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Exclusive Q&A: Inside Kayla Braxton’s journey to WWE and NXT
Since joining the ranks of the announce team last October, Kayla Braxton has quickly become a staple of NXT broadcasts. This week, we take a closer look at what brought Braxton to the world of sports-entertainment, as well as the highly inspirational message she has for anyone who reads her story.
WWE.COM: What has your NXT experience been like so far?
KAYLA BRAXTON: Absolutely surreal. If you told me a year ago while I was working in a newsroom that I’d be working for WWE, I would have laughed at you. And now, I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else.
WWE.COM: Let’s talk about that. Tell us about your life before WWE and NXT.
KAYLA: I graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. with a degree in broadcast journalism. During my time in college, I began to create content for the web. I had a couple digital entertainment shows for the school and also for the city of Nashville. By the time I graduated, I had my sights set on a bigger stage, and that was television. Six months later, I was hosting my own entertainment web and TV segment in the top-20 television market of Orlando. Little did I know how this move to The City Beautiful would eventually set up my career here at WWE.
WWE.COM: How would you compare working in the TV news and entertainment business to WWE?
KAYLA: Coming from a newsroom, where I predominately speak to a camera, to WWE and speaking in front of thousands of people live, it gives me a high. It’s absolutely indescribable. Yes, at times I’ve been nervous, but it was the excited kind of nervous. There are so many eyeballs waiting for you to tell the story of these Superstars they’ve come to watch, and you better do a darn good job if you want to be accepted by the WWE Universe. But I will say, the fans of this company have been so welcoming, so encouraging and so loyal, and I am so honored they have allowed me to be their host and ring announcer for the last several months.
WWE.COM: Let’s go way back to before you started working. What was your upbringing like?
I want to be an example to anyone I meet that it doesn't matter where you come from or what negative things people have said to you; we are all on this earth for a reason.
KAYLA: One of the primary reasons I’ve wanted to work in television was to have a platform. When I was 9 years old, my mother went to prison and I entered into the foster care system. Prior to that transition, I lived a very difficult childhood. I was discouraged and put down. I don’t blame my mother because she did her best, but poor decisions led her to poor relationships with men, and they were the ones who were physically and emotionally abusive. I was told I would never be anything or anyone of significance. I began to believe that.
But once I moved into the foster home and was nurtured by my new parents, I realized that I could become somebody, and I wanted to have an impact on kids that went through similar situations as I did. At a young age, I began participating in public-speaking competitions to tell my story. Eventually, I began traveling the country to speak in front of predominant businesses. When I was 17, I spoke in front of President George W. Bush at the White House and then began my college career, which led to my actual career. I want to be an example to anyone I meet that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what negative things people have said to you; we are all on this earth for a reason. Television just gives me a bigger platform to spread that message.
WWE.COM: Now you certainly have the incredible platform of WWE and NXT to spread that message. How did your family and friends react to your new career?
KAYLA: I gotta admit, my parents were a little skeptical at first. They didn’t know much about WWE, and I think when I told them I was going to be working as a ring announcer, they assumed I was saying I was going to be a ring girl who would be holding a sign in a bikini. [Laughs] But they get it now and they are so proud. My foster family was located in a tiny town in Alabama where you can’t even find a stoplight. But you will find a huge following of WWE. My friends that I grew up with have been reaching out to me so excited to see me on WWE Network. It’s definitely a proud feeling for me and, I know, for my friends and family as well.
WWE.COM: What was your initial impression when you attended your first NXT show?
KAYLA: “Wow, these people are passionate!” That’s really the only impression I needed. I consider myself to be very passionate, and when I surround myself with passionate people, I feel right at home. The question I’d like to know is what was the first impression that people had of me at my first NXT show? I had never ring-announced before, and I’m fairly certain I was screaming at the audience through the mic! I even forgot how to say, “The following contest is scheduled for one fall.” But, you know what was so cool? They helped me through it. They applauded. They came up after and hugged me and told me that it’s okay that I messed up and they still wanted me to be there. I instantly felt right at home!
WWE.COM: Not only can we see you on NXT’s road shows, but you’ve also started announcing at SmackDown LIVE events and even participated in your very first WrestleMania. What was that like?
KAYLA: I don’t even have the words. WWE proved that they spare no expense to provide the ultimate experience for its fans. These Superstars are put on one of the biggest stages in the world and given the freedom to live out their lifelong dreams. I was rubbing shoulders with WWE Legends and that is a feeling that cannot be duplicated. I was able to host my first WrestleMania Axxess. One of the coolest parts of that was surprising a few unexpected fans with tickets to WrestleMania. Oh, the emotion! I may have shed a tear or two during those moments. The deep loyalty and love the WWE Universe has for this company was so apparent during WrestleMania Week, and I felt myself falling more in love with the company in those moments.
WWE.COM: Any final words for the WWE Universe?
KAYLA: I want to make the biggest impact I can on this company. I want to be the best host and ring announcer I can possibly be. I want to be the best backstage interviewer I can possibly be. I want to be the best coworker I can possibly be. I want to curate genuine relationships with fans. I want the McMahons to recognize my appreciation for what they’ve created and realize that I am here to positively represent them and the entire WWE Universe. I hope that, during my time here at WWE, I can be living proof that no matter where you come from and no matter your situation, this company brings together people from all over the world and creates a culture where everyone belongs, everyone is welcome and everyone is passionate about the part they play here.
Follow Kayla Braxton on Twitter @KaylaBraxtonWWE.