As seen in Hers Magazine.
As a child, Mickie James and her father spent hours glued to the television watching their favorite wrestlers battle for the belt. James watched the eccentric characters dance before her eyes and knew that one day she wanted to be just like them.
When James wasn’t bonding over wrestling with her dad, she spent most of her summer at her grandma’s farm. Before she and her sister could ride the four wheelers, James and her sister had to tend to the horses. James fell in love with horses but was also taught hard work and athleticism early on.
“I remember saying then, being super young, oh I want to be a wrestler,” James recalled. She explained how she grew out of the wrestling phase and focused on being a kid and school. “Math isn’t my forte,” she chuckled.
She knew her parents couldn’t pay for college, so she pushed herself in school. The Rock and Stone Cold brought the resurgence of wrestling as she was nearing the end of high school, and James “fell in love with wrestling on a whole new level again.”
Even though James fell in love with wrestling, the arenas still felt like a circus to her. Those over the top, eccentric characters didn’t seem real, and she had no idea she could pursue her dream of being a wrestler. After graduating high school, James said she wasn’t sure what to do.
Part of her wanted to follow her love for horses and become a horse trainer, but she knew that took years. It wasn’t until a friend suggested she try KYDA Pro-Wrestling in northern Virginia. The gym was run by James Zaveski, or Jimmy Z, who began the gym in 1998. James listened to her gut and drove two hours to train at Jimmy Z’s boxing ring.
“She was a girl that when she was 18 years old that she had so much drive,” Zaveski said of James. “She wanted to be a headliner of something. She ended up becoming a fantastic wrestler because she worked her butt off.”
James stayed there for about a year, and then “transferred to another school so she could grow.” In 2002, James debuted on the women’s stage of Total Nonstop Action, now known as impact wrestling.
In October 2005, she made her on-screen debut for WWE and went on to win her first Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 22 in Chicago after a very memorable feud with Trish Stratus.
After making it on WWE TV, James was on the road by herself 200-250 days per year. Like any other person, she would jam out to the radio and belt her favorite songs. The more she traveled, the more she sang. As the miles stretched behind her, she found herself writing her own music.
“I found myself writing in the pattern of the songs I was hearing on the radio, or to my own melodies…so I started to write songs. I had a whole notebook full of them,” said James. “I never really believed in myself to pursue music, but I really wanted to go to Nashville to record.”
In later 2008, James decided to march her many notebooks of songs to producer Kent Wells, Dolly Parton’s guitarist who had his own studio. He picked out two or three songs and pulled from different writers from around Nashville. Her first album, “Stranger and Angels” was released in 2010, but James refused to stop there.
After releasing a second country album and several singles, a third album is in the works. James and her producer now, Garrett Clark wanted to release something different—a hip-hop country collab. Clark suggested the hip-hop duo the Ying Yang Twins, who James met them years ago backstage wrestling show in Atlanta. James was ecstatic, and immediately contacted the duo to produce the single “Left, Right, Left.”
“We took the song and stretched that middle bit out, then they went in and wrote their won middle verse,” James said giddily. “It’s a fun summertime song—this hodgepodge mix of country and hip-hop dancing!”
According to James, her childhood music was also a hodge-podge. “My stepdad listened to Willie Nelson, George Thurgood and Johnny cash,” James said.”My mom was more pop, like Madonna and MJ, but my real dad was into temptations, Pompadours.”
While she loved all music, it’s “the way a song is written and the story it takes you on” that attracts James to a song.
Between wrestling and singing, James also balances being a mother to her three-and-a-half-year-old son, Donovan. James said it wouldn’t be possible to balance without her support group of friends and family. “If I didn’t have them I would really struggle. I’m fortunate to have that support group,” she continued. She stressed that she wanted to be involved in his life and doesn’t want Donovan to miss out on being a kid.
“We just started him in soccer! It’s so funny watching him run around in circles trying to chase the ball,” she said with a smile in her voice. “He’s a sweetheart—he’s the best. He makes me laugh.”
While James explains how she handles being a super-mom and woman, Donovan can be heard calling for his mom in the background. His bell-like voice tinkled inaudibly as he struggled to get his mom’s attention.
“What are you doing, sweetie? Mommy’s on the phone,” James laughed before jumping back into our interview.
James explained how she goes”full-on mom mode” whenever she is home, going to park and the kid zone at the gym. During the school year, she doesn’t take him on the road as much so he doesn’t miss out.
“I think that structure is so important, and to be able to play with kids his own age is so beneficial,” she said.
Like any southern belle, James stressed the importance of family and hard work.
“I was told I would never make it— I was told you’re too small, you’re from a small town. There are a thousand people that will discourage you from your dreams…but you still have to remember those people that stand beside you.”