I struggle with my self-confidence. I have since I was a little girl, and I imagine I will eternally, but every day I feel a little better about myself. I feel that little bit better because I find people to emulate – even just fractionally. People I respect. People I admire. People both famous and not. I’ve known people who appear to be on top of the world who couldn’t hate themselves more. Conversely, I once lived near a woman who had almost nothing, but you’d have never known it. She danced through life, and I imagine she still does, appreciating every moment she worked so tirelessly to be able to enjoy. She taught me that no one will ever care as much about what you do in a single moment more than you yourself. With that reality, at least in her eyes, why not dance every chance you get? Why not let yourself be free?
I’m still working on that last bit.
When I first saw Renee Paquette (Renee Young in WWE) on television, I was intrigued. I couldn’t place it at the time but looking back it’s so easy to do. She was confident. She was many other things too – beautiful, well-spoken, intelligent, and driven – but more so, she was confident. She exuded it. Perhaps it wasn’t so obvious to someone not so hopelessly as lost as I was at the time, but I clung to people like that during those moments in my life as if they were a floating wreckage around a quickly sinking ship.
More than her confidence, her presence as a strong woman on a television show that needed them immediately elevated her stock in my eyes. Not that WWE didn’t have a roster full of amazing and talented females, both in the ring and out. They did! At the time though, there existed a very noticeable ceiling for women in professional wrestling. I saw it and I imagine many others did too. It wasn’t long after in which the women’s evolution in WWE began – recognized very publicly by the company itself!
I idolized wrestlers when I was growing up. Who didn’t, right?! Hell, I still do. I find people I can relate to – especially those who have overcome impossibilities to continue to promote the possible – and I latch on for life in constant support. By the time Renee came around, I was not such a child anymore. I was struggling to find my way and was constantly feeling lost in a world I felt I didn’t belong to.
I stood a whopping 4’11’’ tall, didn’t have a voice that shook mountains, and largely felt broken. I found myself consistently troubled and lacking the confidence necessary to push myself where I wanted to go but couldn’t. While I was beginning to face my past – I struggled to picture my future. Without a literal voice – taken by trauma years prior – how could I be as mighty as those I looked up to.
As I had yet to discover, it was much simpler than I ever expected. Life is funny that way sometimes. As Renee was allowed more platforms within the company to spread her wings, her personality began to shine. She wasn’t just the badass woman backstage or on Superstars. She was so much more. As she “found” her voice through her very own WWE Network show and many other avenues, we got to know Renee as herself and as a woman.
I found inspiration through her ability to take the things she was given and make them her own. Largely, it seemed as though she was doing just that. Her uniquely driven personality found a home in my heart and took root as proof that anything was possible. Very few people get the chance to do the things Renee did within wrestling. Even fewer women.
So, and though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, because of her very televised journey through WWE, I used Renee as inspiration for myself. I desperately needed confidence in my voice – only as powerful as a whisper – to succeed within my career. I needed, at a minimum, to convey confidence as an assurance I had an upward trajectory. I needed those things. But I wanted more. Because life isn’t only about the things we work to achieve, it’s about the things we can be proud of through the things we overcome.
I stood in front of a mirror, facing a girl I did not appreciate or like, and I practiced speaking as confidently as Renee did on screen. I pretended I was talking to bosses, acted as if I was in interviews, and I even stood as though I was introducing myself to pretty girls. It was embarrassing at first, but I kept picturing what could be if I would only let go of what used to be. I kept at it. Slowly my confidence grew ever so slightly.
I walked straighter, smiled more, and danced when I could because I deserved to. As I made progress, Renee’s career trajectory only continued to explode upward. The respect she had earned and potential she had eclipsed allowed for her rightful spot among the greats of the business. She would sit in a seat held before by legends. A woman was about to alter the landscape of professional wrestling’s largest host. The women’s evolution had reached commentary. This was history.
Do you know how many women in the history of WWE can call themselves full time commentators for Monday Night Raw?
Just one. Renee Paquette.
I struggle still to appreciate the moment Renee sat in that seat with Raw at her fingertips. I had been a fan for nearly twenty years and had never heard a women’s voice in a full-time role. Commentators narrate the stories our favorites tell in the ring. Seamless storytelling resembles Shakespeare. Beautiful and flowing, spinning arm drags into anarchy and drop kicks into desperation. Telling tales of love and loss, viciousness and victory, and hilarity and hierarchy, commentators lead us through the fantastical world we’ve all chosen to become lost in.
Hearing not just a woman’s voice narrating the stories I loved, but HER voice, was everything. I could look back to the six-year-old girl who first fell in love with wrestling and the words of Tony Schiavone and appreciate the gravity of how far not only she had come but how far the business had come as well. Not only that – she was GOOD. She owned her place on that desk, surrounded by men, and demanded respect.
I look toward the future of the business and see nothing but possibilities thanks in part to what Renee was able to accomplish in her time working for the giant of wrestling giants. The change she was able to spearhead will impact more in the years ahead – some because the timing was right, but far more because she worked her ass off and owned herself and her path. The memories made will last a lifetime, but the change made will last forever. Progress doesn’t die – it just goes on.
The thing I admire most about her is that she is always unapologetically herself. She is so many things, but more than anything else, she’s just Renee Paquette. She’s a fighter, a WWE legend – even if she won’t admit it, a best-selling author, and an amazing podcast host. She’s also about to be a Mom.
She’s impacted me on a level hard to explain, even though I’ve just spent 1300 words trying to do just that. I don’t know if I look in the mirror today and appreciate who I see looking back at me without her influence from afar over the last decade. I don’t know that I ever am able to find my confidence enough to make it as far as I have without her acting as an example of just that on a worldwide stage. I definitely wouldn’t have had near as many practice mirror-dates with pretty girls as I did because she gave me the drive to not just be alright with wanting something for myself but working to deserve it as well!
She’s been many things to me and countless others I imagine. Maybe a definition isn’t as needed as are just a few more heartfelt words:
Thank you, Renee. Thank you for leading the way and showing us that we can. Like a title belt under those beautiful WrestleMania lights in front of a literal universe – you’re as good as gold.