In 1970, the march made history as the world’s first ever authorized LGBTQ+ parade. Berenato has previously attended World Pride in New York in 2019, as well as the Pride Parade in Fort Lauderdale, Florida the same year.
Berenato, 28, came out as a lesbian in 2015 when a WWE judge asked her during an interview in front of a global TV audience if she was in a relationship. “I don’t have a wife yet, but I have a girlfriend,” Berenato said. The former MMA fighter did not win the Enough tuff reality show, but she signed a contract as WWE’s first lesbian wrestler.
“I came out on the first episode of the first reality show I did, and it wasn’t intentional, and it wasn’t something I had thought about or planned,” Berenato told me. . “I was scared and didn’t know what this was going to mean for me. I didn’t know if it was good or bad. I was really flying by the seat of my tailcoats, waiting to see it all play out. And it was a really positive experience for me.
In case you forgot…I won. pic.twitter.com/apBJBZnMrG
— The OFFICIAL boss (@SonyaDevilleWWE) May 23, 2022
Like many things, his relationships have changed over the past seven years. But what hasn’t changed is her commitment to representing the LGBTQ+ community. If anything is, it’s only deepened.
“It’s something super important because I’ve been on the same journey as a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, who struggle with my sexuality and are open about it,” Deville told Outsports contributor Brian Bell. on their LGBT In The Podcast Ring in April.
Berenato made headlines again last month when Netflix premiered on strange things, by publicly kissing his girlfriend, model and fitness enthusiast Toni Cassano. Since then, they share their love story with their followers on social networks.
Find a best friend and make her your wife. 💣♾ pic.twitter.com/GgSQ1NSnF9
— The OFFICIAL boss (@SonyaDevilleWWE) June 12, 2022
“We’ve been together for a few months now and these have been the most amazing months of any relationship I’ve ever been in,” Berenato said. “It was so fun, so easy, so exciting and motivating. She’s like here with me when it comes to work ethic, restlessness, hard work and motivation. So we’re kind of like shoulder to shoulder, working together and individually, every day.
Having finally found love, Berenato opened up about what Pride means to her.
“I think every year it means something a little different to me, just as I grow in my journey and feel more comfortable with who I am and my sexuality,” she said. declared. “I feel like it’s different every year. I used to watch from afar and wish I could be there, but I wasn’t ready yet. And so now it’s a thing where I embrace it and I can go out and do these events and I feel comfortable doing it. And now I have the opportunity to use my voice and my platform to speak about what we believe in and for the community, and I hope to create a safer and more open environment in sport, entertainment and WWE, for those looking to join, and watch, and let them know that this is a very inclusive space in WWE, and if I’m here, we can all be here.
Berenato also has a commitment to her favorite snack: donuts. What started several years ago as a YouTube series with her friend and business partner, Mandy Rose, has blossomed into a popular website and online store. And now, she revealed in this interview, that they are about to turn their passion into a brick and mortar business.
“So myself and Mandy Rose, who’s also a WWE Superstar and my former tag team partner and best friend, we own a donut business. We started kind of a donut show on social media five or six years ago now, and we saw that it got people interested and people were interested in watching us eat donuts and talking about it and so we started a YouTube series there years ago where we traveled the world for WWE, and whatever city we were in, we would just try the local donut shop and then rate them and that kind of became what we didn’t think it would become, and our fans loved it and it was super just fun and lighthearted, just something we could interact with the fans doing,” Berenato told me.
“And so finally we were like, ‘Wait, we tasted like all donuts in America. Why not create our own donut line and make it super true to what we love in a donut? Because we became like donut aficionados at that point. And so here is our baby, DaMandyz Donutz. We have a website, DaMandyz.com, where we sell lots of cool and fun products. But now we’re launching our first official donut spot in LA. And this is the first interview in which I say this, but it will be available via the delivery service. So you’ll be able to access your food delivery app — not yet saying which one — and order DaMandyz Donutz, probably within the next few months, of course.
Berenato said that next year his company will consider making a Pride donut to go along with the merchandise already on sale on their site, and plans to expand beyond LA.
“We will definitely come to more cities,” she said.
In August 2020, a South Carolina man obsessed with Berenato was arrested for harassing and attempting to kidnap her, after he broke into his Florida home and came face to face with the wrestler and Rose. He spent a year behind bars until he was eventually transferred to a mental health facility because he was deemed unfit to stand trial.
I asked her how she dealt with enemies, and those who posed a threat to her and those she cared about.
“I don’t think I’ve really figured it out yet,” she said. “I feel like I’m taking it day by day and trying to figure out where that line is. I mean, at the end of the day, I’m choosing to be in the spotlight and I’m choosing to share my story and my journey to some degree with the fans, because I think that might help. And I remember being 19, 20, locked up and not comfortable with my sexuality, and kind of like, winning for this representation in the public eye. And so I’m proud of that, so I never regret putting myself out there, but I think I’m taking more precautions now than I did when I started, just to make sure that people around me and myself can share our story, but in a safe space. And I just encourage fans to always appreciate that and respect that we love you guys, and we want to interact with you guys. guys and we want to have fun, and be able to DM you, message you and interact. But you know, they also need to know where the line is.
Berenato’s other project this Pride month is promoting WWE merchandise to benefit GLAAD, following his support of the NFL’s collaboration with the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization.
Guys ! 😍😍😍😍😍😍 This month of June, @WWE officially launches new “WWE Together” merch with 100% of net proceeds benefiting @GLAAD. Visit https://t.co/woV4FYjNMG for more information! pic.twitter.com/R8RSJhF5LN
— The OFFICIAL boss (@SonyaDevilleWWE) June 1, 2022
Asked about controversies involving trans athletes in sports and Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ laws and policies in Florida, Berenato chose her words carefully, avoiding any political stance, but made it clear that she was a pro-LGBTQ supporter. ‘equality.
“I will just say we are all equal and who you are and how you identify is who you are and how you identify. And that’s what I will respect and understand,” she said. “I never do politics, just for my own sanity. But yeah, I think my message is super simple: I obviously believe in equality. I accept everyone as they are, who they are, how they identify. And I think everyone should be welcome in a conversation about who we are should never be frowned upon.
Where does Berenato see herself in five or ten years? She told me that she was focused on where she was right now, with WWE.
“I like it here and feel like I’m in the mental space where I want to stay here as long as I can stay here,” Berenato said. “I’ve been a competitor all my life. I played sports all through high school, right from high school. I got into MMA. and straight from MMA, I came to WWE, so I don’t know what it would be like not to compete somehow. So, yes, I am sentenced to life. I want to be here as long as possible. And then I would like to dive into other things. I’m building a brand and talking about fitness and health and wellness, but I’m also an entrepreneur with these donuts, and I’m very proud of that. And I also love film and television and I would also like to immerse myself in acting roles. So I kind of have my hands in a few different things. But yeah WWE is and will be my main focus for the extended future that I can see.
Follow Daria Berenato on Twitter by clicking here and on Instagram here.
The previous article was previously published by Forbes magazine and is republished with permission.