Sonya Deville on being WWE’s first openly gay female superstar: ‘I want to be a voice for the community in sports’
Openly gay WWE superstar Sonya Deville says she wants to be an “voice” for the LGBT+ community in sports – specifically wrestling.
Deville – who’s real name is Daria Berenato – came out in 2015 when she appeared on the reality TV show Tough Enough and was signed onto WWE. She made headlines when she revealed that she is a lesbian on national TV and became the first ever active, out female WWE star.
Deville, 27, told Variety that she wants to continue her advocacy for the LGBT+ community and let other queer athletes know that their sexuality “doesn’t define them”.
“I really just want to be a voice for the community in sports – specifically in the WWE,” Deville said. “I want to let people know that their sexuality doesn’t define them and how they identify doesn’t define them. And I’m a perfect example of it.”
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She told Variety that she has a huge LGBT+ fanbase and estimated that “70 per cent” of her fans are “part of the community somehow, some way”. DeVille even said she gets messages “constantly” on social media and emails from people asking for advice.
“I get messages constantly on Instagram and Twitter and emails, just all the people always asking me like, ‘Hey do you have any advice on how I should come out?'” Deville explained. “Or, ‘Thank you. You helped me feel OK with myself and my sexuality.’ That’s literally the reason I use my voice.”
Sonya Deville also reflected on coming out during her time on Tough Enough. She told Variety that she was scared that coming out on TV was “going to hurt my chances of getting hired” because “that’s just how naive I was”.
“I didn’t accept myself so I didn’t think anyone else was going to accept me,” Deville said.
Beyond appearing in the ring, Sonya Deville also stars on WWE as an on-air personality and authority figure, lending her insights in a variety of fights. She has also used her spotlight to advocate for LGBT+ rights in the US.
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Deville recently underwent a horrific experience this last summer when a man was arrested after plotting for months to kidnap the WWE star and hold her hostage in her own home. The man was arrested in August after he had travelled from his home in South Carolina to Florida, where Deville lives.
The man spent hours waiting and watching her through the windows of her home before sneaking in through the backdoor. But Deville was alerted to the intruder by a burglar alarm, fled her home with a guest and called authorities.
Sonya Deville told Variety that the man’s trial “hasn’t even begun yet”, and she will “probably be dealing with that for the next several months”. But she said she will “definitely speak on it once it’s all legally wrapped up”.
“There are things I want to say that I think could help performers and just people in general in the future,” Deville said.