Maria Kanellis: “This is Me”


Diva Dirt is pleased to welcome former WWE Diva and the First Lady of Ring of Honor as our new weekly columnist. Stay tuned each week for new blogs from Maria.

What’s up all you Stars and Studs!!

First off, I would like to say thank you to Diva Dirt for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing website. I have loved the website since the day it opened and it has on many occasions introduced me to new women wrestlers from around the world. Yes, I am a women’s wrestling fan. I have been for a long time and yes, I take a huge interest in the women’s wrestling shows even though I am not the best women’s wrestler. That title goes to Victoria, Mickie, Sara Del Rey, MsChif, Kong, or Cheerleader Melissa active currently. And yes, that is my opinion. Secondly, there are so many things I could talk about… The Bellas, Ring of Honor, Pay the Fan, my relationship with Michael Bennett, my “big projects”, Total Divas, wrestling bullies, Raw, SmackDown, TNA, or just my thoughts on the current state of women’s wrestling. We will have plenty of time for all of it but first I want to give you my story.

My name is Mary Louis Kanellis and I am 31. I am from a small town outside of Chicago called Ottawa, Illinois. I have one beautiful intelligent sister, Janny, and one father of two and veteran brother, Bill. One funny story about my brother and me — we used to wrestle all the time and I broke his nose. Oops. I blame sibling rivalry and WWE. We used to watch it as a family when we were little. My parents are blue collar. My dad is a recently retired prison guard and my mother is a nurse’s aide at a nursing home. I grew up middle class and I began working at the age of 12. I was a bus girl, then ice cream maker, Jimmy John employee and dance teacher. For as long as I can maria5remember I have wanted to be an entertainer. I started dance lessons at the age of three. I used to, as a little girl, host television shows in my bathroom mirror. I started modeling at the age of 14 and I never looked back. As a model I felt I could get out of my small town and away from the teasing/bullying I experienced in school and in dance I could express myself with movement. I have always been different. I dressed different, I got my boobs at 12 before any other girl did, I liked fashion, and I was a creative person. In school I always got As in Art classes and I struggled in Mathematics. I remember when I was still in grade school girls used to make fun of my long hair and one time shut my hair in the bathroom door. Their laughter and the fact that I never fit in made me want a career in entertainment more than anything else. I only felt less lonely when I would look at the girls in magazines with their crazy clothes, confident looks, fearless makeup, and chicken legs. (Yes, I had skinny chicken legs all through school.) I was a victim of bullying and that continued into high school. When I went to high school I thought that I would find a place to fit in but it only got worse. In my freshmen year, my choir teacher, Mr. Amm, was the only person thus far in my life that made me feel that being weird was perfect. But my school counselor told me I could not fit everything into my schedule if I took choir the next year so I was alone again. Girls used to put negative and hurtful things on my locker. They would put pictures of me with a circle around my face calling me a slut or they would draw a mustache on a picture from the Seventeen magazine I was in and tape it to my locker.

I tried out for the dance team in high school, the Ottawa Pomerettes, but I didn’t have a white collar name in my small town so even though all the senior girls told me I had great tryout and should have made it, the coach would not put me on the team. My junior year when I was dating one of the varsity football team captains, I made the dance team. It was obvious why I made the team that particular year. Football was religion in my town. So, even though it was not my intention that was my first education about politics. I loved the dance team and performing at football and basketball games. But the coach was mean spirited and made fun of my long hair and told me I should cut it. No matter how hard I worked that coach did not like me. So, at practices I was put on display for what not to do or who not to be.

The dance studio was a different story. Jeanne Marie’s School of Dance is where I learned to perform and not be afraid to stand out. I felt at home on the wood floors of the dance studio above my old gym and alive in front of a crowd. We had recitals, competed in competitions, and performed at the yearly Riverfest in front of the entire town of Ottawa. Jeanne Armstrong, one of my dance teachers, had a way of pushing the best performance out of you. It didn’t matter how sick, tired, hurt, or depressed you were, YOU DANCED. I loved the crazy and sometimes (who am I kidding, most times) ugly costumes we wore and I loved forgetting the pain from the bullying I experienced during the day in high school. Jeanne, Rhonda, and Leigh Ann will forever be role models to me. I often think about what might have happened if my mom and I would have bought the studio after Jeanne sold it. It would have been a completely different life. By the time I left the studio it had a new owner. I was 21 and teaching 10 dance classes a week. It feels like a lifetime ago. My eyes were focused on Los Angeles and the entertainment business. It was time to go… Or I thought it was.

Somehow I ended up in Covington, Kentucky. I ending up engaged to my high school sweetheart that I didn’t love, but he loved me and wrestling. My ex and I used to watched wrestling all the time. I loved the women and looked at them as role models to get out of my bad situation. The Divas kept me going when I was depressed. So, I taught at a dance studio, went to the University of Cincinnati, and worked at a Sears all while trying to get modeling jobs in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a hard time. My fiancé was a drug addict and I was trying to get as far as possible from him and Ottawa as I could. I finally did when I got offered a modeling job in Miami, Florida. I was so excited!! The agency was going to put me up in a model studio and I was going to work in Miami. It sounded perfect. So, I packed everything I could in my Neon, broke up with my drug addict fiancé, and drove to Miami. As soon as I got there I knew something was wrong. There was no model studio and I was supposed to live with the owner of the agency. I had saved up a little bit of money so I got an efficiency in the same building still hoping I would be represented by the agent so I could make some money. It was scary and a big joke at the same time. I was so naive I did get a few jobs while I was in Miami but even with my very best attempts I couldn’t make enough money to stay. During the last job I did for the agency, while I was changing in the bathroom the agent walked in on me and tried to feel me up. He got kicked pretty hard in his (I’m assuming tiny) privates and I ran away. I ended up sleeping in my car and calling my mommy on a pay phone to ask her to send me money. I was 22, scared and alone. I had to go back to Ottawa, Illinois. Los Angeles was getting further away. My dream was slipping away.

On the way back to Ottawa I stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee for a Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest. I had been a Hawaiian Tropic bikini model since I was 17. My mom used to go with me to the bars the contests were being held at so I could enter even though I was under age. My mom has always been my biggest supporter and one of my best friends. With Hawaiian Tropics I got a taste of traveling. I went to Hawaii on my very first flight for Hawaiian Tropics. Bikini modeling was a better fit for me. I tried runway modeling and they told me I was too short and too fat. I visited so many agencies in Chicago and always got the same response: Too short. Too fat. Too short. Too fat. So, there I was in Knoxville running back home after a failed attempt in Miami, trying to make some maria1money by winning a contest. That night they were casting at the bikini contest for girls to star in a new reality show. I didn’t know the name or what the show was about. All I heard was Los Angeles and I wanted to try out. I did the casting that night hoping something would come out of it. By the way, I didn’t even place in the bikini contest that night. Haha… I just drove to Ottawa after the contest with the little bit of money I had left.

Back in Ottawa I got a job at a timeshare company and lived miserably from day to day. Going to Hawaiian Tropics contests when I could was the only thing I looked forward to. I won Miss Chicago, Illinois that year and went to Hawaii for the National Competition. I didn’t place in the Nationals but I loved the way it felt to model for pictures on the beach. Sunrise in the background and sand under my feet. I felt free. Free from everyone’s labels. Free from my past.

Then I got the phone call that changed everything. It was the reality show: Outback Jack, although it wasn’t called that at the time. They wanted me to come to LOS ANGELES for a callback. I went to LA and I was hooked. I remember the way the smog smelled when I got off the plane, the beautiful people, and the billboards on Sunset Boulevard like it was yesterday, but it was almost 10 years ago. I got cast on the show. I went to Australia in May of 2004 to shoot the show and fell in “love” with some Australian dude I barely knew. I was still young and stupid. But Australia was beautiful and so was he at the time. Jack told me he loved me the night I got eliminated from the the show and it wasn’t his choice to eliminate me but the producers. More politicking. Marissa made it to the final two instead because she was the typical bad girl and she made for better TV than me. In the end, Jack picked Natalie and they lived happily ever after in Louisville, Kentucky. They are happy, married, and have three daughters. Congrats to them! People always say, “Thank God for unanswered prayers”, and I do everyday. Jack was not my “one”. He was a fling on spring break that you forget in two weeks. And forget I did as soon as June came and I got even more exciting news.

In May 2004, after I got home from Australia, I entered into the Diva Search online. See, even though the drug addict fiancee was gone I still watched wrestling. So I entered online and in June I got a call from Howard Finkel and as you know, the rest is history…

We can pick up the story next time but I wanted to share my history before WWE because I was a fan and still am. I am a real person with real problems and feelings. I have dealt with terrible things like bullying, an attempted rape, abuse, homelessness and fear all before WWE. All entertainers have dealt with reality. We do not always have the glamorous lives that you might think we do. But, through it all, I have been able to build a wrestling family that I am proud of. I am enjoying my life so much more now than I ever have. Maybe it is age or maybe it is experience but I am happy to be a part of a company that builds stars instead of tearing them apart. Ring of Honor.

With respect,

Mary Kanellis
“The First Lady of ROH”

Catch me on Ring of Honor:

Maria Kanellis is a professional wrestling personality currently working for Ring of Honor, a former WWE Diva, Playboy covergirl and Celebrity Apprentice contestant.

Tweet about Maria’s column using the hashtag #MariaDivaDirt.

Maria Kanellis
Guest Columnist, Former WWE Diva
  • Yuna Zoey

    Reading this has really inspired me, and seeing how much you’ve gone through in your life just makes me respect you even more. I know for a fact I’ll be tuning into your blog weekly when published :)

  • Francisco

    yes! Welcome Maria! Let me just say I have always loved you from day one, you’re my favourite Diva of all time and you inspire me. I remember people saying you didn’t know how to wrestle and you were horrible, and every night i watched you on TV i saw that passion, that fire, to prove them wrong and you always did that, you always proved them wrong and that’s what i love about you, that you never give up and you always tried to be better! Welcome to Diva-Dirt :) <3

  • jesus carcano


  • jesus carcano

    Eww no

  • Foreveryoungx

    Cute story, gurl. But I was wanting some dirt on those damn Bella Twins.

    • username144

      I think you’d be disappointed. She is likely friends with the Bellas so I can’t see her giving any dirt about them.

      • Jedda-

        @82afb830c0878c2869d8debb6ee88044:disqus – Have you been living under a rock…?

        • Bella Army

          Yeah she’ll try to give dirt on them so that she can seem innocent, even though MARIA is the bully.

          • Jedda-

            @bellaarmy:disqus You’re running an “army” about two girls who literally could not possibly care less about you defending them on “da Interwebz”.

        • username144

          I have.

      • Foreveryoungx

        Lol. She said the Bellas prevented her and two other divas from getting contracts…

  • Irish_fan

    It took a while to read but it was worth it. Maria was a favourite of mine back when she was with WWE. You can’t help but have respect for someone that shares a story so personal to them. She could have easily wrote an article bashing wwe or the bella twins but instead she decided to let the fans know more about her and I respect her for it. Welecome to Diva dirt Maria

    • Bella Army

      “She could have easily wrote an article bashing wwe or the bella twins”

      But she will eventually. She is a bully herself.

  • Alex Castaneda

    Welcome to diva dirt Maria! I am a fan if you, I always watched you on TV when you were in WWE. It is a honor to read your blog, and I will be looking forward to all your posts in the future :)

  • BookSavvy

    Great write-up! Those of us in the “far south” suburbs are proud we can say you came from one of our little towns! Funnily enough, I was just watching the Divas episode of Project Runway and you were just so personable and genuine. Can’t wait to read more from you here on Diva Dirt!

  • WE BOUT THIS LIFE????????

    I know I’m gonna get a lot of thumbs down but… Maria was not one of my favorites, idk, she was just kinda plain in the ring back in her day. She kinda wrestle like velvet sky a little, a drop kick here and there, a closeline here and there. She just had nothing for me to jump for joy about.

    I’m not trying to disrespect her or her past struggles, that’s not me, I respect Maria as a strong person. But I just couldn’t watch a wrestling match she was in cause she was so awful.

    I rather diva dirt got TNA TARA to do a blog on here weekly or MICKIE JAMES. Somebody that can kick ass in the ring! NOT just stand there and look pretty, and throw a few punches here and there.

    That’s all.


    The only thing that NOBODY can’t be agree about is her passion for wrestling! Even if she is. not the best wrestler in the world, she LOOOOOVES this business! Unlike so many MODEL or pretty face, SHE WAS A WRESTLING FAN FROM DAY ONE and that why I will ALWAYS respect her!

    After seeing this, I respect her and like her more. GREAT article to debut and it was great to tell us your story before talking about anything else. I’m not a HUUUUGE fan of you but I like you because of your passion, your hard work and your dedication for it.
    I have one last thing to say, Welcome to Diva Dirt :)

    • Angelica Monae’

      I heard she couldnt remember the names of the wrestlers in her interviewer position. Doesnt sound like a fan to me. Not saying she didnt become a fan.

  • xUltimateBarbie

    Welcome to Diva Dirt Maria!!

  • XavierSkyy

    Reading this almost made me sad because I have a lot in common with the way you grew up. You’ve always been one of my favorites and I will always be a big supporter and defender of you. Can’t wait to hear more! Welcome to divadirt Maria!!

  • xFoxylicious

    A really touching story there. Thank you for sharing it with all of us Maria. :)

  • Kaitlyn.Lover<3

    Some people are really cinical but i will not be like that, sorry Maria, I used to be one of your biggest fans, but now I´m one of your biggest hater serioulsy! You became a jealous bitch, and i was not expecting that from you!

    • xFoxylicious

      Yeah..I used to love Maria until I heard that she started bashing people.. This is a really inspiring story, but I’m still not a fan of her bashing The Bellas.True or not, it’s getting annoying.

    • Raekon

      So is it jealousy when you say what you are thinking about someone AFTER it was confirmed that they blocked you from a opportunity?
      Maybe you should rethink a little cause what you are writing doesn’t make sense.

      • Kaitlyn.Lover<3

        Actually what she´s doing is called Cyber Bullying in case you don´t know, she keeps bashing The Bellas at every oportunity, always bringing them down and incentivates people doing it retweting the´re tweets, that shows the kind of person that she is!

        Maybe you should rethink a little cause what you are writing doesn’t make sense.

        • Francisco

          And don’t the bellas do that all the time too? dont they bully people all the time too? huh? blocking her and 2 other divas from returning? thats rude tbh maria hasn’t become a jealous bitch, she’s fighting for what she believes its correct, and if the bellas thought it was correct to block maria, well maria finds correct to insult them, and i support her a 100%, because she’s not afraid of speaking her mind and telling it how it is!

          • Angelica Monae’

            Tell me something? Who besides maria has stated that the bellas blocked her return? Anyone can say something is confirmed that doesnt mean it is.

          • Kaledrina

            there were reports maryse and kelly were to re-join wwe with maria for that planned wrestlemania match.

            maryse was scheduled for convention appearances around the same time as wrestlemania but cancelled due to “other commitments” soon after those reports leaked. maryse also quit following the bellas on twitter soon after wrestlemania, for what it’s worth. most of it could just be coincidence/fans playing private investigator and seeing things that aren’t really there.. but it does seem a bit too coincidental?

            i’m actually getting to meet and hang out with both kelly and maryse in a couple months. i definitely plan on asking ‘em about it.

          • AWESOMENICK


          • mxxm

            I heavily doubt Maryse and Kelly because they are friends. Maryse roomed with them at a point.

          • Raekon

            The People that confirmed it from which Maria found it out from.
            At first when she was asked she said “I don’t think that the Bellas would be unprofessional and do such a thing”.

        • Kaledrina

          how dare you try and call somebody out for cyber bullying when you’ve just been calling said supposed cyber bully a “jealous bitch”?

          i especially love how you went from calling somebody a CYBER BULLY on this DD article right into calling another DD user “delusional” “deaf” and “insecure” on another article.. you mean, little cyber bully, you ;) such lovely double standards you have ;)

          seriously, get with it.

        • Raekon

          I’m not using twitter and I don’t know everything she wrote there.
          What I know is that she follows Total Divas because she likes the Show and that she once wrote her opinion about the bellas calling themselves “Veterans” which was rather a hilarious and true comment than a hateful one.
          You and other fans wrote a lot worse stuff in the total divas articles right here on DD btw.
          Most of you called Nikki “Bitch”, “Gold Digger” among other things left and right so, are you cyber bullies aswell?
          So please put some thought and look into your own Actions before calling out others.
          They at least worked together in the past and know each other much better than we do.
          I can assure you that the only reason why the Bellas doesn’t reply on Maria is because they would get in Trouble with the WWE, not because they are THAT “Classy”.
          Have nothing against Maria of the Bellas and I wish all of them only the best.
          However, Cyber bullying Looks quite different than what Maria did and if you of all People are calling her out for such a Thing, then you should wear this “Label” yourself cause you do a similar Thing in this very site.

      • SomebodyCallMyDaddy

        Check out Maria’s timeline and you’ll see what she means. Its one thing to dislike someone but to sit there and hate tweet about them throughout the total divas debut makes her look thristy . Her tweets about wwe are also making fans think she’s jealous

  • SomebodyCallMyDaddy

    Now that we got the intros out the way , time to get to the juicy details. Wtf is going on with u and the Bella’s?? Who were u bffs with in wwe? Who did U have beef with (besides kelly)? Did any married superstars ever hit on u? Did u have to deal with jealousy from the other girls when u got your mini push (bunny mania) ?? Did anyone bully/haze u backstage because u were from a modeling background instead of indies?? Did/does girls that date big names in wwe like Michelle mccool and the Bella’s really get specail treatment?

    • Bella Army

      “Did u have to deal with jealousy from the other girls when u got your mini push”

      I think Maria was often the jealous one. Which is why she lashes out on other divas.

      • XavierSkyy

        Often lashes out? Are you serious? Maria has only said negative things about 4 girls: Kelly, The Bella’s, and Melina. She didn’t particularly “bash” Melina, and she apologized to Kelly about her comments. So that only leaves the Bella’s. towards the end of her career she was the top diva on smackdown. The Bella’s are just now being considered top divas so how is it that she “lashed out” at other girls exactly?

  • Christopher Bello

    I find it so ironic how I just rewatched her YouShoot interview. I’ve always admired how blunt and candid Maria has been, but this is a whole other level of vulnerability that has to be respected. Love her.

  • Randi Parker

    While I am not a fan of how she says things and talking about the personal lives of people, when she has no right, its nice to see a girl from a normal background becoming something shes loved since she was a child, gives me hope!

    • xFoxylicious

      Indeed. It’s a really inspiring story.

      • Randi Parker

        I’m sure there are others we haven’t heard of, but from a woman who has made it to the top company, its really nice to hear!

        • xFoxylicious

          Yes, it is. It kinda gives me hope that one day I can fulfill my dreams.

    • Randi Parker

      And another thing Maria, IDK if you will see this but, going through some of your WWE shoots for this contest thing I have been doing on tumblr, you look really pretty when you hair is like this, I think you should wear it like this more often, just an opinion!

  • @KENLushh

    I believe Maria has a story to tell. Rather you agree with her voicing her opinions or not, she’s been through alot (as just read). While i’m not a fan of “Poor me” stories i’m interested to see what she can contribute to the site.
    You (Maria) seem like a beautiful girl though, just hung up on the wrong things.

  • OJ Von Erich

    I look forward to hearing more of Maria’s life story & insight, I see a very interesting few reads ahead!

  • EricHolt

    Wow, just wow…You know, you never truly know someone until they actually open up to you and tell you about themselves. Maria has been through ALOT in her life, and reading this actually touched my heart and made me see a completely different side of Maria. After reading her blog, I have seen a more passionate, softer side to Maria. She seems to have a heart of gold. I personally have never had a problem with Maria in general. I just did not like her comments about The Bella Twins on Twitter lately because I personally felt they were a bit harsh, but other than that, I never had a dislike for her. I know that last night on the RAW response post I had asked if anyone had heard that Maria was going to be a columnist for Diva Dirt, but I just want to clarify that me bringing that up did not mean that I have a dislike for her, and I feel the need to clarify that because I don’t want people to think I’m being a hypocrite or a liar (trust me, I know how people can be on here sometimes.) But anyways, I have a newfound respect for Maria. She has worked so hard for everything and kept on chasing her dreams, no matter who or what tried to stop her along the way. No matter how anyone feels about Maria, you can’t deny that she has a lot of heart & passion. Maria’s an inspiration to anyone that’s ever been bullied, that’s ever been in a bad relationship, and that’s ever had to go through so many hardships in order to make their dreams become a reality. I look forward to seeing more blog posts from Maria in the coming weeks.

  • Gavin Harvey

    i like maria i just hope she doesnt bash any one

    • xFoxylicious



      If Twitter is any indication, she will.

  • Magicimpact

    Wow, i’m glad everthing turned out great for Maria i felt as.if i was reading a good book or novel i just didnt want to stop

  • Brandon Hawthorne

    Girl bye.

  • SweeneyTodd

    I hope she holds back with hate tirades against other divas.

    • Kaitlyn.Lover<3

      Yes because most people don´t undertsand, but what she does is Cyber Bullying!

      • WE BOUT THIS LIFE????????

        I agree. If the Bella’s would have known about her past, she would be in trouble they would have bash her harder than ever.

      • I dig CrayJ

        I so agree!And smth else,it’s nice for a diva to grow up watching wrestling,but that doesn’t mean she’s bound to be a great wrestler and vice versa.Alicia Fox was asked by the WWE to join them w/ Kelly Kelly and propably didn’t watch wrestling yet she is a great wrestler while Maria…not so much

        • Kaitlyn.Lover<3

          So true, she is always bashing The Bella´s in ring work, and acts like she is awosme in the ring, while the Bellas are much more talented, she is just jealous, and I hate bullies!

  • username144

    This is a wonderful article.