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Kia Stevens has found a new fanbase thanks to the runaway success of the hit Netflix comedy, GLOW, built around the trials and tribulations of a female wrestling troupe that find themselves grappling with the twists and turns of life in-and-out of the ring. For Kia, this is more than an acting gig, it’s a mirror on her own trials from a real-life career in and around the squared circle.
Known to millions of pro wrestling fans for her performances in Japan under the name “Amazing Kong,” Kia appeared in WWE as “Kharma” and is now involved with All Elite Wrestling under the name “Awesome Kong.”
Kia has played the role of Tammé Dawson since the original season of GLOW, portraying a mother wrestling under the name of the “Welfare Queen.” It is a multifaceted character that explores the life of an African-American woman who, far from simply taking benefits as her wrestling gimmick suggests, works all hours to put her son through college, performing as a hated stereotype to hostile crowds as a means of paying the bills. Kia is able to bring a real-life pro wrestling career and her own cultural experiences to the show’s loyal audience.
Muscle & Fitness talked exclusively to the hybrid actor-athlete and found out more about GLOW Season 3, AEW, her outlook on breaking boundaries, and recent body transformation.
M&F: GLOW has become one of the most entertaining shows on Netflix. How did you originally become involved?
Kia Stevens: A friend of mine, who has become a Hollywood agent, called me. He and I used to work together in wrestling and he knew that I used to be in acting before I became a wrestler and that my goal was to become an actress again. So he called to let me know that GLOW had a script, and they were making a show and I should go out for it. I went out first for [the part of] Cherry, and they didn’t think I was exactly right for that, but they loved my reading. And so, they said I was right for Tammé and the rest is history!
Many of the GLOW cast members have expressed their respect for you, as a legit pro wrestler. Did you feel like you had responsibility to explain to some of the girls that pro wrestling is harder than it looks and is very physical?
Oh, I did, definitely. I did give input on their training and they were extremely receptive. It worked out.
[Before shooting begins] we have a training camp for a whole month (led by legendary wrestler Chavo Guerrero) so, we do different kinds of training exercises to help them learn the wrestling moves. This [season] was a little different because we wanted to have the ladies augment their movements. They had to roll safely, land safely—things like that. Because as actresses, there’s no need for much input on their characters, just the safety.
Have you been surprised by the massive worldwide success of GLOW?
So, I’m looking on the inside, out. It’s different for me, you know? People say it’s a massive hit and I’m so excited. To us, it’s our little show that we make with our casting crew that we love so much and we have such a good time on set. It’s our little show that we share with the world, and I’m just so happy that the world loves it.
In GLOW Season 3, your character now finds herself in Las Vegas with the rest of the gang. What can we look forward to?
This season I am excited to tell a story that I’m familiar with, and almost all wrestlers can identify with. I’m very excited that people are going to get a deeper look at the sacrifice it takes to be a performer of this caliber.
You are still very much involved with the world of pro wrestling, appearing for All Elite Wrestling as of late. Can we hope to see more of you in AEW?
I think you may! I think you very well may.
Maybe we will get to see you in the ring once more with Aja Kong?
Oh yes, I think that would be a treat for the world. The clash of the two Kongs, right!?
Judging by your social media posts, you’re looking great. As one of pro wrestling’s traditional heavyweights, what has been your approach to fitness and nutrition recently?
My husband and I have been preparing a lot of meals ourselves. We make meals which are healthy and proportionately sound. Living in LA there are a lot of health trends, which helps me to identify things that I actually like to eat, that have a health kick. If you would have asked me seven years ago what a quinoa was, I couldn’t have told you.
You’ve always been someone who has challenged perceptions. First, you helped change the perception of females in wrestling, and now you are on a highly entertaining show written by, and starring some very talented women. How proud are you of these things?
I’m extremely proud, especially since, you know, I literally have been told I would never make it in wrestling, or that all the odds were against it, which is true for anyone aspiring to do what we do. However, I believe that you put one foot in front of the other, theoretically, and that’s how I got here.
Looking ahead, if there is a fourth season of GLOW, would you be open to returning?
Ooh, I would love to… Even on days when I’m not working, I love to come in and see what they’re filming [on GLOW and] what they’re doing, because it goes by so quickly. We only film for about three or four months. It goes by so fast, and I want to soak up every single moment. It’s my dream job.
Right now, I’m working with a very talented actor, writer and producer, Nic Alexander. We are writing a program ourselves because being a woman of color, I want to give opportunities for women of color to make it a little easier [to find work in the entertainment industry] than I had it.
Kia Stevens reprises her role as Tammé “Welfare Queen” Dawson on GLOW, Season 3, beginning Aug. 9.