Former WWF Star Walks Like an Egyptian
Relic Hunter Sydney Fox faces her toughest challenge yet when she has to fight an Egyptian priestess over an antique statue. Normally Sydney, a talented martial artist, can kickbox her way past any opponent. But Rena Mero - formerly known as Sable from the World Wrestling Federation - plays this priestess, and she's not so easy to subdue.
"My character's name is Elizabeth, and I actually start out as a museum curator on Relic Hunter," explains Mero, the athletic actress chosen by Playboy as the first superstar of the new millennium. Since she parted ways with the WWF, Mero has focused on her television and film career. Relic Hunter's writers created the character of Elizabeth specifically for Mero and changed the show's shooting schedule to accommodate her availability.
"I was very flattered that they actually wanted me to appear so badly that they wrote it for me and rearranged their schedule," Mero says. The Florida native had to travel to Toronto for the shoot. "It was well worth it. I had a lot of fun. They were a good cast to work with, and we enjoyed ourselves."
Mero had never had the opportunity to see Relic Hunter prior to the call from her publicist asking whether she would be interested in appearing on an episode. "It comes on pretty late here, and I'm so busy that I usually don't watch television."
Yet she immediately understood Elizabeth, who starts out the episode "Nine Lives" looking very professional in her guise as a curator. "Then, in each scene, I progressively start losing something that makes me look professional, and Sydney starts thinking, 'Something about that girl is wrong. She does not look like she fits into this picture.'"
In the beginning, Sydney (played by Tia Carrere) and Elizabeth are allies looking for the statue, which holds special powers for the Egyptian priestess. "Then she realizes who I really am!" Mero ends up in a large Egyptian headdress. "That was quite the outfit! But what else is an Egyptian high priestess going to wear?" she laughs.
Describing the character as "very resourceful," Mero adds that "she definitely knows that she has one objective and that's exactly what she's going for." Mero, who enjoyed playing a villain, also believes that the priestess has been reincarnated many times over. "So I disappear at the end of the episode, but there's always a possibility that I will come back."
Because of their athletic training, Mero and Carrere did a lot of their own stuntwork and staged some of the fighting. "Nothing will sell like a good catfight!" observes the professional wrestling veteran. "I have a lot of experience from the background that I have, and Tia also has a lot of martial arts experience. So we were able to choreograph a little fight. They did have to use some stunt doubles - the last thing you want is the star of your show out for two weeks because she twisted her ankle - but we enjoyed doing the work."
A natural athlete who grew up running and swimming on Florida beaches, Mero became a high school athlete and cheerleader, then a professional model who worked for Guess Jeans and L'Oreal cosmetics among others. "From early childhood, I always dreamed of being a famous model or actress," she says. "Then I met, fell in love, and married a professional wrestler. He changed federations and I accompanied him to the contract signing. When the owner of the new company saw me for the first time, he offered me a job. Wrestling was not anything I had ever thought about doing.
She chose the name Sable for the character that she created. "Sable was very similar to Rena, but she was also my alter ego - she was all the things Rena would never really have the audacity to do in public, though I've probably thought about it!" admits Mero. She describes Sable as "a very sultry sex kitten, very intelligent, very strong, very capable, but also very vulnerable, very sweet, and very innocent in a lot of ways."
"Every woman at one time has probably always wanted to act or say the things that my character did," she continues. "Just to have that much confidence in herself as a woman, no matter what she looks like. And when you're standing in front of thousands of people, and they're all cheering for you, it's exhilarating. It's empowering to women. A lot of people don't understand that. They always think my fan base is mostly male. I would have to say it's probably 60-40. That's a lot of women supporting me. They like seeing a woman in that type of a role."
Surprisingly, although she has always been in excellent physical shape from years of weight training and horseback riding, Mero never trained in wrestling. "My husband would work with me before a match, and that's how I learned how to wrestle. It's very unfortunate, because I was at major risk for hurting myself or my opponent. I would not have gotten in the ring with me."
Mero spent three years in the sport and became Women's Champion of the World. "It was a great experience and I enjoyed it immensely, it was exactly what I needed for my career - a huge stepping stone. But I had gone as far as I could go in the World Wrestling Federation, and it was time to move on - I had other goals I wanted to achieve. You have to continue to make progress."
She began to pursue television roles, appearing on First Wave and Pacific Blue, as well as hosting shows on MTV and VH1. Now she is working on her own television series, The Consultants, produced by Baywatch creator Michael Berk and Pacific Blue co-exec Alan Mruvka. "The reputations speak for themselves on those shows," she notes. "Baywatch has been a number one show for ten years."
The new show's cast includes retired WBC Light Heavyweight champion Jeremy Williams, martial arts expert Jeff Speakman, and NBA star Dennis Rodman. "So it's a fantastic cast. We're very excited about it. We're billing it as the Show of Champions. I'm a former WWF women's champion, everyone else is either a boxing or martial arts champion or an NBA champion. It's based in Las Vegas, and it's going to be a very high-energy show, very trendy."
The actors play consultants who specialize in skills that can be used for law enforcement, but because they're not actually police officers, they can employ some unorthodox techniques. "We come together to solve and investigate crimes, but we don't have to play black or white. We're allowed to go into that gray area and go undercover and investigate. So it's going to be very interesting, and we can have a lot of fun with it. And with that cast, how can we lose?"
Mero enjoys the setting--Las Vegas. "[It's] such an exciting city, whether you're in the desert or on the strip or at the Air Force base, there's always something going on there." The show will start production this summer.
"We have a lot of creative input; we get to help write and develop our characters into something that we would be proud of playing," says Mero. "I definitely want my character to be a very strong, sexy, confident, intelligent woman, and you're starting to see more and more of that on television now. They are giving women a lot of opportunities - more women have their own shows now, instead of just being the female sidekick. This is definitely the best time to be a woman in the entertainment business. But it takes a really long time to get good at this, and to get a reputation within the industry. Ten years from now, if I could go from television to movies, I would be extremely happy."
Mero can be philosophical about the role her beauty has played in her success. "I've worked very hard on my body - keeping myself in top form is a full time job, 7 days a week," she writes in the introduction to her web site, www.renamero.com. She is the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Playboy twice in one year.
"It's very flattering and very humbling at the same time," she reflects. "I'm becoming more relaxed about it. There was a time when I wouldn't go out of my house without the full regalia on. Now I can just be myself and not have to worry about how I look as much, but it always comes to mind." Posing for Playboy was "very intimidating" for Mero at first, but afterwards, "it is the most uninhibited I have ever felt in my life. It was the most relaxed and unselfconscious about myself as I've ever been. I don't find it inhibiting or embarrassing in any way. I feel empowered by it."
The mother of an eleven-year-old daughter whom she describes as "very independent," Mero says she's fairly domestic despite her fast-paced career. "I didn't even start working until my daughter was seven years old, so it was nice to have that time with her. We wanted her to have her childhood be as normal as possible. We are the most normal people on Earth and we raised her the way anyone else would raise their children."
When she isn't performing, Mero is in the process of writing her autobiography, Undefeated. "Nobody had ever heard of me, and then the next thing you know, I'm in TV Guide, and everyone is wondering where I came from and what I'm all about. There's a lot of things in my life that people don't know about, and my fans are very interested - they've been asking me to do this. So I'm co-writing my story. It's going to have a lot of information about me, and a lot of pictures."
The actress is quick to note that she is not going to be slinging mud or complaining about her obstacles. "I want it to be a very positive motivational book. A lot of people go through a lot of trials and tribulations and rough times in their lives, and the message is, we can survive it. I believe a woman should do whatever it is in this world that makes her feel good about herself. Not because somebody says she has to be one way or another. If it makes her happy and it's what she wants to do, that's the way to go."
Mero will be on the Feb. 29 edition of National Enquirer TV and just shot the cover for the May Muscle and Fitness magazine. In addition, she has been offered many projects that she has had to turn down, "products that I don't want to promote, or things that go a little too far. I have that option now - I have a choice."
"I'm very happy with my life right now," Mero concludes. "Things are going wonderfully for me. I have so many projects going, I'm being given the opportunity to pursue the career that I really want. And I have wonderful fans who support me and encourage me. Your fans make you who you are. If they're not interested, then nobody's going to be watching what you're doing."