The world of wrestling has always been dominated by muscled men. Sure, there are ladies conquering the ring on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) every now and then, but despite wrestling’s huge fanbase in Malaysia, there aren’t many local women who take up the entertainment-sport professionally… until now.
Enter Nor ‘Phoenix’ Diana, a Malay-Muslim, hijab-wearing lady who body slams both male and female opponents in the ring. A wrestler from Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW) which currently consists of 30 up-and-coming and professional wrestlers, Diana is an example of how young Malaysians are changing in a new age where diversity and representation matters.
Standing at 155 centimetres and weighing about 43 kilograms, Diana clads herself in pink flame-patterned trousers, a black and orange top with a phoenix emblem in the middle, and a hijab. “Even though I’m a Muslim, and I wear the hijab, nothing can stop me from doing what I love,” she told NST after a match.
Wrestling is a theatrical sport, which means it’s scripted and acted out. But to be able to play the part and execute moves, it takes discipline, passion and practice. Having the advantage of agility and speed due to her size, the fiery Phoenix tackles larger rivals by using sophisticated moves to throw and pin down her opponents.
Shy and soft spoken, whenever she’s not body slamming someone, 19-year old Diana works at a hospital.
“As Phoenix, I’m a totally different person. She may be small, but she can do things that people can’t imagine,” she told AFP at a wrestling gym in Puchong. Diana describes her alter-ego, “When she’s in the ring, she’s fast and always want to win.”
Following her dream to become a wrestler (don’t we all have the same dream at some point?), Diana began her training in late 2015 and made her professional debut months later.
For more conservative people, wearing the hijab and tackling a guy in a ring is a big no. Diana herself did not have an easy start, but with the support of her family, she broke through the barrier of female stereotypes – even defeating four men to become the new Malaysian Champion.
Diana’s coach and fellow wrestler, Ayez Shaukat Fonseka says that since her debut in the wrestling world, many hijabis have come forward and contacted Malaysian Pro Wrestling to inquire about joining as well.
“She kind of broke the barrier and just proved to them that if she can do it, they can too,” says Fonseka
It’s definitely refreshing and liberating to know that young people like Nor ‘Phoenix’ Diana, through their dedication, hard work and passion, are breaking down the barriers, especially in Malaysia, where many female Muslims are still chained by limiting stereotypes that say women can only do this, and not that.
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