Sara Lee just may be the unlikeliest victor in the history of WWE Tough Enough. Hailing from a little town in Michigan named — appropriately enough — Hope, WWE’s newest Diva-in-training received massive support from the WWE Universe throughout the entire competition, despite not always performing up to the coaches’ and judges’ expectations. With the WWE contract now hers, however, the country-tough Lee is excited to embark on her next journey: Going to work at the WWE Performance Center.
Q: Congratulations. Has the reality of your situation sunk in yet?
A: No, and thank you, but no, it really hasn’t. When I was standing on stage and Triple H raised my hand, I was like, “Gosh, did I really just win?” I woke up pretty early this morning. I couldn’t sleep, because I’m still in the mentality of being in the barracks, like it’s still a competition. To have finally won it is just insane. And it’s just the beginning, too.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the Tough Enough competition, and what parts did you enjoy the most?
A: The most challenging was just still trying to be yourself during all the drama that was going on. It was hard, because there was so much happening and you didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle. And obviously, too, coming down here from Michigan and adapting to the climate, and these crazy challenges like running in the Citrus Bowl, where it was like 110 degrees or whatever it was, was really rough.
As for my favorite part, I really liked the tree-track challenge — that was a fun one. Working on our characters with Jericho toward the end was fun, and so was putting together my match against Alicia [Fox].
Q: The coaches said — and even you admitted at times — that Amanda was the more well-rounded competitor. Yet, you routinely won the popular vote, and Triple H praised your charisma. Why do you think you resonate so strongly with the WWE Universe?
A: It’s hard to say. Maybe they can relate to me, because I could be them. I was just this normal girl before I came down here. I was like, “I’m going to make this Tough Enough video,” and then I got picked out of these thousands of people. Maybe they can relate to that. They see that I’m chasing my dream and they can connect to that, and it gives them hope in a way, too.
Q: What was it like hearing you’re popular in the Triple H/Stephanie McMahon household among the daughters?
A: [Laughs] That’s really funny. We were backstage at SummerSlam, and these cute little girls came up to me and they were like, “Sara! Can we meet you?” And they wanted a hug, so I put my food down and I was like, “OK.” I didn’t know who they were. Then we were sitting in this room where they corralled us, I saw Triple H holding one of the girls. And then to hear him say that on Tough Talk, and to hear him stick up for me, was awesome. I could not believe that.
Q: What do you think the transition will be like going from a reality-show competition to the reality of daily training at the WWE Performance Center? Are you worried about adapting to the physicality?
A: I’m excited more than anything else. [Tough Enough] was a competition and being at the Performance Center is a competition in a way, too, because you’re trying to be the best when you’re there. In a way, it’s going to be a little less stressful. At the barracks, you didn’t have a closet. You had to pack your suitcase every time, so to have a stable home environment, I think, is going to help out a lot. Obviously, it’s not going to be easy switching to training at the Performance Center at all. This is just the beginning.
Q: What excites you most about your future?
A: I’m really excited to get in the ring and learn more things, and now I’m not just on a TV show — I’m actually part of WWE, and that’s been my ultimate dream this whole time. That’s what I’m excited about, to make that more permanent transition into the company.