Wrestling Stars Christy Hemme, Gail Kim & Amy Dumas on the Power of Female Voices in 'KAYfABE'
Christy Hemme, Gail Kim and Amy Dumas (more familiar to wrestling fans as Lita) have individually been seen as trailblazers in pro wrestling. The fiery Hemme parlayed winning the WWE Diva Search into a lengthy career inside the ring and outside it as a women's voice for the creative team for Impact Wrestling. Kim is an Impact Wrestling Hall of Famer who recently retired from a run paved in championship gold and serves in a behind the scenes role there. Dumas, as Lita, grew into one of the most popular women in WWE history and worked as a lead producer for its televised events.
Now the three are bringing their unique experiences in a male-dominated industry to KAYfABE, a female-centric wrestling series they’ve been developing tirelessly with a small team for two years. Social media was abuzz after photos circulated of the ladies with the industry term of kayfabe (meaning staying in character or sharing industry secrets) taped over their mouths likened to the NOH8 (No Hate) campaign.
With a Kickstarter in full swing to fund a pilot, Hemme, Dumas and Kim sat down to discuss their vision.
You’ve been on a whirlwind tour getting the word out about KAYfABE and received such a supportive response from your peers. Has that reinforced your efforts?
Christy Hemme: It has been so crazy for us. I think what we didn’t expect was that there would be so many questions. People are just so curious. It has been amazing because the thing you want people to be is interested.
Gail Kim: Even though they had questions, I would say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I think the two words we’ve been getting are curious and intrigued. We really wanted to garner some interest, and we got that.
It’s clear this project has been in the works for some time. What was your "a-ha" moment?
Hemme: Right from the get-go. The first night Gail and I were sitting down, and this came out of our hearts and our brains. I couldn’t see anything other than this happening. It wasn’t a slow build.
Amy Dumas: I think because it meant so much to us or means so much to us that we knew we wanted to make this. The two-year process was really hashing things out, making sure everything was how we wanted to present it. Not just releasing something to the public before it was ready to be seen. We wanted to take the time with the trailers, the stories, the visions. So when we did release the trailer and got all this intrigue, and people had questions. Well, we have answers.
Where did the inspiration come from? Creators across entertainment are thinking outside-the-box and using their resources to see their ideas realized. The presentation of wrestling in its many forms has changed thanks to accessibility and technological advances.
Hemme: Wrestling in its truest form has been the same for a really long time. Yes, it evolves with the times and things get updated to the degree it has. However, for us, the biggest inspiration for us is all the things that have happened in the world that have opened up voices for women. So much has changed for women, it’s a natural progression that it’s going to translate to wrestling because everything in the world translates to wrestling.
Has this experience brought you closer together?
Kim: It has been really awesome because you really don’t know what is going to happen with three people. Honestly, Christy was the glue and link that joined us together. Amy and I have been working together since 2005, 2004. We knew each other, but we weren’t close. We were both friends of Christy. She knew the passion we had. We’re actually a lot alike.
So when we came in together, it really worked. The dynamic was working. At times when one or two people were down, the other person brings you up. Having those different perspectives, we’re all very passionate and open-minded at the same time. We listen to each other’s voices, which has created a positive environment.
Dumas: For me, it has been really nice because in my active wrestling career you’re a solo entity. You have to only care about yourself. You’re in charge of yourself. Your brand is yourself. For us, to make this vision happen, it’s important that we work together.
We not only express our opinions to hash everything out, but working on a team has been a nice way to almost un-train that solo living in a bubble thing that you have to do in wrestling. It’s not good for you. I definitely had so many walls up, even after retiring. It has been nice to have a wrestling project, but do it in a team environment.
When this project comes to fruition, what is the format of the show going to look like?
Hemme: It’s a scripted drama. The way it’s formatted would be for a streaming service. It will always be a series because we have to take our time to shoot this thing. It will be shot very similar to a documentary. However, it’s not a documentary. That’s the feel of it. We need to take our time in creating these stories. As far as the wrestling involved, we always say it will serve the story. So, when the story is calling for wrestling and in-ring action, that will happen. Primarily, what we’re watching is a scripted drama.
Are you recruiting a mix of actors and actresses as well as wrestlers? What is the recruiting process?
Hemme: We have people in mind. It will definitely be a mix of both.
Will the three of you be in front of the camera?
Kim: Our plan is not to be. It’s hard to split the time in front of the camera and behind. If people want it and that’s what is best for the project, we’re not against it. I think though we prefer to be behind the camera.
Dumas: We’d prefer it, but from what we’ve been asked, it seems people prefer it the other way. We think it would be fun to come in as a little Easter egg and pop in for a cameo for a story. At the same time, we’ve already seen the challenges of wearing so many hats to make this thing work behind the scenes. We have our hands full there, and that is a priority.
Speaking of priority, you all have other commitments in your personal and professional lives. How has it been juggling both on top of this new show of yours?
Hemme: For me, it’s full-time. It’s working on this or being with my kids. I do nothing else. Between the two, I go to sleep. Probably, not enough. I put my kids down, and I’m working until midnight or 1 a.m. That’s what my life looks like right now.
Kim: For myself, my life is wrestling outside of this. It has been nice to be able to go after my passion. Not just in one area with Impact Wrestling, but also to do it with these women. I’ve always been loyal to Impact and love it there, but I wanted to do something to progress women’s wrestling. Not wait around for someone to decide if this was good for us. We wanted to take it and do it ourselves. It has been a lot of triple FaceTime sessions.
Dumas: Anyone who is around any of us has become used to us ducking out of dinners, meetings, whatever I’m doing at that time for multiple FaceTime calls. The three of us live in different cities, so that is our form of communications. So it’s duck out of what you’re doing to talk in a corner, alley, somewhere.
Love how driven you are about this. I was blown away by the level of production for the trailer that was released. What can you tease about what we saw? Is the woman shown going to be the main character and everyone else built around her?
Hemme: She is definitely going to be an important part of the story. Like all the women that are going to be on this show, they are layered and have a lot to them. There are just interesting people and have important reasons why they are doing what they are doing. I’m really excited to dig in and flesh her out. I can’t give anything away about her, but she is just an interesting human.
Overall, what kind of impact do you think this will have for women and wrestling? Not to mention, women who might watch this and have dreams of becoming wrestlers.
Kim: I think the women are going to be able to relate to our characters, especially the women in our industry. I’ve always said pro wrestling is a male-dominated industry and told through the lens of a man. Now we get to speak for them and show different sides and details of our lives that are more authentic.
A man can’t truly tell our story. I hope women can relate and have more of a voice or feel brave enough to have a voice about anything really. That’s always one thing I felt like in my career. It took me a long time for me to be able to feel I could speak up about anything. It is still a challenge I think, which is why we’re doing this project. Now we can tell our stories from our point-of-views.
Dumas: Telling these stories from the lens of a woman because we’ve all been in this male-dominated sport for so long. Even to our locker room mates, we don’t want to show weakness, show when we’re sad or having a hard time because we want to maintain that tough façade 24/7.
We want to show that even these super heroes in the ring, when they go back to through the curtain, they have a regular life to deal with that isn’t always shiny. Those are motivating factors to want to be better in the ring. We want to connect that super hero life to the real human that has gone through struggles like we all have. People can relate even if you aren’t from this world.
Hemme: I feel like when you create a conversation, and this is a really big conversation, you allow room for a voice. And this show is about female voices. Being able to hear those stories and have those conversations and hear that voice, I feel like it progresses what is being said in the world right now. That’s my main motivation for this.
For more information on KAYfABE, and to watch the teaser, visit its KickStarter page.