Former WWE Diva’s Champion Kaitlyn opened up about her struggles with body image issues that caused her to leave the wrestling business.
Long before the Women’s Evolution was in full swing in WWE, Kaitlyn helped break barriers in the Divas division alongside AJ Lee. In June of 2013, the two of them famously had a pay-per-view match that went well beyond the few minutes normally allotted to Divas matches, and it stood out for both its length and the skill of both performers.
However, Kaitlyn, real name Celeste Bonin, recently revealed to Renee Paquette on The Sessions that her time in wrestling was not always happy.
“My time in WWE, it would be easy to say it fucked me up and I thought that for a long time and that’s why I didn’t do anything in wrestling for a really long time, until the [2018 Mae Young Classic]. That was such a big deal to me because I literally didn’t know how to process it. Any time that I’d do an appearance or a signing or something or talk about wrestling, I’d have these feelings that I didn’t know how to process and I didn’t know how to not have them, essentially.
“Everything I looked at in wrestling, the painful shit and the things I went through and was struggling with during my time there. Also, the really profoundly beautiful things, all the opportunities, the travel, the connections, the love available to me from fans and my peers, and the deep connections that I made all of it showed me and reflected to me things that already existed in me, pain that already existed in me.”
Kaitlyn continued, opening up about the fact that her battle with body dysmorphia was severe enough that it eventually led to her asking for her release from WWE.
“I left wrestling because I thought I was just gonna get fired. I felt less and less relevant. I had so much shame I had gained all this weight, and like my body was just giving me every signal that I was not okay, emotionally, mentally, I had so much hatred for myself, I had so much resentment for myself and like that projected outwards towards others. I was in self-destruct mode, so I just asked for my release on a day that was a really shitty day.
“I was so disassociated from so much of that day. Because it was so painful because I didn’t understand why I was doing these things. I just was like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ For a long time, I hated the way I left because like I ripped myself out of like really the only love and support I had really in my life. But I didn’t know how to receive any of it. Like I was isolating myself. So I’m like, ‘Okay, well, maybe this is time for me to leave.’
“I had gotten engaged really fast. I felt like I just needed to go on a hiatus and just figure my shit out. I left and I got a couple of months’ severance and I didn’t really have a plan on what I was going to do. I literally felt like I don’t have anything to give to share. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what my career is — I felt so lost.”
Continuing, Kaitlyn explained that starting a new business venture after leaving WWE was just a replacement for wrestling, which had in turn replaced fitness competitions as part of her identity.
“I can see this now to me it [the business] was just replacing wrestling, and wrestling was replacing fitness and competing. So like my only relevance, I felt growing up like in my teen years, especially, I started to find my identity in being really muscular and strong. So I started working out a lot and I competed as soon as I got out of high school and that became my identity.
“I was like, this is the way that I’m going to get love and respect and be something in the world through this. This is the vessel and so when I started doing that, I had some success. Then immediately after the first couple of shows I did I started having like really fucked up body dysmorphia and didn’t I didn’t understand nutrition, I didn’t understand how to take care of myself.”
According to Kaitlyn, being able to connect with fans has been extremely rewarding and that she’s able to share her struggles to help others who might be going through similar issues.
“I think it’s why I love connecting to fans so much. Now when I do like signings and stuff, because I’m like, ‘whatever you’re going through right now,’ because like, a lot of times people come up and they’re so nervous, and they’re just like, like a wreck. I’m like, just so you know, ‘Whatever you’re feeling it’s okay, when I was on TV, I felt like this every day.’ So, we’re all the same. It’s so cool. Because like that really gives people this ability to be like, ‘oh,’ so, wrestling became my new vessel.”
Kaitlyn first appeared in WWE as part of season 3 of NXT, where she went on to be the eventual winner of the season. As part of NXT Redemption, Kaitlyn was heavily involved in storylines alongside Derrick Bateman as the two of them teamed up against the couple of Maxine and Johnny Curtis. Though the two would eventually go on to be bitter rivals, Kaitlyn spent the beginning of her time on the main roster in a tag team with AJ Lee, and the two were known as the Chickbusters.
Kaitlyn’s last match in WWE was once again against AJ Lee and took place on Main Event on January 8, 2014, the same day that she decided to ask for her release from WWE.
h/t Fightful for the transcriptions used in this article