Our very own pro wrestler chats spandex and glitter with ‘Glow’s’ Kate Nash

Just over a decade ago Kate Nash burst on to the music scene and more recently has played Rhonda ‘Britannica’ Richardson in Netflix hit 'GLOW', about a female wrestling syndicate in the 1980s. But which career comes with harder knocks?

A decade after Kate Nash’s 2008 debut Made of Bricks topped the album charts and won a Brit Award, the 30-year-old is starring as Rhonda ‘Britannica’ Richardson in Netflix’s wrestling hit GLOW. The Big Issue Foundation’s very own pro wrestler, Rhia O’Reilly, met up with Nash in East London to talk wrestling, feminism, and how her fans bridge the gap between music and smackdowns.

The Big Issue: So, you’re back in London and getting ready for GLOW Season 2. You’ve been in the public eye for so long, doing everything from singing to acting, but I never saw you as a wrestling fan. How did that come about?

Kate Nash: I initially saw the audition and the casting call said ‘wrestling, spandex and glitter’ and it was looking for 14 women, and I just knew that this was mine and I had to go for it. I previously did a Jenji [Kohan, Glow writer] show about witches in Salem during the 1800s which didn’t get picked up in the end, but because she’d seen my work I managed to get the audition for Glow. I watched the documentary before the audition and I just loved the rawness of it. I’m just attracted to anything that is very female driven. I suppose a lot of what we see that is put out in the wresting world is very male dominated. I remember watching it as a kid and it was just all these men and I was just like eurghhh, this is boring. I wasn’t really into it when I was younger.

What was your experience like working with [professional wrestler] Chavo Guerrero Jr. when training for the show?

It was honestly the turning point. He’s such a great teacher. I could talk about him for hours. He doesn’t even realise how at ease he puts us, there was something really empowering about how far he pushes us and believes in us. And then learning about his family and where he came from, we just really started to appreciate the culture and the origins of wrestling. And then when I got tweeted by EVE pro wrestling in London, I got to find out more about the women’s professional wrestling league in the UK, and watching it I was like “yes! This is amazing!”.

And I remember you were at the front for pretty much the whole show?

Yes I was! And I really missed that atmosphere, as I hadn’t shot in a while. But once you watch it and experience it, you really get it. Wrestling is a combination of so many things, it’s like a mix of dance, performance and fighting. It’s an incredibly skilled thing to be able to do. What people are able to do with their bodies is jaw dropping to be honest and after watching it live and doing it myself, I really get it now.

Of course, you’re doing it for TV, but wrestling is also a performance and form of entertainment which is something you’ve been doing forever anyway – but how do you compare performing as a wrestler or as an actor versus performing as a musician?

Well there is three different things. There is acting which is completely different, which has definitely helped me with the discipline in my music career, because as an actor you do so much prep work and you have to show up to shoot different scenes all the time. Whereas I’m in a world of music where people are so unprofessional. I think it’s one of the most unprofessional industries in the world. It’s all about emotion and feeling or whatever the thing is you’re trying to sell. It’s a really unprofessional industry. But I really like the discipline that comes from acting, because there is like 300 people on set and If I don’t show up then I’m affecting all of these people. I guess you could apply the same to music, but there is like a selfish kind of entitlement that comes with being an artist and how people around artists treat them and what they expect of the artists.

Beginning to drag up all the mess is the only way we are going to be able to clean it up

How do the fans you’ve gained from doing the wrestling show compare to your music fans?

I mean I feel that there is crossover. But there were a lot of people who didn’t recognise me and were like ‘oh my god that’s you’ and then there were people who were like wow this is weirdly completely perfect and exactly what you should be doing. And I kind of feel like that too. I never would have thought this- but it’s exactly where I should be – it’s my world. I’m like ‘yes, I fit in here’ – the girls, the physicality and the female empowerment – it just feels so right. But then I think I feel more pressure when I do interviews about wrestling, because I really want to impress wrestling fans and I don’t want to annoy them in anyway. But the reception has been great. I was so relieved and happy to hear that so many female wrestlers loved Glow and that it is helping their community, because the last thing we would want to do is exploit that, we actually want to support them and help to give them more exposure. It has been great to meet loads of female wrestlers and feel the good energy from them.

Since your debut album [2007’s Made Of Bricks] you’ve been about empowering women and speaking up, where do you get that from?

I have to say that comes from my family, my sisters and growing up in a very loud female household. Growing up, my mum always challenged us intellectually and we debated political topics at home, but me and my sisters would also scrap a lot. I mean we love each other and are so close. But I almost feel like that physicality between us has meant that we are so close now. My mum is very outspoken. If we were in a hotel or a restaurant and something was wrong, she would always speak up and address the issue. I think a lot of women are taught not to be like that.

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I think things are changing for women now, with #MeToo and ‘times up’, and we see that happening across the entertainment industry – but do you think with all of these things, it is better for women now?

But it’s confusing to say where the progress is being made in the music industry

I think we are making progress, but there is still a long way to go. I think it’s very important to see how many men have done this to women in the industry, and how many behave like this and how normal it is. Because that’s the problem, it’s such a normalised culture of disrespect to women in so many different degrees. It’s not really shocking for us now, because I don’t know a woman who hasn’t got one of these stories. I think highlighting how normal the problem is, is key, because it shows how big the problem is and how much change still really needs to happen. But beginning to drag up all the mess, is the only way we are going to be able start to clean it up and start to change things for the better of women.

But it’s confusing to say where the progress is being made in the music industry, because on the other hand there are a lot of women who are killing it. I feel that there are a lot more women in the music industry in the limelight, than when I first came out 10 years ago. Now there are so many tunnels for having a career because of the internet. Like there’s not one way to do it anymore. But then sometimes I listen to the radio and I literally can’t tell the difference between some of these singers anymore, because it’s like the personality has been taken out of it. And it’s like a meat factory to me and I think after we’ve come all this way, are we now going to take a step back and just create, I dunno. I dunno what’s happening in the music industry to be honest.

But you’re making new music and you did a Kickstarter for the new album [Yesterday Was Forever], how was that?

Nerve-racking. Oh my god. Literally I was like what do I do if I only make 10 pounds. Or even 10,000 pounds. I mean it’s really expensive to put out a record globally and tour it the way I want to. I was like this is going to be really embarrassing I fail. But then just before I did it, I was like you know what, if I fail I’ll just figure out another way how to do it. Because that’s what I do. Patty Smith I think said that sometimes being an artist is about being the number one thing everyone talks about and then other times it’s about releasing a poetry book that nobody cares about. Because I’m going to always want to make art, whether it’s in a small way or large way. But it’s not fully dependent on me, it’s also dependent on everything going on around me and I can’t affect all of those things. All I really have power over is myself and my own choices. So, it’s kind of like coming to terms with that and making the best decisions I can as I go along and some of them may fail. But I didn’t fail!

I really like the album and I feel that any kind of art you make is a response to your life, so do you think having the Glow experience during recording the album fed into that in anyway?

I think it helped me to finish the album. Because I was writing a lot of the songs over a period of four years and I felt very scattered and lost and I was trying to figure out how to survive in the music industry. But then doing Glow, I was around so many powerful women and they are my favourite thing about doing the show, especially with the confidence and support they gave me during the show, and that confidence gave me the push that I needed to finish the record. So yeah, I definitely feel that the confidence from doing Glow has impacted every area of my life.

Season two of GLOW is on Netflix now. Kate Nash was speaking to Rhia O’Reilly, a two-time Pro Wrestling EVE (often called the ‘real-life GLOW’) champion,  who works on the fundraising team of The Big Issue Foundation.

Images: Ben Sullivan