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Who is AJ Lee ? Read More About Her
Who is AJ Lee ? Read More About Her
April Jeanette Mendez (born March 19, 1987) is an American author and retired professional wrestler. She is best known for her time in WWE under the ring name AJ Lee. Mendez began her professional wrestling career in 2007 in New Jersey’s independent circuit. She signed with WWE in 2009 and spent two years in its developmental branch, Florida Championship Wrestling, before her promotion to the main roster.
In 2012, she rose to prominence through storylines with her “mentally unstable” character, such as high-profile relationships and a three-month stint as the General Manager of Raw. In subsequent years, she won the Divas Championship a record-tying three times and held the title for an overall record of 406 days. She also won the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year in 2012 and 2014, and readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated voted her Woman of the Year from 2012 to 2014. She retired from in-ring performing in 2015. Mendez’s 2017 memoir, Crazy Is My Superpower, was a New York Times Best Seller.
April Jeanette Mendez was born on March 19, 1987, in Union City, New Jersey. Her mother, Janet Acevedo, was a homemaker and later a home health aide, while her father, Robert Mendez, was an automotive engineer. She is the youngest of three children, and is of Puerto Rican descent. In describing her childhood, Mendez said her family struggled with poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction. They frequently moved between apartments, sometimes living in motels or their car when they could not afford rent.
Her brother’s interest in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) influenced her to become a professional wrestler. With inspiration from WWE’s female wrestlers, especially Lita, she cemented her ambition at 12 years old. In 2005, she graduated from Memorial High School in West New York, New Jersey. She attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she majored in film and television production, until family and financial issues led to her dropping out six months into her studies. Afterward, she started working full-time to afford wrestling training. As an homage to her brother, who was in the U.S. Army, she occasionally wore camouflage wrestling attire.
Mendez was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition her mother also suffered from, around the age of 20. She had previously experienced adverse effects from a misdiagnosis of depression, and overdosed on antidepressants and painkillers. This event, which she considers a suicide attempt, caused her to seek proper treatment and the right diagnosis. She credits the condition for giving her the bravery to achieve her goals.
In March 2007, Mendez enrolled in a wrestling school close to her home, where she was trained by Jay Lethal. Around late 2007, she began to perform on the New Jersey independent circuit under the ring name Miss April. She joined the New Jersey-based promotion Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) in October 2008. After little success in her first months, Miss April formed a tag team with Brooke Carter, who together captured the WSU Tag Team Championship in February 2009. She also won the annual WSU/National Wrestling Superstars King and Queen of the Ring tournament alongside Jay Lethal two months later. In May, she left WSU upon signing with WWE and relinquished her championship.
Mendez’s character is prominently associated with her mentally unstable gimmick used during her time in WWE. This persona, labeled the “crazy chick”, caused Mendez to feel that she “was hiding in plain sight” due to her bipolar disorder. Her diagnosis was not publicly disclosed until the publicity for her memoir, nor was WWE aware of her condition.
The “Lee” in her ring name was derived from Wendee Lee, a voice actress in her favorite anime, Cowboy Bebop. She wore various ring attire styles throughout her career, but settled on a T-shirt, jean shorts, and Chuck Taylor All-Stars, as it reflected her practical style. She also wanted her look to be distinctive and easily replicated for cosplay. When performing, she skipped as she entered ringside, and sometimes used it to taunt an opponent during a match. She primarily performed the octopus hold submission as her finishing maneuver, named “Black Widow” in reference to the Marvel Comics character.
In 2012, Mendez became the first female winner of WWE’s annual Superstar Challenge video game tournament, where sixteen wrestlers competed in WWE ’12 at WrestleMania XXVIII Axxess. This is recognized by Guinness World Records, as part of their Gamer’s Edition. Her WWE character was portrayed by Thea Trinidad in the 2019 film Fighting with My Family.
Mendez wrote Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules, a memoir published by Crown Archetype on April 4, 2017. The book covers her upbringing and career in professional wrestling. It debuted at No. 10 on The New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover non-fiction. Upon release, she described writing as “very much the next chapter” of her life, and had begun work on a second book. In 2017, she revealed that her debut memoir was being developed as a television series.
In collaboration with actress Aimee Garcia, Mendez co-wrote the comic book series GLOW vs. The Babyface, based on the television series GLOW; the first of four issues was published by IDW Publishing in November 2019. Mendez and Garcia reunited to write the Dungeons & Dragons four-issue limited series At the Spine of the World; the first issue was published by IDW in November 2020. They have launched their own production company, Scrappy Heart Productions, dedicated to elevating diverse voices through storytelling. In April 2021, Mendez and Garcia were selected to write the upcoming, untitled sequel to the 2013 film 47 Ronin.
In 2020, Mendez made the Black List’s inaugural Latinx TV list for her script, Home. In June 2021, she wrote a Wonder Woman comic with illustrator Ming Doyle in the first issue of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman: Black and Gold. The anthology mini-series celebrates the heroine’s 80th anniversary.
An advocate for mental health awareness and animal welfare, Mendez has served as an ambassador for organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Jed Foundation, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2018, she was awarded with NAMI’s Multicultural Outreach Award.