Interview by Al Lagatolla and ChicagoWrestling
At 5 feet tall, with a huge smile and a ton of energy – even after a long flight from California and very few hours of sleep – Heaven Leigh hardly looks like a hated figure of professional wrestling.
She's downright cute. Bubbly Vivacious. Excitable.
Put her in a wrestling ring, and that image changes.
"I can't play a face," she said. "I just walk out and there's natural heel heat. I think I'm hateable. Fans just hate me."
Heaven Leigh hasn't quite hit the Chicago wrestling scene, but she has ties to Midwest Championship Wrestling champion Vic Capri, and met the champ, MCW owner Brian Zenner and wrestler Jay Jensen while in California. She spent Friday in Gurnee, wearing an MCW T-shirt and helping with the federation's autograph signing to promote Saturday night's tag team tournament - the T-3 - planned for 7:30 p.m. at the University of Illinois-Chicago's physical education building.
Zenner, Capri and Jensen worked last month in California - where Capri lost the All-Pro Wrestling title to Donovan Morgan - and met up with Heaven Leigh, who last worked in UPW. She since has found a few Chicago friends through her posts at Chicagowrestling.com's message board, and also designed web pages for MCW wrestlers Capri and Airborne.
Her trip to Chicago and the T-3 has a purpose. She's looking for work and thinks she can find a home in Chicago.
"Brian is trying to figure something out," she said. "It's in negotiations."
And she has hopes of working more than one federation in Chicago.
"I've got a lot of IMs and a few emails," she said of response from her posts.
Up until a few months ago, she had a steady job in California's UPW - a WWF developmental territory. She tried out with two friends who were trying out and was used as a valet at a "light" show.
"That's where they look at the talent and see who's going to be working on the bigger shows," she said. "After a month and a half, they moved me up to the Galaxy shows (UPW's main shows). My first was a show that the Hardys were on."
She said she wasn't nervous.
"I didn't have butterflies, even for the first Galaxy show I did," she said. "They said when you come out, there's a camera and you should play to the camera. I just did what they said. It was natural. I try to be very open and bright and try to get attention. In this business, you have to do that."
Her first full-time UPW gimmick was "a group that played this whole movie star thing."
"One of the guys even looked like Gary Coleman," she said. "It was funny. I played the whole Hollywood diva thing. I wore these little tops with tight pants and flipped my hair. Then they eventually moved me to a new angle, where it was supposed to be a bunch of business guys - the IPOs - and I wore a business suit. I played a smart, rich businesswoman who doesn't take anything from anybody. After our first match, one of the guys got kicked out, the other was turned into a face and I was left by myself. I haven't done anything since and I really want to work another match."
She always has been a heel, except for one show she said "didn't work at all." She prefers the heel role, actually.
"I can be mean to the crowd and yell at them," she said, adding many females play the heel role. "The guys love them and the girls hate them. It's just natural. And if you're a heel beating up on this babyface, and all the girls love the babyface, you know they'll hate you."
At her height, she is an ideal valet.
"It's not bad being small," she said. "If I stand next to big guys, they can look even bigger. Even the small guys look big, being that I'm all of 5 feet tall."
She considers herself a friend of Capri and would enjoy an assocition with the MCW champ, but she said "I don't know if Vic wants (a valet). I wouldn't mind valeting for him, but then I wouldn't mind valeting for anybody (in MCW). They've got a lot of talent up and coming."
She said she found it hard to find steady work in California.
"They said they have nowhere to put me," she said. "It's California and it's a lot of silicone, and I am not silicone enhanced. It's hard to compete with that."
Her eventual plan is to work as a wrestler, which is difficult because MCW employs only one other woman - Airborne's valet Apryl.
"I've seen her," Heaven Leigh said. "She's actually very pretty. I'm aware she's not trained. Maybe when I move up here, we can train together. MCW will have a training school soon."
Heaven Leigh said she's still in the process of getting trained.
"I can take bumps and I can do some moves," she said. "I do a Rude Awakening -type move. I'm learning, and I like taking bumps. I know how to take a bump."
She wouldn't mind wrestling against guys, but the Illinois state commission can make that task difficult, some have said. She never has worked in a state with a commission before.
"I just found out you have to be licensed to be in the ring," she said. "In California, you just have to show up."
She has been a wrestling fan since age 6. "My brother was watching it full time and I was like, 'What is that?' I started watching. I grew up with Scary Sherri and Miss Elizabeth and I thought, 'I want to be them. I want to do that. I want to get in the ring and hit somebody and have fans eating out of your hands or hating you. Just reacting to you.' "
Her favorite wrestlers were Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. She's also a big Hardy Boyz fan.
"I was more attracted to the smaller guys," she said. "The acrobatic guys."
She got her character name from a VC Andrews book.
"The character is Heaven Leigh, and I thought the way it was spelled was cute," she said. "I came up with it. They asked what my name would be, and I told them. I also tell them how to spell it, because they'd always spell it wrong."
She is encouraged about her future in Chicago, and she said she has been impressed with Zenner.
"He's polite and he knows what he's doing," she said.
She already feels welcome, having made friends on the message board.
"I want to thank everybody for giving me a really warm welcome," she said. "I feel really good about it. It's been a very positive experience."