Looking back at the history of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) stars, there were rarely any Black pro wrestlers participating in any main events. If they did, it was for a specific role: “the good guy.” Black children never saw Black wrestlers’ storylines widely televised the way we do now. Compelling campaigns built around Black “good guy” brands didn’t exist.
Tennessee native Bianca Belair stepped in the ring with BlavityU to discuss being a Black pro wrestling superstar in all its glory.
Belair was an All-American and All-SEC track-and-field performer in hurdles at the University of Tennessee and was named on the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2011 and 2012.
Before she was the “EST” of WWE — a nickname given to Belair for being the prettiest, greatest, fastest and strongest — she was first the “EST” of the next generation “NXT” of WWE stars, when she wrestled in multiple matches starting in 2016. The wrestling superstar later made her WWE debut in 2020 and began her pro career winning championship titles.
“You go through the whole process of trying to figure out who you want to be and how you want to be portrayed. So I had a whole lot that went into how I wanted to be portrayed as ‘The EST’ of WWE,” Belair told BlavityU.
“I wanted to be portrayed as a feminine but strong woman,” she added.
Belair has definitely succeeded in that arena, as she became the first Black woman to win the Royal Rumble and SmackDown women’s championships.
Her career grew relatively quickly. Within just five years, Belair made history with Sasha Banks when the two became the first Black women to headline and compete against each other in WrestleMania 37, which later won an ESPY award for Best WWE Moment. The “EST” was also named
Pro Wrestling Illustrated‘s No. 1 wrestler in the 2021 Women’s 150 rankings.
“What I will say is that I came into WWE at an amazing time, where a lot of the women that came before us laid the foundation. And the women are getting a lot of amazing storylines and putting on many events and having wrestling matches on the same caliber as the males,” Belair said.
While revealing that she “didn’t grow up watching wrestling,” the superstar described her path as “fast and very unique.”
“Starting from the get-go with not knowing anything, you know, having to learn the history of the business and then coming in and thinking you just ‘get in the ring and fight,’ but no, you don’t just get in the ring and fight,” she said. “It’s so much more that goes into it. It’s our characters; it’s how we want to be portrayed. It’s sports entertainment.”
During our sitdown, Belair revealed to BlavityU that she has big dreams for the near future.
“I just got drafted in the first round of RAW. I’m going after the RAW Women’s Championship; I want to be the face of RAW and continue to be a role model for little boys and girls. Not just for [the children] but for adults who look like me too,” she affirmed.
As she continues to accomplish her dreams in the ring, Belair is living proof that being “The EST” in any field involves having a vision, being disciplined, studying the craft and putting on a good show.
“I’ve had an amazing journey, but it hasn’t been easy. My main goal is just to be a representation and to be a positive role model,” she told BlavityU. “Audrey Lorde has a book; she talks about how, as a Black woman, sometimes we feel like we have to just pick one aspect of ourselves, that we can’t present ourselves as a whole. We’re multifaceted, and I want to present myself as a whole, and that’s really what being an ‘EST’ is.”
Be sure to catch the “EST” of the WWE, Bianca Belair, on Monday Night Raw airing on USA Network at 8 p.m. ET every Monday night.