Leading with Humanity: An Interview with Willow Nightingale

Jacqui Pratt of Bell to Belles recently caught up with the bubbly and brawny Willow Nightingale after her match with Gabby on night one of LVAC’s Reel Rumble Weekend at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.

The two-night event featured live wrestling and a wrestling-themed double feature. With masks on, they talked about wrestling during the pandemic and the intersections of race, gender, and power. They also discussed wrestling as part of a tag team.

Wrestling in a Pandemic

What is it like wrestling here in this drive-in after months of being stuck inside?

“First, this vibe is very cool in general. In the summer you have a lot of shows that are outdoors, and we’ll make it a special occasion. But I think after being inside for so long and kind of feeling trapped, it’s really good to be back to the thing I love with people that I love. After my match, I looked back out at how the show was running and how everybody was separated. You could see each party was together, everyone was wearing their masks and still being responsible and having a good time. It was really refreshing. It’s nice. So, in short, it would be a good night anyway, but after all, we’ve been through, it’s really refreshing. That’s the best term I could think of.”

Were you nervous at all about wrestling in this environment or going back to wrestling nowadays? I know I’ve seen footage of some shows where you see people without masks in the audience or that it’s not really being enforced. Were you worried about that or did you feel pretty comfortable that everything would be chill here?

“So, this is actually my second match back because I wrestled for Beyond three weeks ago, that was my first match. And I’m always nervous when I wrestle just because of the nature of being a performer. I don’t wanna mess up. But also, I’ve already been back at my regular job, my shoot job. I’m a piercer. So it’s been good to have that sense of normalcy, but I am constantly very close to people all of the time. So in a way, obviously, this is very serious—the virus—but to me, I have my routine, I’m close to people all the time, and of course I’m wearing my mask, I’m washing my hands constantly.”

And you’re used to being in a sterile environment if you’re a piercer. 

“Exactly! My mom, when she picked me up from the shop, would be like, ‘you smell like a hospital.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s good.’ So in a way, it’s the best and worst job to go back to because we’re already in the habit of being so hygienic and sterile, but also, how close we are to people is a little concerning.”

“Beyond I mostly stuck to myself in that corner; I wasn’t really out in the fans. And coming here today, it was really nice to see everyone so spread out with their masks on, not to say Beyond was bad because, honestly, when I was out there performing everyone looked like they were all separated and everything.”

“But this promotion, the Let’s Hang Out shows, really do feel like a home to me. So even though this is probably the only event we’re doing for the year, it’s cool to be part of it. And I definitely wanted to take some pictures because I’m going to look back one day and be like, ‘This is history! Look at everybody wearing masks at a wrestling show! Seems bizarre, right?'”

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