Interviews

Published on April 28th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz

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Leah Van Dale On Her New Wine “Capo Cagna,” Life As WWE’s Carmella & Her Future Goals

E! Total Divas star Leah Van Dale — as also known to the WWE Universe as Carmella — is well-known for her fierce attitude and even fiercer physique. But there is a lot more to the fitness queen, who boasts over two million followers on Instagram. Although she is a fitness expert, Van Dale believes you should never have to completely restrict yourself from what you love to achieve your fitness goals.

For Leah Van Dale, her diehard fans know that what she loves most aside from fitness, and that is wine. The name of her new wine brand, Capo Cagna, can be loosely translated to “Boss Bitch” in Italian. That striking brand name — as chosen by Van Dale — truly aligns with the former Smackdown Women’s Champion, who is undeniably confident, driven and respected, both on and off-camera.

I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Leah Van Dale by phone this month about Capo Cagna and plenty more. Highlights from that chat are below, while audio of the full interview will likely be broadcast in the near-future via the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast.

In the meantime, Leah Van Dale can be followed on Twitter and Instagram via @CarmellaWWE, while Capo Cagna keeps a home on Instagram at @CapoCagna.

LEAH VAN DAMME -CAPOCOGNA WINE BTS CENSORED from Walter Aleman Photography on Vimeo.

I’m curious when you first got into wine in general…

Leah Van Dale: When I turned 21. I never really drank wine before and one of my girlfriends was like, “No, you have to try it.” At first I honestly didn’t really like it, and then I tried more and more different types. I started with whites and then I dabbled in to reds, and I love red wine as well. And ever since, I guess the rest is history. When I’m on the road and it’s been a long day traveling, I just want to unwind with a glass of wine at the end of the day.

And it’s always been wine rather than beer or spirits for you always?

Leah Van Dale: I mean, unless I was watching football and eating wings I’ll have a beer, but other than that, I’m very partial to wine.

So how long was this line of wine in the planning stages?

Leah Van Dale: Gosh, it’s been in the works maybe since August or September of last year…

And was it that a vineyard came to you? Or you just had the idea and you reached out to some vineyards?

Leah Van Dale: I reached out to several different companies and I met the company that I was partnering with… They loved the idea and the rest is just history… They love everything that I’m really representing with this wine brand. So it’s a really good partnership and it’s been so much fun.

where did the name this great name that you have for your brand come from?

Leah Van Dale: I’m Italian, first of all… I just love my roots and my upbringing. I really wanted to do something with that, and and I just wanted to take it in with basically what my career is and what I’m doing. In Italian, “Capo Cagna” translates to “boss bitch.” I don’t want just come out and say “boss bitch,” because I feel like some people might be offended because it’s so blunt. So I figured, what a better way to go about it than the Italian version of it? And here we are…

It’s really great with the branding that you’ve done so far, where you’ve pointed out that this is not a wine for wine snobs. Did you know outright that you want to make a wine for the average person that just loves wine and doesn’t care about the price tag?

Leah Van Dale: Absolutely. So I’m personally not a wine snob. I don’t like to spend more than 20 dollars on a bottle of wine ever, unless it’s maybe it’s a special occasion. But even then I don’t like to break the bank on a bottle of wine, and there’s really no wine out that is really targeting the audience that I’m going for… You look at the bottle and it looks fancy and the label itself has a really cool texture to it… But it’s actually not expensive. So I just wanted to really target that sort of market where you’re bougie but you’re on a budget. (laughs)

So you have two varieties that are announced so far. Were there more in the works?

Leah Van Dale: There are more in the works. Right now we’re starting out with a chardonnay and then a cabernet. I wanted to do a red and a white for now. Potentially we’ll be getting into maybe a white zin and I definitely want to get a prosecco, I love champagne. I’m starting out slow. I want to test it out and just see how it goes and the feedback we can get. Obviously I can’t be perfect right away but I’m just so excited that it’s actually happening. So we’re going to start slow and then you know there’s definitely room to branch out .

Are there plans to use your brand to do other projects? Or is it just a one-off for the wine?

Leah Van Dale: That’s a great question. I really want to create Capo Cagna and build it as just a brand. There’s so many ways it could go with it. There could be clothing, there could be accessories, it could be anything. It could be other sorts of food beverage. I honestly have no idea, the sky’s the limit. I mean, I don’t want to put a cap or a limit on it, and so I guess we’ll see where it goes right now and start out with wine and then you know just kind of go from there.

In general though, where in the process did the name come from? Because you mentioned that liking to tie everything to being Italian, but did you have the name after you knew that you were doing the wine? Was that the last piece of the whole process?

Leah Van Dale: No it’s actually way prior. I have a big fitness background, I used to teach Zumba and be a personal trainer and all that. So I was really trying to create my own fitness class, to be honest, and I was coming up with different names and ideas. I was like “‘Boss Bitch,’ that’s really cool, I wonder what that would be in Italian.” Because obviously like I said, people may be offended by it. So I wanted to put it out there but not be too blunt, and I had found that translation maybe two years ago. Then nothing ever came from the fitness class. You know it’s so busy with my job and my lifestyle that I have right now, so when I realized this opportunity with the wine, I thought “You know what this is like the perfect name.” You don’t have to second-guess, it was just came to me right away and the rest is history.

Before you came to WWE you were a successful dancer. Besides the fitness and the training you talked about, was dance always your chosen sport growing up? Or is that just the thing you excelled at and became famous for?

Leah Van Dale: Dance is my life. I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. So for me, I just love performing and I did it all through high school and then I cheered in the NFL for the New England Patriots and then I was a [Los Angeles] Laker Girl for a year, so gosh, I just did most I could with dance and I felt like it was time to move on, and like I said I do love to perform. So that’s the best part about being in the WWE. You’re playing a character, you’re performing for a crowd and I just love feeding off of that energy.

So do you feel that there’s something that more people should know about you in general besides the fact of how successful you are with the WWE and that you have the wine line? For example, is there another hobby or passion or thing that you’ve been pursuing over the years that one day people might see you do on a large scale?

Leah Van Dale: That’s a great question. I have no idea. To be honest, I never thought I would be in the WWE. I never thought I would be a wrestler. That wasn’t something that I thought a girl of my size could do. But I’m here and I’m doing it and having a great time with it. It’s led me to so many other opportunities, again here with the wine and without my career in the WWE, I wouldn’t have this platform and the fanbase that I have to explore the world of wine and create my own brand and everything like that.

But I kind of like to let things unfold the way they’re supposed to do. I don’t really have a plan. It’s kind of like, “Go with it.” Because I mean it’s working out for me so far to get through my whole entire life, I am having so much fun performing and traveling the world and having so much fun learning about the wine business. I have a degree in marketing, so I’m really trying to put that to use. Not only marketing myself and my Carmella character but also Capo Cagna.

So ultimately having accomplished all this — you know you just mentioned going around the world regularly and all that as part of the WWE — WWE or otherwise, is there a career accomplishment that you’re most proud of at this point?

Leah Van Dale: Oh definitely. Becoming Smackdown Women’s Champion in WWE, because like I said, it wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. I never thought I would be a wrestler. So to train and be doing it for such a short period of time and reach the height and become champion, that says a lot about work ethic and how hard I tried and worked at becoming a wrestler. To me that’s the ultimate, that I can go down in history as being champion, because there’s nothing higher than that. So I feel very fortunate for that.

In terms of your work ethic, being a very productive person, knowing the schedule that you keep up. are you big on to-lists or calendars? How is it that you’re able to get so much done?

Leah Van Dale: I am so anal when it comes to scheduled routines. I’ve just always been that way since I was a kid. I don’t really use a calendar, I don’t use anything, it’s just always in my head. My whole entire life comes down to every minute. Even including going to train with my personal trainer, it’s like, “I’ve got 30 minutes to get there and then do my training and I have 30 minutes to get to the next appointment I have.” Everything is so meticulous for me. It’s getting to a point now where I can’t even keep track because everything is so crazy when doing WWE and traveling and the wine, and it’s just been crazy. So I don’t know how much more I can handle at this point, but so far so good. (laughs)

Now you just mentioned training though. What is it that you usually do to stay in such great shape?

Leah Van Dale: Being on the road, it’s a very strict schedule here, you’re in airplanes or in rental cars or hotels. So for me I always make sure I do cardio every morning when I’m at my hotel and then I always try to at least three days on the road in the gym. Then when I’m home I have a trainer I work with three days a week. A lot of times we’re traveling and we’re not in our regular schedule. We have three days off a week but that’s pretty rare to get because we’re always on different tours, we’re going to Europe and then we have Australia, we’re in Japan, and it’s just always on the go. I always make the gym a priority.

For somebody like you, is diet the biggest part of it? Or is it as long as you’re exercising six or seven days a week that you can do what you want and you can enjoy all the wine you want?

Leah Van Dale: Well that’s why I work so hard in the gym, so I can enjoy my wine and not feel guilty about it. (laughs) But for me I really am big on diet and nutrition because a lot of times we don’t have time to get in the gym. You’re traveling and get off the plane enough, you have to go the show and then it’s off to the next town. So if I can’t get in the gym then I have to make sure that my diet’s on-point. But if I’m pretty good in the gym that week I’m definitely going to enjoy some pizza and plenty of wine, that’s for sure. (laughs)

So in closing, any last words for the kids?

Leah Van Dale: Well I guess the whole message for Capo Cagna is being a “Boss Bitch” and never taking no for an answer whether you have a goal or a dream. If it seems so far-fetched and it seems like something that you can never ever do, you need to put your mind to it and make it happen. Because man, I never thought I would be a wrestler. I never thought I would be able to have my own wine and I’m not just saying that. I really never thought it was something that may happen, but if you work hard and you put your mind to something you can do whatever it is you want.


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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident (and Long Island native) with over 15 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his favorite band Superdrag. In the years following, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer.Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Format Magazine, Businessweek, The Improper, the L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. He is a member of the SATW and the IFWTWA organizations as a food and travel writer.Darren is also the host the recently-launched "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" podcast, as co-produced with PureGrainAudio.


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