Photography by K.C. Alfred | Styled by Kristi Brooks | Hair by Mercedes Amezquita | Makeup by Eileen Sandoval | Photographer’s assistants: Rick Nocon and Ryan Miller | Stylist’s assistant: Sammi Manning | Shot on location at Liberty Station
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When wrestling champions Brie and Nikki Bella traded the gloves-off drama of a reality show co-starring fellow female members of the WWE Superstars for a reality show co-starring their family, pets and partners, the twin sisters figured they were in for a warm and fuzzy good time. They were wrong.
If life on the E! channel’s “Total Divas” is a circus, life on the new “Total Bellas” is more of a zoo. The Bellas might be birds of the same feather, but when they had to share a TV nest, those feathers flew.
“People got a taste of our family in ‘Total Divas,’ and now it’s like, ‘Let’s throw us all in a house and see what happens.’ That’s what we wanted to give the fans,” Nikki says of the new show, which premieres in October.
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And what will the Bellas’ millions of social-media followers get on “Total Bellas”? During their recent visit to Foodie Heaven (also known as the Liberty Public Market in Point Loma), Nikki and Brie shared a few choice tidbits.
In the Bella Twins’ new show, expect juicy drama as Brie and her husband, wrestler Daniel Bryan, move in with Nikki and her boyfriend, wrestler John Cena, to help Nikki recover from neck surgery. Look for emotional meltdowns as Bryan attempts to cope with retirement; the twins’ mother, Kathy Colace, prepares for her marriage to WWE producer John “Johnny Ace” Laurinaitis; and the more spontaneous Brie and Bryan wrestle with Cena’s many in-house rules - starting with a morning routine that went over like a lead pancake.
“I felt like I was living in ‘Downton Abbey.’ I felt like my sister was Lady Mary, and John was Matthew. I felt like I was Lady Edith trying to fit in and getting belittled,” Brie says of life in Nikki and John Manor, where guests were expected to make their beds in the morning and meet for coffee and breakfast. “We’re more like, ‘Let’s enjoy the morning, and if that means we’re not making the bed so we can slowly enjoy the morning, so be it.’”
(Let the “Total Bellas” record reflect Nikki is still on board Cena’s morning-coffee train. “I thought it was the greatest rule ever,” says Nikki, who shares her boyfriend’s neat-freak habits.)
With Nikki’s bone-fusion surgery, Bryan’s struggles to figure out his post-retirement life and the bumpy road to the Kathy Colace-Johnny Ace wedding, “Total Bellas” will give fans heaping portions of the personal stuff they crave. Just save room for a side of good vibes.
“I thought this would be more fun with the family (than with the Total Divas),” Nikki says. “With your family, you can bicker and fight, and it’s fine. We had a blast.”
They regret some of their early wardrobe choices (“My midriffs were ridiculous,” Brie says), but that has not stopped the Bellas from becoming fashion entrepreneurs. Their Birdiebee line of lingerie and loungewear will be launching soon, and the plan is to expand it into a female-empowering lifestyle brand.
“A lot of women are confused about what empowerment is,” Brie says. “It’s about how brave you are inside, your courage, your confidence and what you stand for.”
The “Total Bellas” cameras have stopped rolling, but the Bella show just keeps rolling along. The twins will be part of “Total Divas” when it returns to E! in the fall, and they don’t mind sharing the spotlight with their WWE cast-mates. It turns out there is a lot of heat in the center of the reality TV universe.
“It’s crazy,” Brie says. “I thought (‘Total Bellas’) would be exactly like doing ‘Divas,’ but it was all us all the time.”
Of all their favorite San Diego landmarks, Nikki and Brie have a special place in their hearts for the Hooters in Mission Valley where they waited tables and made friends they have to this day. The tips were great, but the “aha moment” they had while the watching wrestling matches playing on the restaurant’s TV screens was a game-changer. “We connected with it instantly,” Brie remembers. “It was like, ‘Oh, my god, that is what we should be doing.’”
TOTALLY SAN DIEGO
The twins fell in love with San Diego while they were students at Grossmont College, and they are always ready for a hike at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a tour of Balboa Park’s many museums, and happy hour almost anywhere. Nikki gets her local’s fix with a home in Pacific Beach. Brie gets hers by visiting Nikki.
“I’ve told John we really have to live here,” says Nikki, who splits her time between San Diego and Tampa, Fla. “I do a lot of traveling, and I really feel like San Diego is the most beautiful city.”
So, who was the biggest diva in the “Total Bellas” house? Was it the control-freaky John Cena? Post-surgery Nikki? The rule-averse Brie? Post-retirement Daniel Bryan? In fact, the big drama queen in the house was Nikki’s French bulldog Winston, whose adorable neediness turned Nikki into the most doting dog mom ever. Not that anyone noticed, right?
“My sister always thought I was the crazy dog mom,” Brie says. “But she is just as crazy as me.”
BELLY UP, BELLAS
Brie and Nikki grew up in a half-Mexican, half-Italian, all food-loving household. So, as fall approaches, it’s time to talk Turkey Day. The Bella Thanksgiving starts the night before with tamales, beans and rice. On the big day, it’s their Nana’s turkey, cheese rice with chilies, and a very special “salad” featuring Jell-O, crushed pretzels and frosting. And never mind about the calories. They’ve earned them.
“A few days before, I really start counting the calories, and I work out every day and on Thanksgiving morning,” Nikki says. “You have to prep.”
Are you ready to rumble ... over football? They are always ready in the Bella universe, and these sports fanatics are not messing around. Nikki, Brie and the gang are huge Philadelphia Eagles fans from way back. How huge? The first-place winner in the family fantasy football competition takes possession of a vintage Eagles’ helmet.
“Last year, John and I lost by two points,” Nikki says. “Yesterday, I was like, ‘We really need to look at who we want in the draft.’ John said, ‘We got to No. 2, that’s great.’ But that’s not great.”
OFF THE ROPES
It took more than a herniated disc to keep Nikki Bella down, but the battle wasn’t pretty. And being cared for by her sister and mother while The “Total Bellas” cameras were looking on wasn’t even the hard part.
“I feel so good now, but I never want to get neck surgery again,” says Nikki, who is ready to get back in the ring. “Being in a neck brace 24/7 was so aggravating and so uncomfortable. It made the days seem so slow. It was a really difficult time.”