Professional wrestler Mickie James is fascinated by her Virginia Indian heritage. “I wish I was more involved with it and knew the language,” says James, a member of the Mattaponi Tribe in King William County. “I love the culture and the dances, as well as the pottery making.”
When she was young, she regularly attended local pow-wows. “My mom tried to keep us involved as much as we could be,” she says. “I still go to pow-wows and our August meetings.”
James spent most of her childhood in Hanover County, graduating from Patrick Henry High School. An accomplished equestrian, she helped train and show horses from her grandparents’ farm in Caroline County. “I started riding horses when I was four years old and I was competing when I was eight or nine,” she says. “I was in the circuit when I was twelve, showing Morgans.”
Another passion: music. She began playing the violin in fifth grade. “I loved it,” she says, adding she doesn’t play now. Instead, she’s funneled that passion into singing and songwriting. James was inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame last year and won song of the year for Shooting Blanks. This year, she is nominated in three categories.
“I was jamming to whatever music was on the radio and jamming with my own lyrics,” she says of her initial interest in singing. “I came up with a collection of ideas for songs. I never thought I was good enough, but I wanted to do it.”
She found the courage to take that collection of songs to Nashville where she met with several producers. She self-released an album that had a southern, country rock-and-roll edge in 2010. “I was putting out music, and got signed with a label and then put out a second album,” she says. “I’m now working on my third album with a producer in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
She enjoys going to the Native American Music Awards because it’s a reminder of her Virginia Indian heritage. “When I go, I get to see tribes from all over the country,” she says. “It’s a cool collection of folks.”
Music gives her a different creative outlet than her career in wrestling. “Wrestling is so adrenaline-based. It’s raw, masculine type of emotion,” she says. “My music is more of the woman side of me, the real side of me.”
She got interested in wrestling in 2005 after working in the corporate world for three years. “I had no back-up plan,” she says of starting her wrestling career. “My first shows were $25 and a handshake. I built it up until I was the top girl on the independent scene.”
James is a 9-time champion of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). “I am the only woman to win every championship,” she says.
She left the WWE in 2010 to return to the independent circuit and then went back to WWE in January 2017. “Now I’m full-time on the road and a full-time mom,” she says.
While she was wrestling independently, she took time to marry wrestler Nick Aldis, the current National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Champion. Their son, Donovan, was born in 2014.
“That has changed my life in terms of purpose,” James says of marriage and motherhood. “I make decisions based on what is going to be beneficial for my family, not just beneficial for my career.”
The WWE has been understanding about her desire to be a mom and a wrestler. “I have gratitude to my family, my husband, and everyone that has been so helpful and understanding,” she says.
James, who lives in Henrico County with her family, typically travels to matches on long weekends. But even with her hectic schedule, she finds time to “go back to the reservation to visit as often as I can,” she says.