Women in Sports: AJ Mendez – Former WWE Women’s Champion and author of “Crazy Is My Superpower”
Rounding out our Women in Sports series is former wrestler and current writer/ambassador, AJ Mendez
March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on those women who have worked hard to make a difference in the world. AJ Mendez is one of these women.
A former Women’s Champion in WWE, Mendez, fka AJ Lee, left the ring to pursue other ventures. AJ, someone with bipolar disorder, has provided a system to embrace what some might look to deter. Her book, Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules, is something that can help others better understand people who may feel “different” and break the mold; to be OK to talk about anything.
AJ is a champion, ambassador, joke teller and a true role model. Double G Sports had the opportunity to speak to AJ about a variety of topics for our Women in Sports series.
Double G Sports: Happy belated birthday! How did it feel to still receive so much support from the pro wrestling community after all of these years?
AJ Mendez: I am so appreciative because I understand that is a rare thing. I think the connection the wrestling audience and I had was genuine and ran deep. We bonded over feeling like outcasts and found camaraderie in our wonderful world of weirdo’s. I think it helps that my mission statement has remained the same; I still fight every day to help people feel less alone and to find the beauty in their perceived flaws. The fans fight right alongside me. It is a very special community we’ve created.
DGS: What do you say to those who consider you one of the true leaders of change for women in the world of sports? Was it tough trying to stand out as an athlete in WWE?
AJ: I believe every woman who is an athlete is a leader for change and an inspiration. For young people, it is difficult to believe you can be what you cannot see. As a child, I didn’t see myself represented in wrestling or television, so I decided to represent myself. That is always going to be a steeper climb, but it was definitely worth it.
DGS: Do you believe there is more that can be done today for women in sports and around the world, pro wrestling and beyond?
AJ: Our opinions don’t change the world; only the examples we set can do that. I’ve spent my time on and off screen working to be the change I want to see in the world. I’m proud of all the badass women who are doing the same.
DGS: Is there anyone that you have gained an interest in seeing lead the future of women’s wrestling?
AJ: I will always have such a special love for Paige, Bayley and Tamina. They are so authentic and talented.
DGS: Why do you believe your book is important, especially today?
AJ: I am Latina, and I do not measure up to society’s standards of traditional beauty. I have bipolar disorder, and I spent most of my youth homeless. I have experienced intolerance, stigma and hatred in response to all of these things that are just a part of who I am. So, I wanted to tell my story in the hopes that I could reach others facing intolerance, and help them realize their differences are the most special thing about them.
DGS: Crazy Is My Superpower is getting developed into a TV series. What is your ultimate goal for the show?
AJ: I have always had a hard time finding an accurate representation of bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression on screen. My goal is very similar to the one I had as a child deciding to become a wrestler. Since I cannot see it, I hope to create that representation. That’s why I am so proud to be a writer and executive producer on this project.
DGS: You have been an ambassador for and will currently be making an appearance at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Walks charity event on May 19th. What can you tell us about the event and why you chose to make a difference by appearing?
AJ: After deciding to publicly talk about my mental health journey, I was completely blown away by how vulnerable and honest people responded, while sharing their own deeply personal stories in return. It made me realize that speaking out helps normalize the subject of mental illness, and strip it of its stigma. That can make reaching out for help or getting treatment way less intimidating. Amazing non-profit organizations like NAMI NJ fight tirelessly every day to keep that conversation going. The NAMIWalks New Jersey 2018 event on May 19th is going to help raise funds, awareness and save lives. Anyone who wants to hang out with me for a stroll on the Jersey boardwalk and support an amazing cause should come out. Anyone can sign up to be on my personal team as well.
DGS: What does the future hold for AJ Mendez?
AJ: I will continue writing stories of understanding and inclusion, I will continue being an advocate and an activist and I will continue eating carbs with every meal.
DGS: Parting advice for fans, especially young girls who continue to follow you?
AJ: If you don’t see a path, create one. Who the hell is going to stop you?