Nikki Bella on her journey from Hooters waitress to WWE Superstar

Twelve years ago, Nikki Bella and her identical twin sister, Brie, were working as waitresses at Hooters in their home state of California. Fast-forward to 2018 and the Bella Twins, as they’re commonly known, are WWE Superstars, reality TV favorites, and brands in and of themselves — with their own clothing line and wine label. It’s been a “12-year journey, which is crazy,” Bella tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

WWE Superstar Nikki Bella. (Photo: Courtesy of Nikki Bella)
WWE Superstar Nikki Bella. (Photo: Courtesy of Nikki Bella)

With a spotlight now seemingly perpetually fixed on her life, Bella understands the power she yields, not just as a businesswoman but as a role model. The reason she understands that so well is because as a young girl, it was her role model, Jennifer Lopez, who helped Bella to find her own confidence. “She literally changed my life,” Bella says.

In 1996, Lopez appeared on the cover of the very first issue of Latina magazine. “I remember her talking about her curves and being a Latina, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I go through that!’” Bella says. “I was going through puberty, and being like, ‘Why am I getting all these curves?’ She started to make me love it.”

“I remember being confident at a very young age, like, ‘Yeah this is what I’ve got,’” Bella adds. “And it was literally J.Lo that gave that to me.”

Bella will likely be giving that same confidence to other women, as she joins her friend and fellow WWE Superstar Nia Jax onstage at theCURVYcon 2018, a three-day event in New York City for plus-size celebrities, influencers, and their fans, focusing on fashion. Bella and Jax will sit for a panel discussion on Sept. 8 at 2:45 p.m. ET titled, “Body Positive Besties: Supporting Each Other in Our Journey.” The entire theCURVYcon event will be live-streamed on Yahoo Lifestyle.

Bella, who does not wear plus-size clothing, speaks candidly about why she wanted to participate in the event. “I love representing women, and I love to, as much as I can, inspire and be a role model for women and young girls,” Bella says. “I don’t know what it feels like to be Nia Jax, but being an identical twin, I’ve been compared my whole life. I’ve been the bigger twin. When I got on TV 10 years ago, immediately everyone called me ‘the fat twin.’ I had always looked at myself as someone who was just healthy and I loved who I was, but there was a period of time when it really got to me.”

Bella adds, “I remember that feeling and being with Nia and having her tell me her stories and what she goes through, and stuff I’ve seen just filming our show, it makes me want to represent these women and stand with them.”

From left: Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, and Nia Jax. (Photo Courtesy of Nikki Bella)
From left: Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, and Nia Jax. (Photo Courtesy of Nikki Bella)

Bella is not just talk. Her clothing company, BirdieBee, which she helms with her sister, includes a range of sizes from XS through XXXL. “I think every store should have a size for everyone,” she says. “Every brand should have a size for everyone.”

Bella, a lifelong athlete, has always appreciated her body for its strength, and worried less about its size. Though she reiterates that her television career threw her body confidence for a loop. “I was a competitive soccer player, and for us the stronger your size the better,” Bella says of her body during her teenage years. “It wasn’t until being on TV that I let that confidence go because of how compared I was in the public eye to my sister. I remember Brie saying, like, ‘Where’s that girl who would wear knee-high boots and a sweater dress like J.Lo to high school, with so much confidence?’ I was like, ‘Wow, you’re right, why am I letting people get to me?’

“It’s hard when you are in the entertainment industry,” she adds. “I think for so long we were all supposed to be this certain size, this size 0 or size 2. For my body that’s not a happy life. I would be miserable if I tried to get to that size, and I think even if I starved myself, to be honest, I don’t think I could even get to that size. My bones would be like, ‘We ain’t a size 2 girl, sorry.’”

For Bella, as she moves on from a very public breakup with former fiancé John Cena, returns to the WWE ring, and continues filming her reality show, that lesson of confidence remains paramount. “The most beautiful thing on a woman is confidence,” Bella tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I have this life coach, and we talk about confidence — it’s how you can own a room, how you can change a meeting, how you can change a match, how you can change the crowd.”

Bella will certainly be serving confidence this weekend at theCURVYcon. “Whatever panel I can speak on to help people love themselves and love who they are as God made them, I love doing it. And I love that Nia is giving me the opportunity to speak with her,” she says. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

Yahoo Lifestyle will live-stream theCURVYcon 2018 on Friday, Sept. 7, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET, and on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Bookmark this link to tune in!

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