Dana Brooke: The WWE Diva Talks About Her Journey, Current Projects, & Miami Living
Ashley Sebera, aka WWE Diva Dana Brooke, is adjusting to the new normal. Used to performing for a crowd of thousands of screaming fans, at the moment, the 31-yearold is filming Friday Night SmackDown in an empty Amway Center in Orlando, Florida in order to promote safety amidst the global pandemic. “You go from a crowded arena to hearing crickets. But I think about who is on the other side of the TV, the kids who are out of school, who are going through a tough time…” says Ashley. You can imagine how different her environment must be. Fans drive the wrestling industry. Each performance is different because the crowd is different. There are plans to introduce a virtual audience to the atmosphere to at least give fans and performers the opportunity to see and connect with each other again.
Ashley became a member of the wrestling universe, and was assigned to WWE Performance Center and NXT in Orlando July of 2013. The organization gave her the ring name, Dana Brooke --and it fit. “Some are able to stick with their real name, some of us get a few different ones to choose from. It’s so crazy how life works. My parents wanted to name me Brooke. It was a beautiful thing. I was also very close to an ultimate warrior’s wife, Dana. She was so strong. She had lost her husband a year after I lost my ex, Dallas. I’ve grown into that name. The meaning is inspiring and strong,” says the Ohio native.
Ashley made her first televised in-ring debut on the April 15, 2015 episode of NXT, defeating Blue Pants. On October 16, 2019, she signed a five-year contract with SmackDown. The opportunity made her feel “super blessed and fortunate. I’ve been with the company for quite some time. I’m so happy.”
Ashley has always been an extremely good athlete, but she never thought that being a wrestler was a possibility. For 18 years, she did gymnastics before facing severe ankle injuries that would make her rethink her journey altogether. “I always think of life like a puzzle --every piece connects in some way to your journey. Gymnastics was all I knew. My family was super supportive and I’d always thought about being in the Olympics. When injuries stopped my career, my dream was pulled out from under me. I didn’t know what to do next.”
Next, Ashley competed, and dominated, as a diver. Her accomplishments include school champ, district champ, and a state qualifier. “It was cold. I didn’t want to get my hair wet, but I tried it and I discovered it wasn’t my thing. People are afraid of failure. Trying and not being your thing is completely okay. It’s about taking those mistakes and learning from them. I like to say must-takes, not mistakes.”
The Kent State University graduate went on to compete as a professional bodybuilder and found lots of success in this arena. During her body building journey, she met and began dating fellow bodybuilder, Dallas McCarver. His untimely death in 2017 turned her world upside down. The 3-year anniversary of his passing was a few months ago. “Wrestling has saved my life. Going through that experience, wrestling was there for me. It gave me a reason to live my life.”
During a trip to the Arnold Classic in Spain, Ashley met a very special recruiter that changed the trajectory of her entire career. “I was competing and a recruiter from WWE came. I couldn’t believe it. My family watched wrestling while I was growing up. My dad and I would always wrestle. So they asked me to come down to Tampa, Florida and try it out. The moment I was in the ring, I fell in love. To experience the outreach that WWE has, how hands-on they are with children, Special Olympics, community programs such as UNICEF, and more, I’m so grateful. Never give up on your dreams.”
Ashley started The Dallas McCarver Foundation, a non-profit organization, in honor of Dallas to raise money for underprivileged children. “He was a big kid at heart; I always called him a kid. He grew up with a rough upbringing and childhood, so I partnered with Dallas’ family, his mom Penny, to help others. We make donations to St. Jude. It’s amazing to see children’s eyes light up when they get a new toy or a new book to read. It’s really painful to lose a loved one. He would want us to do this. It feels right.”
Ashley and her boyfriend Uly Diaz also give back to the Miami community. Uly founded 305 Gives Back, a non-profit organization that is responsible for feeding the homeless. “Uly is such a strong motivator and supporter. He has a very strong local following in Miami, so we love giving back by speaking with children through anti-bullying campaigns. We’ve experienced similar situations as them, so we want to impact children as much as we can. To us, giving back is receiving.” The two are also heavily involved with the Boys and Girls Club of America, and Ashley is currently developing a Women’s Empowerment group, focused on pulling together women to be able to connect and share similar interests with each other.
After a night filming at Amway, Ashley makes the three-and-a-half-hour drive back to her home in Miami. “The last eight years I’ve been traveling from city to city, 4-5 days a week on the road. Being able to be home has been a blessing. I’m spending time with my boyfriend and his kids. I have a kitchen and I’m living out of a closet. It’s a good reset,” says Ashley. For now, while she has some time to spend in Miami, she’s been enjoying some of the things she likes to do, like, working out. “It’s funny, but working out helps me disconnect. And Uly has opened up a whole new training method to me. We have everything in our backyard. Learning something new is refreshing to me. It’s something new for my brain to comprehend.” Additionally, Ashley’s partnership with Denison Yachting has allowed her to go boating a lot more these days. “I’m taking in these moments… I recently got a dog and I’ve been taking him too.” Though most restaurants are operating on a delivery-only basis or at half capacity, there are a few Miami staples Ashley has been enjoying, including Seaspice and Grails in Wynwood, which has “great food and great hospitality! I love to watch UFC fights there and they always provide a private spot for us to watch them.”
In the ring, Ashley is consistently reinventing herself, leveraging strength-based gymnastics moves, including roundoffs in the ring, front flips off of the top rope, and bodybuilding maneuvers like front squats and sit out powerbombs. For the next few years, wrestling will continue to play a major role in her life. “Life is weird these days. I’m always focused on small-term goals that lean into longer-term, bigger-picture goals. Eventually, I’d love to write a book and go into acting and movies. One day, when our time frees up, we also want to travel to multiple cities and continue to give back.”
She is also working on herself and self-love. “In today’s society, you’re worried about what people think and what people are saying. I’ve been focused on just me and self-love, which has made me such a stronger person. Me being happy rubs off on people. When you’re out in public, you impact people. That’s what I want to do.” Ashley admits that she too has insecurities. “Definitely my freckles --rarely do I ever show them. Recently, I did a photoshoot, natural hair and just embraced it, showed the world. From that point, I’ve tried to wear less makeup. I’m embracing self-love, that’s what I want the world to see.” As Dana Brooke, Ashley inspires millions, including children who she relates to on a personal level, women who are following their dreams, and those in her local community of Miami. “I want to see the world and empower women to follow their dreams and goals.”
Keep up with Ashley on Instagram @ashasebera_danabrooke and watch SmackDown on Fridays at 8 pm.