A man once told Ivelisse Velez that at wrestling shows, people always take their bathroom breaks when women get in the ring.
She changed that guy's mind and kept him in his seat.
Who she is: Velez, AKA La Sicaria, has spent the last decade of her 18-year wrestling career in Tampa.
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The WWE alum is the first and only three-time SHINE champion. She's defending her title at a steel cage match in Clearwater this weekend, but has fought hard outside the ring too.
What she stands for: Velez considers herself a leader of the anti-diva movement, pushing for women wrestlers to get the same respect and attention as their male counterparts without having to fit the model-looking stereotype.
She's also faced challenges as a Latina. Velez said she waited to dye her hair to its now iconic scarlet color because her former management said she would look "too Hispanic."
Now, she proudly brings her Puerto Rican heritage into the ring.
What she's saying: "My style is very street," she told Axios. "It was very difficult, but over the years I've been able to find the courage to be myself, which is La Sicaria."
The bottom line: There's been a lot of progress in the industry, she said, especially after looking back at wrestling history with shows like Netflix's "Glow." But there's still more work to be done.
"The biggest struggle women have always had is to get the same respect, credibility or prestige that a man would get. We literally have to work two or three times harder to get a smidge of what a man would get."
Ivelisse "La Sicaria" Velez
Find her at the OCC Road House in Clearwater on Sunday for the venue's SHINE Wrestling debut.
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