Layla announces retirement from WWE: exclusive interview

Layla announces retirement from WWE: exclusive interview

On a hot summer evening in New York City on August 16, 2006, the WWE Universe chose and then promptly welcomed Layla El as its newest Diva. In the heart of Times Square, the winner of the 2006 WWE Diva Search celebrated what would be the first of countless successes over the course of her nine-year career in sports-entertainment. On Wednesday, after almost a decade of dazzling WWE fans in every pocket of the globe, the former Divas and Women's Champion announces her retirement from WWE.

In an exclusive, candid interview with, Layla discusses her departure, dancing, the Divas of tomorrow and more in a farewell message to the WWE Universe.

WWE.COM: Your decision to retire from WWE has to be the most difficult decision of your career. What makes walking away from the squared circle such a challenge?

LAYLA: I feel like deciding to retire from the ring has been a hard decision to make because I’m passionate and I love performing. I’ve known everybody in that company now for nine years. They’re family. I spend more time with crew and Superstars and Divas on the roster than I did with anybody else. It becomes part of your life. And not only that, it’s hard walking away from the fans. Part of me feels a little bit guilty for walking away because [WWE fans] are 100 percent loyal and have supported me since 2006. I wouldn’t even have this job if the fans didn’t vote in the Diva Search. I was able to win that competition because of them and I was blessed. But sometimes you just need to step out and take a risk and move onto the next phase in life.

WWE.COM: What are the key factors and thoughts of yours that led to this life-changing decision?

Layla announces retirement from WWE: exclusive interview
LAYLA: I’ve been traveling the world for nine years now and sometimes it’s just time to start the next chapter of your life. Traveling on the road was fun, but the older you get, it takes more time for recovery. I just got tired of the travel part.

Photos: Layla kicks it on her day off in exclusive photo shoot

WWE.COMYou mentioned the 2006 WWE Diva Search. I actually interviewed you the night you won. What is different about the Layla from that night and the Layla of 2015?

LAYLA: [gasp] SHUT UP! Why do I remember that?! You were my first interview and now you’re like my last. Wow, that is awesome. Can we note that?

WWE.COMYeah, I think we can. It’s kind of wild.

LAYLA: Yeah, that would be awesome. Anyway, so in 2006, I was very spunky and I had just finished dancing for the Heat and artists like Kanye and P. Diddy. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into of course — that innocent, gullible thing. And now, growing up with WWE, I feel like a grown woman, a mature woman. This Layla, I feel, is accomplished and has had a lot more world experiences than I could have dreamed of. I’ve traveled everywhere in the world. I’ve been to Iraq during the war and there’ve been so many things I’ve been able to do — participated in charity events, performed live. I feel like I’m wiser, more experienced and I know what I want now.

See photos of Layla with John Cena at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event

I am proud that I did make it in the ring and I can truly walk away saying, “I’m a good wrestler.” I did really well and I was able to break through the negative and definitely prove people wrong.

Layla announces retirement from WWE: exclusive interview
WWE.COMWhat’s next for Layla? What are your goals and where will you go from here? 

LAYLA: What’s next for Layla? To be perfectly honest, the first two weeks, I’m doing absolutely nothing. [laughs] No, I have stuff that I would like to do. I would maybe like to do some TV stuff, whether it’s in the States or in the U.K. I’ve talked a little bit about maybe going back into my dance background. I’m going to start choreographing and might even go back to the Heat to start choreographing with them.

And then, of course, I’m engaged now to my fiancé Richard. We’re going to get married and then later on, in a few years, I want to have some kids and start my family life.

WWE.COMThat sounds like an excellent plan. Looking at the Divas Division you are leaving behind, what are your hopes for WWE’s Divas in the immediate future and beyond?

LAYLA: I think I went through three or four different eras of the Divas and there’s always been change. And I feel like this most recent change [#GiveDivasAChance] is awesome, because women are making a stand and demanding this opportunity. With the Divas Revolution and these Divas that are coming up, I really do believe this is a great moment for a girl to be a Diva. Their matches are longer and more competitive, plus I don’t remember there ever being two [Divas] matches in one show. Everything has changed, and with more change comes more growth. I hope these girls can take it to another level and then, after that, the girls that are following them can take that to another level. With change grows more change so I’ll be happy to watch in support. I hope they kill it.

WWE.COM: With no Layla in the ladies locker room, who now holds the crown for best Diva dancer?

LAYLA: If I have to pick, I'd say Emma. I still haven't been able to master her dance.

WWE.COMWhat’s your parting message to the WWE Universe and something you want them to know?

LAYLA: I’d like to tell WWE Universe “Thank you” for always being loyal to me. They’ve seen me through my good times and in my bad times. In one of the first interviews when I won the Diva Search, I said to the fans, “I won’t let you down,” and I truly feel like I can walk away saying I have attained anything that any Diva was able to attain.

I was in the first-ever  Divas Tables Match [at WWE TLC 2010]. I was the first Diva Search winner to win both championships — the Women’s Title and the Divas Title. I was able to be in Lay-Cool, which was the highlight of my career. I am just blessed in every way. I feel like I have done everything that I would possibly have done with WWE, so I’m walking away a very happy camper and I hope everyone else is happy with my decision, too.

Watch the table-shattering clash at WWE TLC 2010 on WWE Network

Thanks to WWE for giving me this amazing opportunity that has been nine years of seeing amazing things and meeting amazing people. I feel very accomplished. I’m walking away with a very happy glow in my heart. This isn’t a sad thing. It’s a positive thing. I’m moving on to the next part of my life.

Layla announces retirement from WWE: exclusive interview
Special thank you to  Michelle McCool because with her, I had the best two-and-a-half years of my career. We’re still really good friends and I was privileged to work with and learn from her.

Kelly Kelly and I worked together from the get-go. I’d love to say to her “Thank you so much!” We had so much fun and became true friends. Together, Kelly Kelly and I learned how to wrestle. We became very good friends and we had so much fun together.

I’d like to thank Fit Finlay because he gives the Divas 125 percent. He basically gave me my opportunity; he started training me and taught me. He became a father figure to me, which I never had in my life. He took me under his wing and I’m forever grateful for that.

Thanks to Julie for making my amazing gear, and for you and Terry always making me laugh and being my friends. Thanks to Jan for always making me look Flawless. Thanks to WWE security Muriel, Scott and especially Jim Kelly - love you! Thank you to Mark Yeaton, a complete gentleman. Thanks to Chimel for allowing me to make fun of him. A big thanks to the trainers Chris and Larry. A huge thanks to Dr. Sampson, an amazing doctor and person. Thanks to Janie and Alison from Diva Search casting. They both played a huge part in my casting. I'd like to thank Brian Gewirtz for always believing in me and giving me an opportunity and changing my hairstyle. Thanks to William Regal for being such a great example. I enjoyed every second working with him.

I also want to thank WWE’s executive offices, WWE’s talent relations group, the travel department, WWE producers and writers, make-up artists and seamstresses, and every other Superstar and Diva.

WWE wishes Layla the best in all her future endeavors. WWE Universe, comment below or send your well wishes to Layla via Twitter at  @mslayel.

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