Jordynne Grace continues to make magic in pro wrestling.
Teaming with Rachael Ellering on Sunday night at Impact Wrestling’s Rebellion pay-per-view, Grace showed off her captivating mixture of athleticism, creativity and power in a match that saw the pair win the Knockouts tag team titles. Grace has flourished during her run in Impact, especially over the past year, and at only 25, she is just starting to make her mark in the industry.
Away from the ring, Grace—whose name is Trisha Parker—has taken a forward-thinking, determined approach to the way women are presented in pro wrestling. She is broadening perspectives by actively showing that star talent is showcased in all different forms and that one size does not fit all when it comes to connecting with an audience.
Parker’s most recent project, which took place during WrestleMania week in Florida, was a body positivity photoshoot. Featuring herself and ten other wrestlers, the photoshoot illustrated how the industry is shaped by a collection of unique, compelling individuals.
“People you never think would have body issues have body issues,” Parker says. “It’s something where a lot of people can relate. This shoot empowered 10 women and one man to put themselves on display.”
The shoot consisted of a blend of established and emerging talent. In addition to Jordynne Grace, those featured included Faye Jackson, Lady Frost, Katalina Perez, Nevaeh Chantelle, Holidead, Mazzerati, Davienne, Alejandra Lion, Becca and Dillon McQueen.
“This was originally supposed to be an all-women photoshoot, but I’ve seen Dillon do a 180 with his body,” Parker says. “He’s suffered from body image issues his whole life, so when he asked me to be part of it, he was welcomed. There are so many different shapes and sizes for men in wrestling. There are guys shaped like beer kegs. People still think there is a certain way for a woman to look in professional wrestling.”
Contrasting the antiquated notion that a woman can only be in pro wrestling if she looks a certain way was an integral part of the foundation for this project. A voracious reader, Parker was further compelled to act after reading a barrage of negative comments on social media directly relating to women’s bodies.
“It really bothers me when so many people comment on women’s bodies,” Parker says. “I understand men get that too, but men have body representation in wrestling for all body types. Women are consistently criticized if they don’t meet certain criteria.”
Before taking action, Parker put in considerable thought to create a project that would add meaning and value to pro wrestling for both fans and performers. While researching the different body types of athletes across pro sports, her attention piqued when she came across a particular photograph.
“It was an array of Olympic athletes who all had their photo taken, a collection of people that were all different colors, shapes, and sizes,” Parker says. “The photo was taken by a photographer named Howard Schatz from a book called Athletes. I thought, ‘Why not do something like that for professional wrestling?’ WWE had pushed the narrative for so long that you had to be real thin and look like a model. Clearly that isn’t the case.”
Parker self-funded the project, booking a space for the shoot at a hotel and hiring a photographer, the talented Harry Aaron. The opportunity was volunteer-based for talent, and those involved all received the photos from their individual shoots.
During the shoot, which ran for six hours on April 11, Parker both modeled and served as the liaison for each of the talents.
“Obviously you’re in your bra and underwear and kind of baring it all, so I tried to hype everyone up and make everyone as comfortable as possible,” says Parker, who also put thought into the refreshments she provided. “I had a cookie platter catered of custom art cookies with positive body affirmations. When you eat a message, you absorb it in a way, so that was just a small gift to the models.”
Parker now writes a monthly column for Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and she is working on a body positivity piece that will detail the photoshoot from a firsthand perspective. And although her in-ring work as Jordynne Grace is a sublime mix of physicality and modern psychology, Parker also continues to make a real impact behind the scenes, empowering individuals and widening perspectives with projects like these.
“The message to come out of this was very powerful,” Parker says. “There is a great variation in athlete bodies and criticizing anyone’s appearance without knowing their background does them a disservice. Athletes suffer disproportionately from body dysmorphia and depression stemming from that, so I believe the body positivity movement combats the constant thought that we’ll never fit society’s standard of what an ‘athlete’ should look like.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.