Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
CJ Perry may be best known as "Lana," the former WWE and Total Divas star, but the Florida-born, Latvia-raised actress, dancer and stunt woman has turned her attention to tackling Hollywood. Perry, who left the WWE in June 2021, says her diet has not changed much since leaving the wrestling world. But she does admit to eating more nachos and enjoying a bit more margaritas these days ... always in moderation.
Perry was born in Gainesville, Fla. but spent 13 of her formative years in Latvia, before, during and after the country's 1991 independence from Russia. Perry says growing up, there was a lot of Russian influence in what her family ate. "Latvians love potatoes, everything from french fries to boiled or baked potatoes," she tells Yahoo Life. Beets are another Eastern European staple she craves.
The 37-year-old says her mother loved to cook chicken and eggplant parmesan because, "they didn't have Italian food anywhere in Latvia."
"They didn't even have sushi or Chinese in the ’90s," she adds.
Her favorite Latvian dish? Solyanka, a soup made with cured meats, olives and veggies in a rich broth thickened with sour cream. Perry is also a huge fan of borscht and beet soups, which are staples of the region. "There's nothing like the soups in Latvia," she says.
Outside of the rich and tasty soups she ate as a child, Perry misses Eastern European salads. One of her favorites is Olivier salad. "It's the most delicious salad with potatoes, peas and carrots, and you can either have it with chicken, beef or vegetarian," she explains. "And there's eggs with mayonnaise and sour cream and it's mixed together with parsley."
A summertime staple was Shopska salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives and olive oil. Perry calls the refreshing dish "the best thing ever."
While Perry doesn't shy away from cooking, she admits her Bulgarian husband, professional wrestler Miroslav Barnyashev, and her mother-in-law really know their way around the kitchen and have taught her how to cook their native dishes. "We eat a lot of lean meat, chicken or fish," she explains, adding that they use a lot of spices to make up for eating healthy. However when it comes time to splurge, they love to make Bulgarian dishes rich with cheese and meats. "I love cheese, that's my weak spot,"Perry admits. One of her favorite guilty pleasure meals is Bulgarian moussaka: a "better version of Shepherd's Pie" with meat, cheese, vegetables and mashed potatoes.
While Perry loves Bulgarian, Japanese, Peruvian and Lebanese food, she's obsessed with Mexican. "When my mom was pregnant with me, she craved burritos every single day and would eat them nearly every day," she says. "It's very funny to me that I love Mexican food so much."
Perry joins Dennis Rodman, August Alsina, Stormy Daniels, Tamar Braxton, Frankie Muniz, Kim Coles and Manny MUA on VH1's The Surreal Life, which returns to TV for the first time since 2006 on Oct. 24. Perry spent 13 days filming the rebooted series, living in the bubble of a "social experiment" in a mansion nestled in the Hollywood Hills while being unplugged from her phone and social media. She says it was one of the most "insane experiences" of her life.
"The hardest part was not being able to communicate with my husband — but also not having Google," she says. "Because there are so many things I don't know and I use it all the time. I rely on that to become smarter and wiser every day." She adds that taking a break from social media was freeing and she found herself more present and enjoying the moment. While on The Surreal Life set, her go-to snack was Peanut M&Ms. "You have your protein and your sugar all there," she explains. "it will hold you over."
Perry will also be stepping behind the camera to direct a short-action comedy featuring herself and her husband, under the working title Suburban Violence. And, in a few weeks she'll be launching a series geared toward wrestling and internet audio-visual trends like ASMR (audio sensory meridian response) and muckbang (a show where the host films themself eating). "It will be an audio and visual feast," she says, "laced with stories, reveals and little gossip to wash it all down."
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.