By Tony Lovitt
Photography by Carlos Nunez
Styling by Ali Dariotis, Wear It My Way
Hair & makeup by Eileen Sandoval
Hair & Makeup assistant Allison Gutierrez
Photographer's assistant Chip Morton
Helicopter provided by Corporate Helicopters
Limousine provided by Epic Limousine
Their theme music blares from loudspeakers, fog fills the arena, and a sellout crowd greets them with a thunderous ovation and a galaxy of camera flashes. It's showtime once again for The Bella Twins, world-renowned WWE Divas and San Diego natives Nikki and Brie, who enter the professional wrestling ring by performing their signature move, a backflip over the top rope.
It's a scene the 31-year-old identical twins repeat before their matches at 320 live WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) events throughout the year, approximately 65 of which take place beyond U.S. borders. The road warriors travel 52 weeks annually.
"I have to say my favorite [destination], internationally, is Paris," says Nikki, the reigning WWE Divas Champion (sister Brie was a WWE Divas Champion in 2011) and part-time La Jolla resident. "I got to be there with my boyfriend, John [Cena, a WWE Superstar]. He took me to the Lover's Bridge and the Eiffel Tower, and we ate dessert and drank wine at night. So, I had the total Paris experience and I will never forget it."
"We have been lucky enough with WWE to see so many beautiful countries, but I have to say, here in the United States, we're so blessed to have so many amazing places to go see," says Brie, who's married to WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan and recently moved to Arizona. "San Diego, I have to say, is Number One on the destination list."
Well before their WWE debut in 2007, Nikki (the eldest by 16 minutes) and Brie displayed the athleticism, competitiveness and tenacity that characterize their identities as WWE Divas. Both were outstanding soccer players at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. In fact, Nikki had an opportunity to play professional soccer in Italy, but fate took a sudden turn.
"When I saw WWE Divas on television, I instantly thought, 'Oh, gosh, that's our calling,'" Brie says. "So, I actually called Nikki and [told her], 'There's a thing called Diva Search coming to Los Angeles. You and I need to go, because I think this is for us.'"
Soon after, the twins were driving cross-country to a WWE developmental center in Tampa, Florida, where, rather than bicycle-kicking soccer balls into nets, they were dropkicking opponents into submission. And, while (spoiler alert!) WWE matches are scripted sports entertainment with predetermined outcomes, the athleticism is very real indeed.
"My go-to workout is heavy squatting, but I've really fallen in love with weightlifting and I try to do three workouts [per week] with heavy weights," Nikki says.
"For me, I love to create a very long, lean body type," says Brie, who prefers Pilates, yoga and barre class to lifting. "I also like the idea of mentally decompressing."
The twins perform five times per week - three nights of non-televised shows; Monday Night Raw on USA Network; and WWE SmackDown, Thursday nights on Syfy. Sundays, they appear on Total Divas, a reality program on E! Entertainment Television that provides a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of various WWE Divas.
March highlights for Nikki and Brie include WrestleMania 31 ("Our Super Bowl," says Nikki), March 29 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. On March 22 at 7 p.m., they'll perform at San Diego's Valley View Casino Center, a stop on the WWE LIVE! Road to WrestleMania tour.
Out of the public eye, The Bella Twins - born November 21, 1983, as Brianna and Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace - lend their time to a variety of altruistic endeavors. Nikki is involved with WWE's anti-bullying "Be a STAR" campaign, while Brie favors animal rights and environmental causes. But when the camera turns on again, they light up the ring and millions of TV sets before flying off to their next WWE fight in style.