The Bella Twins Open Up About Their Revealing Memoir & 'Total Bellas' Season 5
The Bella Twins have a reality show, popular YouTube channel, weekly podcast and, let’s not forget, a strong social media presence (a combined 17 million followers on Instagram). You’d think the lives of Nikki and Brie Bella are pretty much an open book at this point. Then you crack open their revealing new memoir, Incomparable.
Whether it’s describing a less than perfect childhood or Nikki recounting the trauma of being sexually assaulted twice as a teen, the WWE superstars turned moguls dig deep into the past with hopes of helping others. Here, the sisters open up about the emotional writing process, season 5 of Total Bellas and sharing the experience of pregnancy together in quarantine.
How did the idea for the book come about?
Brie Bella: My sister and I really wanted to tell our story before wrestling, before the reality shows—our story from our childhood. We wanted to talk about these big moments in our lives that were negative moments we turned into positives. We truly feel like it all really started to mold us into strong women. These are stories people have never heard before. We thought it was time to really come out with them.
Did you have any trepidation, knowing you’d have to uncover old wounds?
Nikki Bella: For me, I had some painful moments. Even when we started writing this two-and-a-half years ago with a ghost writer, there were things I hid away for 20 years and just never wanted to speak about. I realized I had all this guilt and shame and pain, but then I realized my story can truly help girls in high school and college and women in their 20s and 30s and beyond. I thought even though I had to relive this pain, not only did it help me, it’s going to help all these other people. I wish I had someone in high school I could have looked up to that said, “They’re talking about it. They’re releasing what happened to them.” It’s sad that for 20 years I carried all this pain and guilt and shame. I don’t want anyone to have to go through that.
As more people are starting to read the book, has the reaction surprised you in any way? What have these first few days been like for you?
Nikki: I will say we’ve been getting such amazing feedback. It has truly been incredible. When Brie and I wanted to write this memoir, we said we didn’t want to write an autobiography; we wanted our reader, when they shut that last page of the book, to take something from it. Whether it’s self-help, empowerment or encouragement, we want people to not be victims of their own story. We want them to be heroes of their story.
For myself, there is a small little fan base in wrestling that already hates me. I think I was shocked by the cruelty of how they were for some stories. But you don’t mess with our Bella Army [fans] because they protect us like no other. I was so proud of how they jumped on these people. I think I was shocked because no matter how you feel about a certain person, when they go through pain, you don’t ever speak about it in ways that people have been speaking about me. I would never laugh at them or say cruel things about what happened to them. That’s life.
It takes a lot of courage to open up your lives the way you have. What’s unique about this memoir is it’s two stories intertwined. What were the challenges you faced in making sure your respective stories were told in a cohesive way?
Brie: It was challenging because we didn’t want to confuse the readers. For my sister and I, we had different points of views with stories of our lives. So we really had to take our time. I think that is why this book took so long, to really make sure the reader understood and didn’t get lost. It wasn’t identical from identical eyes; we both had different views. That’s why we called the book “Incomparable.” We might be identical twins. We might be doing the same things together. Yet we are individuals and look at things differently and have our own stories. We had an insanely good ghostwriter who was able to nail our point of views in how the story was put together.
This season of Total Bellas showed how hard it was on your mom to relive her own past while reading the book. You also have been able to reconnect with your dad through the writing process. What has it been like for you to watch this period back on TV?
Brie: At first it was very stressful for all of us in our family. From my mom to our dad to Nicole and I, we lost a lot of sleep. We go through these situations, but at the same time, they are the people you love. You know you are going to be exposed a lot, and it’s hard and scary. At the same time, I have to say both my mom and dad definitely supported it. They were like, “Hey, we were kids supporting kids. We put you through that. We can’t lie about it or be in denial.” We’re so grateful for that. My poor mother has been having a little bit of a hard time. My dad hasn’t been in denial about how he was as a father, but he has changed. It has been a lot for our family, but we all feel like we’re growing from it.
Did you find filming for this season particularly hard, given the deeply personal parts of your past and present that are explored?
Brie: Definitely. I think because we are in quarantine, Nicole and I sit there and watch it with [Nikki’s fiancé] Artem [Chigvintsev] and [my husband] Bryan [Danielson]. So it’s reliving a lot of those moments again together and having these feelings come back. You’re never prepared for reality television or what is going to happen. [Bryan and I] never had the intention of showcasing our marriage the way we did this season. What happens when the cameras are on, [producers] start to realize what is really going on. It’s like, “Wow, are you and Bryan distant? Are you and Bryan happy?”
You start to ask these same questions and realize I’m not happy. We are distant and evolving differently. But Bryan and I put on a brave face and show this part of our marriage because we do believe a lot of married people who have kids go through this.
Nikki: It is always tough, but I think what has helped Brie and I always stay open is the people who relate to it. I can’t be the girl who goes on TV to be the person I’m not. The reason I do reality TV is so that person sitting on the couch tuning in can feel they’re not alone. I want them to say, “I felt this way for so long, but if she can do it—if she can become who she is, so can I.” Being in a new relationship, falling in love so fast and people having their opinions about it, it was difficult to show. I feel like this season I really learned a lot about myself with issues I was carrying from my childhood and was bringing into my relationships. I can’t tell you how much work I’ve done on myself since this past season. It’s crazy how you keep growing and evolving.
Artem slowly integrates into the Bella family as cameras are following him. He is used to being a public figure thanks to Dancing With the Stars, but I’m sure this environment was quite new for him.
Nikki: Even though Artem was on Dancing with the Stars, it was mainly about the pros. He is a very private person, so it has been a difficult adjustment for him. He is watching with the viewers every week for the first time, too. Artem hasn’t seen anything. He may be like, “Oh my God!” At the same time he loves and supports me. I think what makes this season really good too is you’re watching someone who is just so pure, raw and real. He is going through this with these fresh eyes for the first time. I think having open communication has helped us get through this. I also think when you date me, you know what you’re getting into. I have no filter. I put everything out there. I’m so sorry. That’s who I am and can’t hide it.
Brie: The best thing ever is Artem has Bryan. Bryan goes, “I’ve been through this. I can tell you how to handle the Twins and their chaotic life.”
There is a happy ending coming, as you’re both pregnant. How has it been sharing the experience together, especially during these unprecedented times? What has been keeping you sane?
Brie: Nikki and I are really lucky because we’re next door neighbors. We literally have zero property line. When quarantine started, we were at each other’s homes. We’ve been lucky to have our families. We have coffee in the morning, we go on walks. Every night we do a different dinner at someone's house. There is a little change of scenery. We’ve both been helping to keep each other calm and positive, because like everyone else we lost a lot of stuff. Whether it’s you lost jobs or had all these plans, everything.
I feel bad for my sister because this is the first time she has been pregnant. We had to cancel her baby shower, possibly a maternity shoot. All these fun things you do. I think because we are both pregnant, and can’t have wine, that we have been each other’s best support system. It has made this whole quarantine process not only go fast but be more on the pleasant side rather than the scary side.
What can you tease about the back half of season 5 of Total Bellas?
Brie: Everyone has seen the back-and-forth about what Nicole’s feelings are. Whether it’s myself and my marriage or Nicole and her relationship moving so fast, you'll see the things that change us. We learn to accept what is going on in our lives. I think one of the hardest things for anyone is to let go and give in. We want to fully control our lives and feelings [but] sometimes you have to just let what’s supposed to be happen. We just give in to what we feel. We give in to love. I find that very profound, and I think people will love seeing that.
Nikki: I’m sure some people are probably going to be like, “Jeez, Nikki! Make a decision of what you want.” I think we’ve all been in that place before where we love really hard and super fast, only to have the feeling we have to push back. We all go through a love roller coaster at some point in our life.
Total Bellas, Thursdays, 9/8c, E!
Incomparable is available now where books are sold.