In the below video interview, WWE NXT UK superstar Isla Dawn talks to Dom Smith about her background, and offers some support and advice to young people who are struggling with self-image and attitudes to success. Alongside that, we discuss musical influences including David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush and how they’ve influenced her in-ring persona.
Before wrestling, Isla had many aspirations before she found her calling, she started dancing at five years old with a lot of love and support from her mum. She then found an interest in acting, with support from her mother again, “She is one of the main people I aspire to make proud.” Career-wise things moved fast, after competing in her first match on NXT on the 18th June 2019 when she faced Toni Storm and Killer Kelly. She has gone on to beat Nina Samuels and become a recognisable name in the WWE world.
We ask Isla how she has been coping during these still strange times that we live in, “We did, it’s good to be back wrestling again, out of everything in quarantine and lockdown I was just desperate to get back in the ring and desperate to train again.” With this inspiration behind her, how has she been staying motivated? “There had to be a lot of like forcing myself to be motivated when gyms were closed, and if they were shut, I was having to do workouts in my back garden, trying to motivate myself through that while like everyone in my house is like ‘I’m watching TV’ and I’m like I need to go out.” She has managed to keep training even during the naturally rainswept Scottish weather, along with many brews from her mum.
The lockdown of 2020 has also allowed Isla to reflect on her career so far and focus on the future, which a lot of people are rarely afforded especially in fast-paced industries like Wrestling. “I feel like the actual time away helped me even more,” she reflects. Lockdown has also helped her reassess and evaluate her career and how she has changed for better or worse. “It’s given me a new lease of life in how I look at myself.” Looking forwards, she says “For me, at the moment my focus is on NXT UK completely and getting the women’s championship.”
We move onto more serious topics, and ask as an influential woman in Wrestling what advice would she give to someone struggling with self-image and mental health. “I would like to think if I am kind of an example of… not even overcoming a lot of those things, but standing with whatever issues like body image, mental health and stuff like that.” She goes on to say. “It’s being happy with who you are, and trying to work through things and always trying to evolve and heal and recover, and feel better.”
We move towards sunnier climbs in the latter stages of the interview and ask what success means to her as a person. “Success to me is happiness, 100%, I have been at points where I’ve been doing well and had a good income coming in, but I wasn’t happy, and that for me wasn’t being successful.” Even without being top of her game (yet), she is still in a really good place, “I’m so happy and fulfilled in everything that I’m doing and that for me is a success, that for me is where I feel at my most successful because I’m thoroughly enjoying everything I’m doing with NXT UK.”
Music is another big love of Isla’s, with legendary artists and bands like David Bowie, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, T-Rex and (checks notes) Busted? We jest of course, but Isla references her eclectic taste “It goes from really 12-year-old music to stuff from the sixties.” She also gains inspiration from her music heroes that she transfers to the ring through her strong, empowered characters. Speaking about this, she says, “They’ve got all their strength and independence and so much talent, but they’re also women and feminine, they’re very unashamedly feminine while being amazing.”
As we’re about to sign off, we ask if she has a message for her fans and replies seamlessly with “Yeah, I just want to thank them for sticking through everything that has gone on, thank them for all the support, hope everyone is safe and happy within all this, and I can’t wait until we get crowds back in and meet fans again.”
Words: Brett Herlingshaw / Interview: Dom Smith
Watch NXT UK on the WWE Network every week: https://www.wwe.com/shows/nxtuk