As noted, I recently interviewed former WWE Diva Ariane Andrew, i.e. Cameron. In part one of the interview below, Cameron talks about getting her start in WWE, receiving no notice before her first WWE match, her comment about Melina vs. Alicia Fox being her favorite match, Vince McMahon, Total Divas, Triple H and more.
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Thanks Ariane for joining us. I feel like you've been involved with WWE for a long time, but it [has] really only been five years since Tough Enough. How [has] the journey been?
"I would definitely say I was definitely blessed to have an opportunity to be with the WWE considering I wasn't a [professional] wrestling fan growing up. And to get an opportunity to be with such a big company with such amazing people, to travel the world, and to have some of the most loyal fans in the world, die hard, it was definitely a great opportunity, definitely a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn't take it back for the world."
Absolutely, and how did you get the Tough Enough audition?
"So a lot of people don't know that originally I did a Diva Search out here in Los Angeles [California]."
That was the same year, right?
"That was the same year. Then, after that, they were like, 'you know what? We want you to join Tough Enough.' So I was like, 'okay,' deep breath, I didn't know how to feel about it. I was like, 'it's reality TV' and back then I was a little bit younger, so I was kind of like, 'oh my gosh. This could either go so left or go very right.' But we all know the moment that no one will ever forget when 'Stone Cold' [Steve Austin] asked me what my favorite match was. I was like, 'Melina versus Alicia Fox' and, you know, I'm going to own it. I feel when you do things in life you should just own it. And at that time, because I'm very honest, I didn't watch [professional] wrestling growing up. That was a match that I like, but being a part of WWE and learning so much about it, I did my research, I got to learn the history, and I got to learn why people were so upset about why I said that was my favorite match.
"But I've learned so much from that. It pushed me to kind of just sit down and learn the history behind everything and if you're going to do something, I feel like you have to do it right. It's not necessarily how you get into it and how you get into the [professional wrestling] business, I feel it's like once you get it, what do you do with it to succeed?"
Wrestling fans can just sometimes be a judgmental bunch. Like, myself, I liked Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant when I was a kid. It just brought back so many memories, it was a big story, they were these two icons. And athletically, it's not a great match. That's just something that stuck with me since my childhood. It's something I can still watch whenever it comes on. Were you surprised that one line really stuck with people for that long?
"Yes, I was! I was like, 'oh my gosh!' At first it would bother me a lot because at the end of the day, I am human. And to be criticized like that, I'm like, 'if it was somebody else, they probably would have been okay, someone who's more respected' and I feel like if [professional] wrestling fans knew I came from a [professional] wrestling background and I said that, it would have been I guess you could say, more warranted. 'Okay, I can see where she's coming from.' I think it's because of my lack of knowledge. I mean, sometimes I still don't understand, but I do get it. I absolutely get it. I get it because [professional] wrestling fans are very passionate and loyal, so I understand it, but all I can do is take it and own it. There's nothing else I can really do.
"Let's talk about me pinning Trin [Naomi] on her stomach. I'm human. We're all human. Imagine being on Wrestling Inc. and fans were told, 'oh, you can't comment. You can't have an opinion', how they would feel about that. You're being at work and you're told not to do something. It's just kind of like, we all make mistakes and there [have] been some top Superstars and Divas that have made mistakes and they've been criticized for it. It's just I was caught in the moment. Things happened and it was too late before I [noticed], like, 'oh s--t! Let me fix this!' But at that time, it was live and it happened. I own it. I own it. But stuff happens."
You haven't been wrestling that long. You've got guys in NXT that have been wrestling for over a decade that still aren't on the main roster, so it's definitely, you know, like I said, wrestling fans can definitely be a judgmental bunch. Now, with the Melina/Alicia Fox thing, did you ever talk with them about it because I know you've worked with Alicia? And I can't remember, have you worked with Melina?
"No, actually, she was released before I made it to the main roster, so I never got to meet her."
How long into the Tough Enough experience were you like, 'this is something that I want to do for a living'?
"I mean, I was the first one kicked off, so I didn't really get a huge taste of things. But it's so much harder than what it looks like. People think, 'oh my gosh, it's so easy.' It's like, really, taking a bump on the mat, you feel like you got into a mini car accident the next day. But it's like your body just gets used to it. And it's a different world and I just got really excited to do something new. And I wanted to try it and I want to be great at it. I'm the person that's kind of resilient. When I want something, you can't tell me 'no' and I want to keep pushing, pushing, pushing. It's actually a funny story because my first day of training with Norman [Smiley], he got so frustrated with me because I was trying to learn how to take a bump and he's like, 'you're not going to learn how to do this today.' And we talk about it all the time. He was like, 'it's not going to happen', but I was like, 'no, I want to learn, I want to learn, I want to learn how to do it today, today, today'. And it takes time. That's just how I am. It's like, 'oh, I want to learn it today', but things take time. Rome wasn't built in a day."
So before Tough Enough, were you looking at it more as a way to get exposure because I'm taking your agent set up the Diva Search thing? Is that correct?
"No, I did that all by myself. "
So you wanted to get into the [professional wrestling] business from even before Tough Enough?
"Yeah, when the opportunity presented itself, before WWE I worked with autistic children and when I heard that, I also did track and field and cross-country in high school, and I love entertainment. I just love being able to reach people through entertaining and being a role model to say, 'hey, if you want something and you love it and you're passionate about it, like, the sky has no limits. You can do it. It is possible.' And I take myself as an example, someone who didn't watch [professional] wrestling growing up and when it's something like, 'I want to do this - I really want to do this', I just kept pushing, pushing, pushing until the door opened. So it's like, when I had the opportunity, it was like I got to not only entertain, but I got to give back to the community doing Special Olympics and bringing awareness to breast cancer and Be A Star, and all those things I had to offer, and it's a sport, I was like, 'damn, this is the dream right here!' It's like I get to do all three things at once."
You were on Tough Enough in 2011. And you wrestled your first match, that was in 2011 too, right? Or 2012 for FCW?
"FCW, there were battle royals I was a part of. It's kind of like you're able to like get away with things just because. Gosh, I got called up to the [main] roster so early. I wasn't ready at all. Of course, it's like, any opportunity, it's like you've got to take it. You've got to run with it and do the best that you can. Like, I remember getting called up on the road and I was thinking, like, 'oh my God. I'm going to s--t my pants right now because if they tell me to go out there and wrestle, oh Lord. If they tell me to go announce, oh Lord.' At first I didn't know what I was going to do. I kept being told, 'okay, you're going to replace Brandi [Eden Stiles] and be an announcer'. Then I kept hearing, 'okay, you're going to be with Brodus [Clay] and Naomi dancing'. I was just thinking, 'oh my gosh, any three of these things, I'm not ready for!' But I took it and in this business it's sink or swim. Just go out there and you have to give it your all. I get criticized for my wrestling ability and that stuff, but it's like, when you're put in a predicament like that, you can only do the best you possibly can."
When did you finally find out you were going to make your debut on RAW? How soon before you appeared on TV?
"It happened so fast. For Trin and I, Naomi, we were backstage, like, 'hurry up and put a routine [together]'. I was like, 'oh my gosh, we're going to go live!' I don't have a dance background. She does, so I'm just thinking, and we had to do it in heels. So not only do we have to go put a dance together really fast, but we have to go out there and do it in heels. I'm thinking, 'what if I just fall flat on my face, live on TV?' But, you know, it was such an exciting [experience]. It happened all so fast, but it was so exciting. We pulled it off."
Well, what was it like meeting Vince McMahon for the first time?
"I met him the first time we had to do, we had to do that segment with him on RAW live. That was the first time I met him. So it was like meeting Vince for the first time and you have to do a segment live. I respect that man so much. He's like a beast. He is such a great businessman. And also too when we'd get back after the show, this guy goes to the gym after a long RAW then wakes up early in the morning and repeats. It's just like wow. Like, that's why he's really strict about people being in shape because he's like, 'if I can do that, then why can't you?' So I understand him for that."
What about Triple H?
"I love how he has taken NXT and made that like his baby. I think that he's very invested into it. You can go to him. You can talk to him. It's not awkward. He makes himself available to talk to him. He's really there. I'm speaking from the NXT aspect from when I was down there. I feel like I didn't really talk to him much, but things that really mattered and things I wanted to get across, it's like I was able to go to him and approach him and be like, 'hey'."
Did you notice any difference when you first started as to how much influence Triple H and Vince have and how it changed later on or has it kind of always been the same?
"I mean, things are always evolving. That's kind of life and business. You're always evolving. I would definitely say, yeah, changes have totally been made. How do you mean as far as being able to go and talk to them? What do you mean?"
Who appears to be more involved or more involved behind the scenes if that has changed much.
"The one thing that I love is that Vince is there to fight kind of, Triple H, they're there every RAW and SmackDown, so it's like they're very much involved in meetings. It's like, what owner of a company do you know that you could see them in almost a day-to-day basis? So I think that that's awesome that they're there and that they're involved into everything that they do. "
When you found out you were wrestling your first match at TLC, how soon ahead of time did you know and how much time did you have to get ready for that?
"I found out when I showed up at TV."
"Yeah. It's like, 'oh my gosh', okay, I don't know. You just kind of have to take it in and just get it together. Like I said, I mean, a lot of things in WWE I'd definitely say I learned is that you… that's why I respect all my co-workers, well, at the time when I was with WWE because everyone really busts their ass and it doesn't matter if you're a top person, a midcarder, or a little lower on the totem pole. It's like everyone puts in so much work. And it's like you show up and sometimes you're just thrown in stuff and it's like I respect everyone. You just have to go out there and you give it your all and you give it your best that you can when you're put into a situation like that. I mean, being with WWE has taught me so much because so many things that I probably would have never done or been put on the spot to do. You just do it and you go out there and just have fun, of course, you're hoping that you make the fans happy tonight."
Kind of speaking of which, you obviously were a big part of Total Divas, appearing on the first four seasons. How were you approached about doing the show?
"Oh my gosh! It was such an amazing opportunity and I was like, 'okay, I'm excited'. People used to get Naomi and I confused so much, but we're such different people. Do you know what I mean? And I love her to death. I love her to death. She's like a sister from another mister. But it's just kind of like, 'you know what? It's going to be great. People can see the difference between us.' It could get frustrating, 'okay, Naomi? Cameron? Which one is which?' and it's kind of like, we're just so different. And plus it gives people an opportunity to see who we both are as individuals, which wasn't the case. But I remember I was moving back to LA and literally I got the call, 'you have to be in LA' and I'm just thinking, 'my stuff has to be out of my apartment and in Tampa [Florida]'. I was just kind of like, 'how am I going to make this happen?' I remember breaking down in the car because I was just like, 'I don't know how I'm going to get my stuff from Tampa to LA, like my plane ticket is already set. I have already the date by when I have to move out', so I just remember being so stressed out and so happy all at the same time."
What was the experience like doing the show?
"You know what? I will say it was definitely an amazing opportunity that you know that people will never have. But at the same time, it's like people would get to see who Ariane is. And that's why I was really happy to get the shows done because people now will see the difference between who Cameron is as a character and who Ariane is as a person. And I feel like you only got to see 5% of that. So it's kind of like, it was a very bittersweet situation."
When you look over the seasons, basically, the Bellas and Natalya have been the consistent ones and everyone else kind of comes and goes. Did they give you a lot of time when it was decided that you wouldn't be joining I think it was season four that you went beyond the main cast?
"No, it wasn't a lot of notice. It just kind of happened. There's a little backstory behind that, but we won't get into that. Let me just put it this way. At the end of the day, I stand for something. I stand for being a role model and like I was saying earlier, I want to stand for something like, 'hey, you know what? Be yourself. Always stick to yourself as a person and be resilient, relentless, and vicious. And when you want something, go for it.' And, at the end of the day, I want people to remember me in a way of like being a role model. I felt like, how do I say it, everything has an ending and once Total Divas was done and now that WWE is done, I don't want people to take away me being someone who I am not because at the end of the day, perception is reality. And I stand strongly for that, so it's kind of like I was excited to have the opportunity to be on Total Divas, but at the same time, it was just kind of like I want to stand for something more once this is all said and done. "
I guess from what you're saying then it was a mutual decision to kind of move away from Total Divas or was it more your decision?
"I guess you can say a little bit of both if that makes sense without getting too much into detail. Let's just keep it like that."
Make sure to check back next week for the second and final part of the interview, where Andrew discussed her response to Ryback's post, how WWE creative can hurt a person's career, if there has really been a Women's revolution in WWE, if the releases would have happened if the brand split came earlier, her favorite opponents, favorite matches and more.