It may seem wrestler Nia Jax was born to be tough, especially while watching some of her recent matches, but the WWE superstar said she didn’t grow up as the confrontational character she portrays while in the ring.
Jax opened up about her own childhood experiences with bullying and why she’s using her wrestling fame to teach young kids about respect, in a new interview for “What Would You Do?”
“I don’t want any kid to feel like they’re less than anything,” Jax said while shooting the scenario about teen bullying.
Jax spoke with ABC’s John Quiñones while they watched pedestrians encounter teen actors bickering and bullying another teen actor through hidden cameras setup in New Jersey’s Van Saun County Park. She listened as the young girls called the teen “a loser” and “a freak” and told her “nobody wants to be seen with her.”
As she watched, Jax said she described the victim in this scripted conversation as “a beautiful young girl” and wanted “to give her a big hug.”
Jax spoke with Quiñones about the impact she says bullying can have on teenagers.
“It kills your confidence, especially when you’re young and you want to be a part of everything,” Jax said. “When there’s a clique like that, that comes and attacks you and attacks how you look, you second guess everything about yourself. You can’t really find that confidence you really need when you grow up.”
It may seem the model and former bodybuilder (whose real name is Savelina Fanene) was born to be tough, but she said that wasn’t always the case. She explained she was called names like “Jolly Green Giant” and “Bigfoot” as a young adult.
“I would always be made fun of just for being my size,” Jax said.
Jax said her “amazing mother and some really incredible brothers” helped her get through her experiences with bullying when she was younger.
The 36-year-old further credited her cousin, actor and fellow wrestling star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, for providing encouragement to jump into the ring as a professional wrestler.
“He said, ‘You’re beautiful. You’re athletic…You have so much to offer,’” Jax explained.
“Growing up thinking that I don’t fit in, that actually is what makes me a better superstar,” Jax said. “Not fitting in and showing people that not fitting in is a good thing.”
Jax commented on the 2018 storyline where she was seen constantly being bullied by a rival but ended up defeating her at WrestleMania 34 to win the coveted WWE Raw Women’s Champion title.
Jax described to Quiñones the impact that match had on her fans.
“Young girls would come up to me and say how inspired they were,” Jax said. “Young girls need to be able to see themselves on TV, relate and see situations that they actually are involved in everyday at school.”
Jax also shared about her involvement with The “Be A STAR” initiative, where she has spoken to kids about bullying across the country. She said she often shared her advice at those rallies to any young person getting bullied.
“My best advice is to confide in somebody about how you truly feel,” Jax said. “Don’t think that you’re ever alone.”
After filming for the “What Would You Do?” hidden camera scenario ended, Jax and Quiñones spoke with the actors on set about their experiences with bullying. One of the actors told Jax, although she was playing a character, the strangers’ reactions hit close to home.
“What makes me feel the worst is when I see people coming by and they don’t do anything,” said Cassidy Mullin, an actor who portrayed the bullying victim. “I wish I could tell them, ‘A girl’s in pain here. She’s overpowered. She needs someone else to step in and help her.’”
Jax ended the day by giving the four young actors some parting words.
“You should love who you are at whatever age,” Jax said. “Embrace everybody’s differences and just grow up happy and confident. You know, rule the world.”