Netflix’s hit series GLOW is back in full swing for their second season!
This season, former Knockouts Champion turned GLOW actress Awesome Kong, real name Kia Stevens, returns to her role as “Welfare Queen” Tammé and is featured in her own spotlight episode titled “The Mother of All Matches”.
In an interview with The Ringer, Stevens discusses the spotlight episode, struggles she has dealt with in her wrestling career and input she provided to the writing team. Highlights of the interview below.
On if she has struggled with inhabiting stereotypes as a wrestler as Tammé does: For sure! Absolutely, for sure. When I first went to Japan, I didn’t get to choose my name, Amazing Kong. In fact, I was training in Santa Monica at the New Japan dojo and Shinsuke Nakamura, who’s now a WWE superstar, called me Kong. I didn’t know if he was just unaware of the connotation that Kong would have for a black person, because he was from Japan, but I got really upset. Then they had to explain to me that they’d recently had a press conference, and that the company that was bringing me over had named me Kong. So I had to go home and really contemplate and really consider what I’d be getting myself into, and whether or not I should just ditch the job, even though it would be a great opportunity for me. I was at home, in Hollywood at the time, and an N.W.A song came on. I remember thinking, “Hey, N.W.A stands for what it stands for.” Since they can be N.W.A, I could be Kong, and I would make this name my own, and make anyone who sees it, hears it, and relates it to me understand that it’s about respect. And that I did. Anyone who sees Amazing or Awesome Kong respects that name first. I feel that that’s a goal that my people should always work towards, not a meaning of ridicule or put-down, but always respect. I owned it, and I own it today.
On whether she dealt with audience abuse or reaction as some of the GLOW characters do: Not as often as one would think. In Japan, the fans take it extremely seriously. They report wrestling in the newspapers as if they were reporting on baseball. They really buy into the magic of wrestling. And since I was Kong, a definite monster heel, and was definitely the opponent in the ring, there were a few fans that were generally upset and scared for their hero. They would try to knock me down a peg before I would even get into the ring. But I found that to be hilarious, because I felt like if they hated me that much, I felt like I was doing my job. It had nothing to do with my name. It was all about commanding respect, and they hated me for the character, not because I was black or my name was Kong or anything like that. I didn’t go through any of that. There were people who, when they found out I was a wrestler, they didn’t know anything about wrestling. So when they heard my name, they were like, “Oh my god, girl, why would you let them name you that?” Then I had to explain it to them—that if you’re a fan of wrestling and you hear the name Amazing or Awesome Kong, you sit up straighter.
On learning her character would be getting a spotlight episode: It was a surprise to me, because a lot of us had heard, “Oh, they’re having a special episode that goes in a different direction from a traditional episode,” and most of us girls wouldn’t be in it. And I just assumed that I wouldn’t be in it. I had actually planned a trip to Hearst Castle and Santa Barbara. [Laughs] I was like, “I’ll have the week off! It’ll be fine!” And we got the script and I was like, “OK, well this is very interesting.” It was, I tell you, a treat. A real treat. Just preparing for it, I could get extremely serious. I got an acting coach specifically for that episode, since there was a lot of drama and a lot of emotion in that episode. It was a treat all the way around, to learn more about Tammé and meet her son.
On talking to the writers about her wrestling experience: They definitely asked me about my experiences as a wrestler, and specifically as an African American woman of nontraditional size in wrestling. I feel that they’ve heard me, and that they’ve incorporated parts of my story throughout GLOW, whether it’s through Tammé or someone else’s character. I feel heard through our overall story.
Stevens also discusses rocking an “urban mullet” during filming and how some of her character is drawn from personal experience.
What did you think of the interview? Have you tuned in to season two of Netlfix’s GLOW? Where would you like to see Stevens’ Tammé character go next? Let us know in the comments below!