From wrestling in WWE as Kelly Kelly, to starring in the hit E! Network show WAGS, Barbie Blank-Souray has lived the last 10 years of her life in the spotlight. Studying broadcast journalism in college with hopes of being a news reporter, her on-camera career took a drastically different turn than expected the moment she piqued the WWE's interest.
Blank-Souray started out as a bikini model for Venus Swimwear and Hawaiian Tropic, grabbing the WWE's attention in 2006 at the age of 19. Despite having no previous wrestling experience, she signed a contract with its then-developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling and worked her way on to the main roster, where she was the youngest full-time member.
She spent six successful years performing on Raw and SmackDown, eventually capturing and holding the Divas Championship for a four-month reign in 2011 before the WWE released her in 2012.
The reality of working as a professional wrestler, and the injuries that come along with it, played a major part in Blank-Souray moving out of the squared circle. She encountered several bumps (no pun intended) and bruises in her career, her neck taking the brunt of the abuse.
"I feel like I left at the time where I knew what my body could handle and what it couldn't so when I left it was time," said Blank-Souray in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. "My body was saying, look, we've been through a lot. Let's give it a break and maybe come back to it."
Though Blank-Souray no longer performs inside the ring, she keeps tabs on what's going on in the WWE thanks in large part to her stepdaughter, who watches Raw every Monday. Her stepdaughter is "obsessed" with the current Divas, though they are no longer referred to as such like they were back in Kelly Kelly's wrestling days.
In April of this year at WrestleMania 32, the WWE unveiled the new Women's Championship belt and announced that the female talent would be called "Superstars," just like their male counterparts. The change capped the "Divas Revolution" that was sweeping through the division for months prior.
"I think it's a great thing for women," said Blank-Souray. "I feel like they're being taken more seriously now, and I think that's great. I think it's an honor, and I think the crowd and backstage people are starting to see what women bring to the table as wrestlers."
One cannot speak of women's wrestling without mentioning arguably one of the best and most influential female wrestlers of all time, Chyna, who tragically lost her life earlier this year. Chyna transcended the industry, showing that women were just as capable of being strong performers as men. She was the only female to ever hold the WWF Intercontinental Championship and was the first to participate in the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring events.
Nicknamed the "Ninth Wonder of the World," Chyna paved the way for numerous female wrestlers to follow, including Blank-Souray, who studied her tapes when she first got into the industry.
"I think she was a huge part of women's wrestling and making it what it is today for sure," said Blank-Souray. "I never got a chance to meet her actually, but she was amazing to watch."
Blank-Souray is one of many former wrestlers to pursue an on-camera career after leaving the ring, a transition she called "easy." Last year, she signed on to be a part of the E! Network reality show WAGS, which follows the lives of women and girlfriends of professional athletes. Blank recently married former NHL player Sheldon Souray, and their wedding will be broadcast in front of millions when the show's second season premieres June 26.
"I can't wait for the audience to see it and feel like they were a part of it," said Blank-Souray. "It's really important for me to keep my fans involved because they've always been there 100 percent, especially when I left WWE. I definitely have some bridezilla moments for sure, but the day, just the venue, on the beach and the reception, everything was so beautiful."
Whether the storylines Blank-Souray portrayed were fabricated for sports entertainment or documented live for reality TV, the woman behind the camera has stayed the same, a sentiment she is proud of.
"When it came to WWE, we were able to freestyle a lot of stuff, especially in the ring and backstage, so with reality I'm just kind of being myself and basically have the same character I was in WWE," said Blank-Souray. "I'm just being myself, and hopefully the crowd and the audience likes me."
Though being on the show fulfills her "fix" for now, Blank-Souray can't help but miss the performing aspect of professional wrestling and the reaction the loyal WWE fans would give her when she appeared from behind the curtain.
"I tell people all the time, that's the best feeling in the world," she said. "You'll never feel that anywhere else."