Model. Actress. Wrestler. All this and she’s a sci-fi geek grrrl and reads comics to boot. Who is this Wonder Woman I’m speaking of? A mythical creature, spoken of in reverent whispers by many a fan boy? The fictional fantasy of every red-blooded American fandom maniac? No, the woman I’m describing is quite real… and her name is Leslie Culton.
I first came to know of Leslie through the Internet, where I stumbled upon a number of pictures on her website while doing a research paper on superhero costumes for a class. (What can I say? Being a theater arts major gives you a lot of interesting projects.) I came to speak to her through e-mails and chats and we became quite friendly. I found that not only was she an accomplished maker of her own costumes and a popular face on the fandom convention circuit but that she had modeled professionally for the cover of Vampirella and had acted in a number of B-movies.
I originally proposed the idea of an interview to her back in the days when I still wrote for Fanzing (www.fanzing.com), thinking that her stories as a con regular and costumer would prove interesting to our comic-fan audience. Sadly, we had trouble in finishing our back-and-forth e-mailed interview due to Leslie’s busy work and travel schedule. In fact, we fell out of talking for a few months.
And then I found myself with a new writing job at about the same time I got back in touch with Leslie. To my surprise, I found that she had added yet another hat to her head: that of up-and-coming wrestling diva. This amused me to no end as the magazine I had just started writing for (take a wild guess which one) had originally begun as a fanzine devoted to professional wrestling.
We agreed to take another stab at it and the end result lies below: a thirty-question profile of an interesting lady and jack of all trades. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Leslie Culton!
1. Where are you from originally?
I claim Atlanta, Georgia as my home. I grew up in Florida, where I live now.
2. Tell us, as much as you are comfortable, about your early life up through high school.
I hated high school, I was very shy and quiet and weird. So at least the shy and quiet part has changed. I lived in Florida and Georgia, in big cities and a small town.
3. What is your favorite color?
A tie between purple,gold and black. Gold and Black were the color of my old Barony in a life action role-playing game, and also the colors of Purdue, where I went to school. When I wrestle I wear a lot of Red because the blood does not show as much that way.
4. How did you get into comics and science fiction?
I started out as a Dr, Who fan and all the rest came from that really. Sci-fi conventions were my life for several years. It was all that got me through high school, really.
5. What, if any, comics do you read on a monthly basis now? If you don’t read anything on a regular basis now, what were your favorites?
Every time I really get into a comic, is seems either the editor or writer does something to screw up the product or they turn out to be a jerk when you meet them. I have collected X-Men, Vampirella and anything Adam Hughes related. He is a sweetheart of a guy, by the way.
6. Who are your favorite heroes and villains (male or female)?
For women, Wonder Woman, Vampirella and Catwoman (when she is a villain, that is). For men, Batman and Bane.
7. Who are your favorite writers (comics and other)?
In comics, Chris Claremont is my all-time favorite. Peter David’s good too. Otherwise...Bernard Cornwell, R.A Salvatore, Michael Moorcock…
8. Who are your favorite artists?
Adam Hughes, Art Adams, David Michael Beck, Dave Stevens and the late Kelly Freas and Jack Kirby.
9. Is there any artist who you would kill to have them do a portrait of you as a heroine? If so, which artist and what heroine?
Dave Stevens. I would be drawn as Vampirella, holding a blood drained Betty Page in my arms. Betty would have the sexy Klaw era lingerie on, looking very much like she did in the old Rocketeer Comics.
10, On a similar note, if you could play any super-heroine in a movie, which one would it be and why?
I would play Vampirella, but with the costume the way it should be. There are so many Vampi fans, I would be adored for the rest of my life.
As for why, Vampirella is such a powerful character. Back when they debuted her there were no other comic book "bad girls". She was the original.
(Note From Starman: If you ever have a chance to see the Vampirella movie… don’t. It’s hated by Vampirella fans like Batman and Robin is hated by most Bat-Fans. And as Leslie notes, they screwed the costume up royally.)
11. Have you ever meet the creator of a character/writer whose character’s costume you were wearing at the time, and what was their reaction?
I met Chris Claremont, while dressed as Rogue. It is funny because I had just finished yelling out "I am NOT a GREEN LANTERN! Don't any of you read the F-ING X-Men?!" I turned around and walked smack into Claremont. He looked down at me then laughed, "I read the F-ing X-men, in fact, I write them too.” I met Forry Ackerman in a very similar way.
I also met George Perez. He LOVED my Wonder Woman but told me my bracelets/cuffs were the wrong color, but he thought I really did the character justice ignoring that.
12. How did you break into modeling?
I went to conventions and people took pictures of me. (laughs) Those pictures were printed in magazines and it was pretty cool to have that much attention, for a skinny awkward nerd chick with bad hair and skin.
13. What lead you to make your own costumes? Did you have any experience in making your own clothes before you started going to conventions?
If you didn’t make them yourself, you didn’t get to wear them. I did not really spend much time making things for myself, though. I started having costumes made for me not too far into when I started modeling professionallyt. I just did not have the time to mess with it all after that. I never make my own things now. I may put different elements together, but I don’t make anything from scratch.
As for making things outside of conventions, I once made a lop-sided tote bag in home economics in Junior High.
14. A friend of mine makes her own costumes for conventions and it amazes her how many people (models and fans alike) don’t make their own. What’s your opinion on store-bought costumes verses home-made, if any?
It does not bug me a bit. It does not matter who made your costume. Whether it was done by a professional like Scott Crawford (who has done a ton of the stuff I have worn in that last few years) or if you bought it out of a bag; what matters is that you look your best.
I do not have the time nor the energy to put into costuming anymore, so if I want a Wonder Woman costume, I have it made. It does not matter to the fans if I made it myself or not. They just love the way it looks on me.
15. Any funny stories about costume repair emergencies? Adventures with hot glue, odd costume parts, or the costume riding on double-sided tape, etc.?
I always have people follow me around waiting for the Vampirella costume to slip. That is why I wear the double sided tape underneath. My Taarna (theheroine of the Heavy Metal movie) costume from Heavy Metal WAS only held on by tape.... Luckily i have never had any serious mishaps. One of my first costumes was a sexy Barbarian. I made the metal bra cups out of brass ashtrays that I got at a dollar store
16. Your web site mentions you being a role-player; does being in costume change your attitude at all? Do you ever act out the character you dress as at conventions?
I was a Live Action Roleplayer, and I am an actress in close to 20 movies, but I do not "play" the character at the shows. Some people can do it well but I would feel like a dork doing it. I am not a Vampire. I am a fan in Vampirella Costume.
I tend to portray the character by looking like them as much as possible and posing for pictures the way I think they would (ie. no smiling, giggly Elektras)
17. Do you have an equally large amount of female fans, or are they predominantly males?
Mostly males. (smiles)
18. Are most of the male fans at conventions and matches nice and respectful towards you?
Sure, usually. I have had bad experiences and now I sometimes feel that I can not "roam" at cons, especially at night, without some kind of male "escort" or security to keep the drunks and the mundanes away.
A few years ago at a Con, I was assaulted (literally) and verbally abused several times for no good reason whatsoever. It is no wonder that the more important female stars/guests at conventions avoid the fans at night or once the dealers room closes. It is very sad that conventions have changed so much that a woman can not put on a skimpy outfit and walk around alone with out fear of being hurt or having fans being nasty to her.
19. Is there any truth to the stereotype of the drooling nerd who can’t say three coherent words to a beautiful woman?
Yes, but that's ok. I do not understand why that happens, though. I am just a person. I’m goofy and clumsy at times. I still get excited over Dr. Who. I am and always will be a nerd at heart, no matter what my exterior looks like. Just be nice and polite and generally you will get a good response to whomever you meet.
20. What is the oddest experience you’ve ever had in costume, at a Con or at a match?
I had some one arrested for grabbing my chest. I was a guest at a con, and I had my pictures out for sale, and this little boy just stared and stared at my costume pictures. He could not take his eyes away.
21. Do you get many odd requests from fans for poses/pictures/items of clothing?
Not really, though I sold my old Vampi suit to my biggest fan,Terry Sanders. He also has the boots that I wore with it. (I have a new suit, don’t worry! Som one stole a pair of my socks from behind my table at Dragon Con one year.... but that’s the weirdest thing that ever happened.
22. How did you become a wrestling fan?
I grew up watching Florida Championship Wrestling. You always knew that Dusty Rhodes would come out on top, but he would definitely bleed a lot while getting there. I got to meet the American Dream at a MLW show that I worked last year and it was sooooo cool. He bled all over my friends towel,, funny how things change, but somehow are still the same.
23. How did you go about getting into wrestling?
I initially trained with the legenday Dory Funk,Jr It was almost intimidating being in the ring with him. He was so soft spoken, but has such presence. He has done so much for the business. There is no one else like him. I then worked out for a few months with IPW school of Hardcore. I got hit with a ratan cane while managing Mideon. It is one of the high points of my career. Women a lot of the time do not take a lot of hits with foreign objects! I got to take a cookie sheet across the head while working with PPW.
24. Where are you training? What are the perks of that school?
I am so happy at my new school. I am training 4 days a week with Professional Outlaw Wrestling ( www.pow-wrestling.com ). I have made such great head way in my training since coming here. Lance and Susan Michaels are like family to me. I love going to class and Lance is the Best Trainer I have ever had the privilege to work with. He is talented and so patient with me. I think he could teach anyone to be a great wrestler in time.
25. What's it like to be a woman in such a male dominated business?
Sometimes there are perks. People are usually less demanding on the girls. They understand that we are not strong enough to do all the power moves that the men do (or at least I am not!) I rely more on my speed. The male wrestlers can give you problems sometimes. I was hurt severely by another wrestler who was jealous I was talking to somebody else. On the whole, everyone is glad that there are women to work with. We liven things up.
26. Who are your favorite wrestlers? Anyone you'd love to work with?
Eddie Guerrero, Ivory, Victoria, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho (I love his mike work!) Steven Richards (I wish they would do more with him), Molly Holly and the Hurricaine On the Indys.... Black Knight, Low-Ki, Luna, Simply Luscious, Brian Christopher, Pat Powers, Pat McGroin and Ricky Romeo. I would love to work with any of the women!
27, What do you use to inspire yourself? Do you have any kind of preshow rituals (listen to any kind of music before a match, read anything before a con, etc)?
I hop around a lot, like a big chested Brock Lesnar. Then I take a small shot of alcohol, to stop me from bouncing around so damn much. After that I am fine. I am so busy thinking about what I want to do out there, the time flies by. And then your music hits and you are out there.
28. What do you think are you biggest strengths and weakness as a person? As a wrestler?
I am very intelligent, well read and have a huge vocabulary. But as for a weakness…I am not very patient sometimes. I can be emotional and I need a LOT of sleep.
As a wrestler, I am green but sexy as hell. I pick up the more complex things fairly easy. A wheel barrow DDT I got in no time but taking big steps in my lock-up took forever.
29. What’s in your immediate future? Where can we expect to see you?
Right now, I am in the WWE ONLINE DIVA SEARCH! ( http://divasearch.wwe.com/ ) It’s a contest where the winner gets a shot at becoming a Diva in the WWE and I’d really like it if you all voted for me!
Click on the South East Region and then click on Leslie (Florida) It is really easy, nothing to fill out. Just point and click. You can vote every day.
As for the wrestling in my current league, I am on the Indy scene in Florida, working where ever I can.
30. Finally, what advice would you have for anyone who wants to go into any of the businesses of modeling, wrestling or acting?
Do it. Find a good school and start wrestling. Watch wrestling tapes. You should know that you have to pay your dues. I sweep up trash after the shows, fill up the water cooler at school and help break down and set up the ring. I have worked the hot dog stand and the Gorilla Posistion and I am currently a personal assistant to Susan at POW.
As to acting, look into the low budget/no-budget independent films. They are more forgiving on newbies and willing to give new blood a chance. I had a blast on all my low budget stuff. Get whatever experience you can, or even make your own projects. Camera experience in your back yard is still worth it!
Special thanks to:
Leslie Culton, for agreeing to be interviewed and just being herself!
Ben Morse, for some good wrestling questions.
The Staff of Fanzing, for the good comic/modeling questions.