WWE's Natalya on the New 'Total Divas' Cast, Staying Fit, and Her Love of Cats

"You gotta do the work. I'm sorry, there is no shortcut."

Total Divas Natalya Interview
Courtesy WWE.com

Natalya "Nattie" Neidhart is no stranger to the public eye.

The WWE superstar continues a storied legacy that includes her dad, who was a member of The Hart Foundation, and her uncle, the legendary Bret Hart.  At SummerSlam, she defeated Naomi to become the new SmackDown Women's Champion.

Not only has she been signed to the WWE since 2007, but in 2013 she starred in the first season of E!'s Total Divas and has remained an integral part of the cast ever since. 

We had a chance to talk to Nattie about the new cast members in Total Divas Season 7, her thoughts on the Mae Young Classic, and how she feels about personal events being highlighted on the show.

M&F Hers: The biggest news about Season 7 is the changes to the cast, particularly the additions of Carmella and Nia and Alexa. How do you feel about these new superstars joining the show?

Natalya “Nattie” Neidhart: I feel great about them coming on the show. I really enjoy having cast members come on because I think with the talent roster being as deep as it is—especially with women being at the forefront right now in the WWE and really, really taking center stage, which is really evident on Raw and Smackdown and I see it having just [seen] the Mae Young Classic that happened last week at Full Sail—it's very, very evident that people want to see more women. So every season when we get a new cast member—and this season we have three new cast members—it's fun. It's exciting. It always shakes things up.

There's a little bit more drama. That's for sure. But it's just fun to interact and to get to know the girls, and for the whole world to get to know them with us on camera. I actually didn't really know Nia Jax. I started to get to film with her and stuff, but I actually got to know her when we were filming Total Divas. She was never on Smackdown, so it was a cool chance for me to get to know her as well.

I know that you currently work with Carmella on Smackdown and you worked with Alexa in the past before the superstar shakeup. What was your reaction to those two joining the cast, those that you've worked with in the past?

I love working with Lexi and Carmella because they worked on Smackdown when they got drafted. But we have a great time, the girls and I bond. We really have a great relationship. I mean, I might not be best friends with every girl in the locker room, but especially the girls that are on the [heel] side, which myself, Lexi and Carmella—we have been bad girls all the time for the last eight, nine, 10 months, so we've had a lot of fun together.

I've enjoyed watching Lexi and Carmella grow, too, as performers, and helped them with the ropes. That's one of the fun things about my job in the WWE as far as being a veteran. I've been wrestling since I was 18 years old. And I've been in WWE competing since I was 25 in developmental. I've been signed by WWE since I was 25 years old so I have tons of experience about the ups and downs, and everything in-between with the company. To be able to pass on my knowledge to girls who are truly nervous or they don't want to rock the boat or maybe they need to rock the boat or maybe they need to speak up and say what they want to say. It's nice to be able to help them pick and choose their battles.

I've enjoyed wrestling them, as well, wrestling with them, wrestling against them. Especially with a lot of these multiple-people matches that we've been having, like our ladder match we had with Money in the Bank. Really, really cool moments with the girls.

As you mentioned, you’ve been in the WWE for a decade now. How do you think you've changed as a superstar since you first started?

For me, I've changed a lot. I've grown a lot as a superstar. I truly believe that, especially watching myself back on the first season of Total Divas, and now that we're going into Season 7 I could really see the change on TV. I'm really proud of how far I've come and that I've never given up even when it felt like, "Gosh, maybe I should throw in the towel," or "Ah, I'm sick of fighting or I'm sick of going into battle." It's a great feeling to know I'm still here. I'm still making a difference in our division. I'm making a huge difference in our division competing in monumental history-making matches.

When I look back at my career I think I'm so lucky to have done all these incredible things, and then there's even more incredible things coming up. And I watched the Mae Young Classic last week at Full Sail, and that's a tournament that will be airing later this summer on the WWE Network. That was so inspiring because I left that tournament going, "Gosh, I feel more inspired than ever!" Just when you thought that you've done it all, there's 32 more girls that I want to wrestle, and I want to compete against. I want to prove that I'm the best.

I was actually going to ask you about the Mae Young Classic. I also had an interview with Charlotte a couple weeks ago, and she was talking about how she thinks it's such a great opportunity and another step in the Women's Revolution.

I mean, I think the Mae Young Classic is...it's just another way to integrate more women into WWE. A lot of these women that were in the Mae Young Classic, they never had an opportunity to sign. You could see them all...I just felt like the energy was contagious. I had said that to my best friend, Beth Phoenix, who came to the Mae Young Classic to watch girls jump up and down, get so excited, just made me feel invigorated. Made me feel like all those girls got to do a lot of that this weekend in Georgia, for example. We're all just like on cloud nine. I was jumping up and down going, "Oh my gosh, I want to do more and more stuff." Because I was watching these girls, these 32 women from around the world, at the Mae Young Classic doing ground-breaking stuff.

It was just inspiring to all of us. One of my best friends is actually in the Mae Young Classic, Shayna Baszler. She's a pioneer in women's MMA. She helped me prepare for my match that I had against Charlotte at [NXT] Takeover in 2014. It's really just strong women helping strong women.

Why do you think you still enjoy being on Total Divas seven seasons later? Does it ever bother you how personal the show can get? I remember there was one scene where your cat was in critical condition:

Does it ever get to you that people are getting a real eye into your personal life?

I'm actually really glad that you brought that up because there are times when we are, I've felt with the show that are, like, “Ugh, this is too much. My cat is dying. He has hours left to live.” You know when you have a pet, a pet is like a family member. There was a part of me that didn't want to film it. As the situation was going down, we literally had to make the decision that day to put my cat to sleep because he was just dying.

It was so hard. It's so hard to do that because we were just so close to him. He was such a...big part of our family. There was a moment where I was like, "We're not doing this. I can't film this." Then there was this moment where I was like, "You know what? Anybody that's ever lost a pet is going to be able to relate." That's what I want people to get when they watch Total Divas.

They can watch the show. They can laugh. They can cry. They can be entertained. They can relate. They can go, "You know what, I was going through exactly what Nattie went through when we had to put down our golden retriever, or we lost our cat, or our dog got hit by a car," or something [else] tragic happened. You have no idea how many people reached out to me when they saw that episode air when we had to put the cat to sleep. People were just so touched by the story, and I was so glad that we ended up filming it even though at the time it was very hard to film. I was really glad that we did film it because people could relate to it.

It means a lot to people to know they're not alone when they're going through something like that.

That's what I love about the show. I've done stories on the show covering my personal life. My dad has had some personal struggles and I'm so glad that I covered that on the show because, again, everybody can relate to it. People are looking at my dad, going, "I can understand why men are like that." or "My mom is like that."

It actually helped my dad, too, get a different perspective of his recovery, and now he’s doing so well in his life. Something that we kind of shared with the rest of the world. People kind of rallied around my dad. Again, those are the moments I'm happy that I've shared—stories of things I've done on the show, because people can watch it and go, "Oh my gosh, Nattie, I love you that on the show because you remind me so much of my friend." or "I get that situation that happened with you. I can relate." To me, being relatable is the biggest thing. I think that's why I've had so much success in going into seven seasons of Total Divas.

Between being on SmackDown and Total Divas, how do you find time to work out? What's your current routine like?

I try to stay really consistent. Some days I have more energy than others, but for the most part I try to just be very, very consistent. I try to, when I feel good...if I have lots of time, of course I take advantage of it, but sometimes I only have 30 minutes to get a workout in—and 30 minutes is better than nothing. I actually have a world class coach that works with me daily. Even when I'm on the road I have a program that he set up, and he actually designed an app that helps a lot of us superstars here at the WWE, like 20 of us actually go work out through him. But he's John Cena's strength coach. He coaches John Cena, Nikki Bella, myself, Cesaro, Ruzev, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre. The list goes on and on.

He's helped me so much because he's one of those people that says, "Listen, Nattie, get off the plane. If you get off the plane and you only have 30 minutes, 30 minutes of something is better than nothing." I try to find a balance. Some days I'm hungrier than others, too, but I try to find a balance and be consistent with food and diet. If your diet isn't on-point, you're not going to see any results.

That's for a lot of women. Again, you can't eat whatever you want and then expect to see the same results as sticking to a healthy, clean diet. You gotta kind of do both.

When I talked to Charlotte, she also said that committing to a schedule and a routine really helped in getting the results and keeping them.

Yeah, all of us pack our...a lot of us, this day and age, you're either playing video games or you're talking about pre-planned meal prep. All of us girls and guys see Jinder [Mahal] walking into an arena, and he's got like 16 little meals within a little backpack and we're all obsessed about it [and ask], "Where'd you get your meal?" We all want to come to work prepared at being healthy and obviously looking good, because we're performing on national television.

You gotta do the work. I'm sorry, there is no shortcut. There is no shortcut. Especially when you're in WWE, us girls we can't be fragile. We can't be scrawny. We gotta be strong. Even our littler competitors like Sasha or Alexa or Carmella, these girls are strong and tough. They may be small, but they're strong. They can go in the gym and they kick some serious butt in the gym and in the ring. That's what we have to do for our careers.

And now the most important question: How much do you love cats?

I love cats. [Pauses.] I'll tell you one thing: In WWE, there are dog people and there are cat people. They're living two very different, very separate lives. Cesaro, he's a cat person. Tyson Kidd, he's a cat person. Natalya, I'm a cat person.

But then you have dog people. Dog people like Kofi Kingston. Dog people like Bayley. Dog people like Becky Lynch. That’s all I'm going to say. [Laughs]

Total Divas returns this fall on E!

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