By Scott Stevenson and Andrea Lowe
Now that her days as a WWE Diva are behind her and she’s settled into life outside the ring, Trish Stratus has been able to slow down and focus on the things closest to her heart. But between her charity work, opening up a yoga studio, hosting an exciting new adventure travel show and her countless other interests, we’d say she hasn’t slowed down one bit.
Luckily, Ms. Stratus found the time to Chill with us and fill us in on what she’s been up to.
Let’s start by you telling us a little bit about bit about yourself.
My full name is Trish Stratus. I’m a Sagittarius, I was born and raised in Toronto - grew up and went to high school in Richmond Hill. From there I went to York University, I studied biology and kinesiology and my ultimate goal was to become a doctor. However, at that time the university professors went on strike, so I was kind of put on hold, just waiting for school to come back. During that time, I was approached by Robert Kennedy, who is the publisher of a fitness magazine and he asked me if I’d be interested in doing some shots for a magazine. I’d never done that before, but I thought it’d be fun, so I did a few test shots for him and he made me a deal. He said, “I like what I see and I’ll give you a few months with a personal trainer, a few months to eat, sleep, and train and get ready for another photo shoot." Since that was my first job, I said, “Oh great," but it was only because school was on break that I got to really delve into that. And, because I was studying biology and kinesiology, I got to practice some of the theories I was learning in school which was great. My first photo shoot turned into my first magazine cover and suddenly I became a fitness model and was travelling all over the world. When school came back in session I had to decide if I’d be able to balance the two and I didn’t think I could. In the end I decided to leave school and focus on the fitness at least for a while and it turned out great! I’ve had an amazing career, and it was the fitness modelling that led me to everything.
How did a girl from Richmond Hill end up on the mat of the WWE?
I was on a show called Michael Landsberg’s Off the Record and I was a popular guest because I was a chick who knew about sports. I was on the show when wrestling was starting to go primetime on TSN and was turning into a big deal and I attended a press event for it. After that press conference, for some reason an internet rumour started that Trish Stratus had signed a deal after Vince McMahon saw me on TV. Totally false, but the rumour kept growing bigger and bigger, people were constantly asking me when I was starting, and one day I just did it. I guess after all the rumours had grown, the WWE finally said, “Okay, who is this Trish Stratus we keep hearing about?" But they didn’t call me, there was no such contact beforehand, it just kind of happened. I signed a deal in 2000 and made my wrestling debut in March of 2000, and that’s that.
Herniated discs, numerous broken noses – not part of most people’s 9-5. What kept you going?
Wrestling was a tough deal – I definitely had a lot of bruises and broken bones to prove it was a rigorous job, but I loved what I did. I was able to combine athleticism with being an entertainer and got to travel the world. It was just such a unique opportunity, being able to get out there and entertain the fans; there was no other rush like that. It was definitely some of the best years of my life, I felt like I was kind of made for the job.
How did your family and friends respond to your decision to enter into wrestling?
It was really interesting because I had to find a way to say, “Mom and Dad, I’m not going to be a doctor anymore, I’m going to be a wrestler." But at the time it made sense, because a series of events caused this amazing opportunity to be presented to me. So everyone was really excited, and no matter what career path I chose, they were going to be supportive. They knew I was passionate about wrestling and loved being athletic, so if I could make a career out of it, they thought it was great.
How hard was it to walk away?
Walking away was very tough, but it was right. It just felt right. I had been doing it for almost seven years, and when you’re a wrestler you sacrifice a lot more than just your body. We had no off-season, we were constantly on the road. I think one year I was on the road for 300 days of the year. I missed seeing a lot of my friends getting married or having babies, which was fine. I sort of looked at it like, if I was going to med school, I would’ve been putting all that stuff on hold anyway. When the WWE asked me to re-sign, I had already been doing it for over six years at that point; I had set out to do some things in wrestling. I wanted to be the world champion, I wanted to be known as the best champion ever, not saying that I am, but some people say that (laughs). But I had won a record number of titles at that point, I had worked with all the people that I wanted to work with, and at that time my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, so I knew I couldn’t go back out on the road, I needed to be there for her. So that was the trigger that made me know walking away was right. I was also lucky enough to have a storybook ending. I retired in front of my hometown crowd at the ACC and took my final bow as a champion, so I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
What is your advice for any young woman trying to break into wrestling or any other career?
Set your goals and go for it. People constantly ask me if I always wanted to be a wrestler, but when I started, there wasn’t really a women’s wrestling division, so it wasn’t really something to aspire toward. I got lucky with my timing because it was right when they decided they were going to start a women’s division. Now it’s interesting because young girls can say, “When I grow up, I want to be a diva." But really, in anything you do, just set your goals and go for it, but remember to be prepared. My motto is ‘Preparedness meets opportunity’ – do all you can do to be prepared so when opportunity comes knocking at your door, you can take full advantage and maximize that opportunity.
How about some advice for men who have to report to those career women?
Whether you’re working with or for a women, show respect.
Having lived in the United States for so long, what are your thoughts on Barack Obama winning the election?
I never lived in the States. I always stayed in Canada. Toronto is my home base, and that was a luxury. Even though I was always travelling, Toronto has a great airport with a lot of direct flights, so I was able to stay home and keep my friends and family. I think that’s what grounded me. It was nice to have that home base to come home to. But I think it’s great that Obama won. America needs change, and I think he is the answer for that, and it’ll be interesting to see how the world accepts him and what happens from here.
How did your travel show Stratusphere come about?
I had been working on a show for CBC called The Second City’s Next Comedy Legend, and the producer, Morgan Elliott and I got to talking about travelling the world and I mentioned that as a wrestler, I only really saw the airports and arenas, I never really got to see anything else. Anyway, a while later she was at the Banff World Television Festival and mentioned she was working with me and there was an opportunity to create a new show, and we ended up landing a 10 episode deal. So we put Stratusphere together and decided it would be an adventure show where I would tackle a new adventure in each place.
What types of adventures have you done?
I’ve done Muay Thai boxing in Thailand, gone paragliding in North India. I did a reindeer race in Norway, tried Glima wrestling in Iceland, which is what the Vikings did, and I’ve tried sword fighting in South India. Everything we do has a relevance to the culture, so it allows us to look deeper within the culture of the places we visit.
We came across a Stratusphere web forum that included a post from a 16-year-old girl in India who said watching you on your show inspires her to believe she can do anything. What does having that type of impact on people mean to you?
Wow. It’s interesting to come across people who have watched or followed my career and hear that I’ve inspired them. It’s hard to take sometimes, especially when I was wrestling because I was beating people up for a living. Is that a good example? But I think what they actually see is me setting goals and going out and actually tackling them. Just go for it. I always aim to reach the highest level. I always say, I want to be the best at whatever I’m doing, and I think everyone should do that.
You have such a fearless, go get ‘em attitude. Is there anything you’re afraid of?
I think I can honestly say I’m fearless. I feel like I’m living life to the fullest. I don’t think you should fear anything. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a couple times in my travels where I was like, “What the heck am I doing," but I still did it. You have to go for it. Not to sound morbid, but if it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.
You seem to be developing a lot of different business interests. If we didn’t know better, we’d think you were building an empire. Care to tell us about what you’re doing and what your goals are?
I am slowly building an empire actually! (Laughs) I opened Stratusphere because of my passion for yoga, and building the studio gave me the unique opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. I saw the difference it made in my life, I was able to live a much fuller life, and I wanted to give people somewhere they could try something new and unknown, but feel safe and at ease while doing it. And it helps that I have the most amazing teachers here who help me spread the word. It was interesting because after I retired from wrestling, I had a lot of people coming to me asking “Can you put your name on this, can you be the spokesperson for this?" But Stratusphere was an organic thing that came from my love of yoga.
You’re also heavily involved with charity work. What triggered your philanthropic spirit?
It comes from just having the ability to give back to my community. While I was with the WWE they were really good at getting us involved with various charities, especially ones that involved children. The Make-A-Wish Foundation was something we were very dedicated to, helping fulfill a wish as simple as helping a terminally ill child meet up with their favourite WWE star. It was amazing to see how much just spending a little time meant to them, such a simple thing, but it meant the world to them. I learned that just becoming involved helps to bring awareness to these causes and helps make a difference. A cause that is close to my heart is the Sick Kids Foundation as my sister had open heart surgery there when she was in grade one and I saw first-hand what an important place it is, and the kind of support they provided my sister and my family.
How does Trish chill?
I do yoga. Its funny because as a Type A personality I thought I’d never be able to do it because I’d be going over to-do lists in my head – but it turns out that doing yoga is what helped me to accomplish my goals and allowed me to actually cross stuff off my to-do list by making me a fuller, more focused person.
Vince McMahon is one of the masters of marketing. Was there any conflict for you being marketed equally as a sex symbol and an athlete?
Initially, I was brought into the WWE as a sex symbol. But I think it also worked for me as an athlete because of the evolution of women’s wrestling, and the introduction of the WWE Divas. I knew I was capable of getting in the ring and was athletic enough to try and do what the guys were doing. It did take some re-educating of the fans, though. At first they were like, “Okay, where’s your bikini?" or “What are you girls wrestling for?" But we decided that we were going to do this and show a different side to the women, and prove that we could not only show some butt, we could kick some butt!
It took a while for the fans to come around, but it helped after Vince saw the whole picture - you know, we could go out there and wrestle, but you could also put us on magazine covers.
How rigorous was the diet and training during your wrestling years?
Coming from a fitness background I learned to do my eating and my training in order to sculpt my body. When I started on the road it was a little bit of an adjustment because I was travelling like crazy, so could only eat what was available. You can eat the catering, you can go to Wendy’s and grab a chicken breast, things like that. It was hard though, there were no gym, so we’d just try to stay at hotels that had a gym or were near a gym.
The training was a little difficult and I just kind of learned it along the way. It’s hard with wrestling though, your body never really recovers because you’re continuously going, so you just had to try and train to keep your body in top form. The biggest thing for me was finding yoga. That helped me not only not feel the pain that I thought was normal, but I could also workout in my own hotel room and didn’t always have to search for a gym. It allowed me to be a little more centered.
How about some advice for men who have to report to those career women?
Whether you’re working with or for a women, show respect.
What are some of the core differences and similarities between Americans and Canadians?
There are a lot of differences. As a personality on television, Canadians are always coming up to me saying, “Wow, you do such a great job, we’re so proud of you." Whereas in the States, people are running up like, “Sign this! Sign this!" I think Americans are much more fascinated by the celebrityism of it, while Canadians appreciate the hard work it takes to make it.
Ever use one of your wrestling moves to keep your husband in line?
I try to keep my wrestling moves in the ring and only break them out on trained professionals!
Have all your travels given you a new perspective on what life is really like in Canada – good or bad?
I think we have such an amazing country. It’s amazing to go away to these different cultures for specific reasons – we went to Norway for the cold weather or to the south for the warm weather. We’re lucky because we have a little bit of everything. I think New Zealand is probably most similar to Canada in the way that they’re adventurous and they’re happy, fun people just like we are. Everywhere I go people are always saying, “Oh, I love Canadians, they’re so nice!"
If you had to pick a country other than Canada to call home, which would it be?
I think New Zealand. Besides the accent, it’s pretty close to Canada, except they love adventure. A good example is, in New Zealand, they have the Sky Tower like we have the CN Tower. The only difference is, we light our tower up and we look at it, but in New Zealand, they jump off it. I’d say that’s the only big difference. The Kiwis are quite adventurous.
How involved are you with the studio itself? Do you participate in or teach classes?
I am a certified Ashtanga yoga instructor, but I haven’t taught any classes yet because I’ve been really busy with the Stratusphere travel show. It is one of my ultimate goals though. But because we have such awesome teachers and with yoga, you’re always learning, I feel a little selfish in that I just want to slip into the classes and learn from my amazing teachers. But I think one day there will definitely be a Stratusfaction class being held.
What is your message to men who are uneasy about taking yoga?
Usually when I tell a guy he should try yoga, the first reaction is, “Oh no, that’s for girls." A lot of people also think you have to already be totally flexible or that they’ll have to sing hymns or something. Sometimes there is chanting, but not all the time. We’ve actually done a class called ‘Yoga for Guys Who like Fries,’ which was to try and show men you don’t have to be in great shape to come and do this. It really enhances your life in so many ways, especially when you’re really stressed out with your job or the kids. Just come to yoga, get away for an hour and you’ll be amazed with the results. I’m starting to see it now, more and more guys are walking through the door to take a class. When we first started this place about 1/3 of the clients were men, so we built smaller washrooms for the men. Now it’s almost half and half – there are hockey players and athletes and everyday guys coming in to take a class. Also, guys become more in-tune with their body when they’re about 18 or 19 years-old, and they’re starting to realize if they do yoga it’ll make them better at whatever sport they play.
Five, 10 or 15 years down the road – where will Trish be?
Definitely doing yoga, but other than that, I’m not sure. Every point in my life has been so different, there have been so many interesting steps. If you asked me in university what I would be doing, I’d say being a doctor. If you asked me when I was doing fitness modelling, I’d say I’d continue to be a fitness model. I just know that I’m going to try to constantly be doing something that challenges me. There needs to be a challenge involved with everything I do, I can’t sit back and just cruise.
Are you a Type A, Type B, or Type C (chill) personality?
I am a full on, total a type A personality.
Trish’s Dish – if you had only pickles, peanut butter, lettuce, bread, yogourt, sardines, eggs, chocolate milk and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce in the fridge, what would you make?
First I’d throw the sardines in the green bin, then I’d drink the chocolate milk. Then I’d make a salad with the pickles and lettuce with a little Frank’s hot sauce for dressing – delicious! Then I’d make a peanut butter sandwich with a little bit of yogourt, because, why not!
Christmas is right around the corner – will Santa say that Trish has been naughty or nice?
He’d definitely say I’ve been nice.
What would you like Santa to bring you this year?
I would like Santa to bring me a little box of happiness for the whole world!