Terri Runnels gives her take.
At the 1996 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Terri Runnels or better known by some as 'Marlena' debuted in the World Wrestling Federation. She surfaced as a cigar-smoking, mysterious woman who went on to manage her then-real-life husband and former 3-time WWF Intercontinental Champion Goldust. Runnels guided "The Golden One" to much success and throughout her years in the WWF/E she was spotlighted in various storylines.
During an exclusive interview with Lee Walker of SportsKeeda, she was asked about her initial reaction to the Goldust and Marlena personas and she clarified that WWF did not come up with the character and that she was the one who created 'Marlena' and went into detail about how the character came about.
"WWF never pitched Marlena, I created Marlena. So Dustin's on the road, I have a year and a half-year-old daughter. I'm laying in our tanning bed, and I'm thinking, 'What is it that WWF doesn't have?' They had Sherri, Tammy Stych, and I'm thinking they're missing real glamour. As I'm laying there, I'd just been to my sister's home, and she collected Barbie dolls. There's a designer named Bob Mackie. He designed a Barbie Doll called The Sun Goddess. So I'm laying in the tanning bed, and all these thoughts are going through my head. I'm like, 'oh my God, Dustin is supposed to be this androgynous actor.' So I started thinking about Hollywood, androgyny, glamour, old school." She said. "So Marlena Dietrich was one of the first women to ever wear pants. Women always wore dresses back then. She bumped the trend and went somewhat androgynous in the way she dressed.
I come up with this whole concept. Everything that I think Marlena should be, and I called Dustin from the tanning bed. I said, 'Babe, I have this great idea, what do you think?' He goes, 'I love it.' I said, 'Call Vince.' He said, 'You call Vince.' I go, 'Babe, I don't work for him, you work for him, you tell him.' He goes, 'Nope, if you want it, you're gonna have to call and tell him.' At the time I think Dustin was kind of nervous and too new." She continued, "So I called, and the person who called me back is Pat Patterson. So Pat goes, 'I heard you had an idea.' I was like, 'Yeah.' I told him, and he goes, 'Well, we appreciate the idea but, thank you, bye.' So I was like okay, they don't like the idea. A month later, I'm at my grandparents home, Dustin calls and says, 'What are you doing?' I tell him, 'I'm at Grand and Grannies.' He goes, 'Pack your bags, they want to do your idea.' I need to beat Bruce Prichard's ass. He did a podcast with Dustin, and he goes, 'Vince came up with Marlena.' No, the hell he didn't. The sad part, I had to sign it away. They're like if you want to do this, sign your life away. I told Vince I either want to go to the ring with a glass of wine or a cigar. At the time, I would smoke cigars in a bubble bath with a glass of wine, and I loved it. I thought it would add to the androgyny of the character. It also allowed me to partake in something love, cigars. Cigars, Scars, & Superstars is my podcast name, but I have to give credit of my podcast name to my jester Cory, he came up with that."