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Sharmell Sullivan
A Chat with WCW's "Paisley"

World Championship Wrestling is a wreck. The ratings are down. The shows are intolerable. The place is for sale. And the management has clearly lost its mind. Need proof? Look no further than the recent release of stunning Sharmell Sullivan. 

As the character "Paisley," Sullivan's barely there miniskirts raised temperatures on WCW's Monday and Thursday broadcasts. However, she and her character were among the company's recent round of roster cuts. Apparently the catfight-prone Paisley, who rolled around the wrestling ring in painted on purple latex, only caused heartrates--and not the all-valuable ratings--to jump. 

Sullivan now looks to her past--as a backup singer for "The Godfather of Soul" James Brown and Nitro Girl Storm--to pattern her future. She has reunited with four other former Nitro Girls--Vanessa Sanchez, Melissa Bellins, Teri Byrne and Chae An (Tygress, Spice, Fyre, and Chae, respectively)--to form Diversity5, a singing group ready to wrestle a spot on the pop music charts.

As the group readies a full-length music effort, Sharmell sits down with YourMVP for an exclusive interview. Find out why being "Miss Black America" was such a humbling experience, her thoughts on posing for "Playboy," and why she thinks it's funny when people call her sexy.

YourMVP: Until recently you were working with WCW. They are going through budget cuts, and apparently you were part of those. 

Sharmell: Yes. 

Was it unexpected? It seemed to happen very quickly from a viewer perspective.

Yes, it was totally unexpected. We got word on maybe a Thursday, which would have been maybe three weeks ago. We had heard nothing prior to then. It was kind of funny. When I got the phone call saying I had been released, I was just coming from shopping to get new outfits for my Paisley character.  I was like, "OK, maybe I can turn

WCW's Sharmell Sullivan

around and take these outfits back now." But, yes, it came as a complete and total surprise.

How did you feel about the stories they involved you in toward the end with the Kwee-Wee character?

I loved working with Alan [Funk]. Alan plays Kwee-Wee. I really loved working with him because he's very passionate about his character. He'll try anything. He's a really great guy. He's a great worker. As far as personally, I saw myself in completely different roles than what they were having me do. I was just thankful for the opportunities. I had a lot of fun doing it. And Alan really was a great person to work with.

Toward the end, your character had progressed quite a bit from where it began as the Paisley character. You were doing a great deal more in-ring work. How did you feel about that?

<Laughing> Well, initially I had some reservations because I'm not a trained wrestler. It was quite beneficial to go down to the Power Plant and go through the training we had, though it was very brief. Madusa [Miceli] did wonders with us and Nora [now Molly Holly in WWF] and Christie were big helps as well. Wrestling was never something I dreamed about doing as a child, but I did have a lot of fun doing it. It was something new, it was challenging, and I thought I did a pretty good job of it, so I had a lot of fun.

I always found you very entertaining. I saw you in person at the SuperBrawl pay-per-view when Prince Ieukia won the Cruiserweight Title. What did you think of that version of your character--the Prince-like character?

Now I really liked that because I'm a huge fan of the singer Prince. I have always loved his music. I thought it was really cool that Paisley was really mysterious like Prince is. Another reason I really liked that character was that I got to speak a lot more. I love being on the mic and cutting promos on people. I really enjoyed that part of my character.

The speaking portion was eventually phased out very much. 

<Noticeably disappointed> Yeah. 

How did you get involved in WCW initially? I know it was with a role with the Nitro Girls. How did that happen?

Actually, Tygress--or Vanessa--recommended me when there was an opening for the Nitro Girls. I sent in my headshot and resume. I had an interview with Kimberly Page, and that interview went really well, so I was invited back to dance for all the Nitro Girls. It was myself and about seven to 10 other people that went through a dance audition. After that, Kimberly called me--actually the day before I was supposed to go overseas dancing for James Brown. Kimberly called and offered me the job, and I gladly accepted it.

When you interviewed for WCW, you were dancing and singing backup for James Brown. I understand you were largely responsible for getting him to appear at the SuperBrawl pay-per-view I just mentioned.

Yeah. <Laughs> We still had a great rapport, and the writers were telling me they wanted to bring him in. I made a few calls and hooked WCW up with James Brown's people. Everybody was real happy that it came together. It was great for me to see James Brown again and the rest of his entourage, so it worked out real well. 

How long were you working with James Brown? Did you work with other artists?

Yes. I toured with James Brown for three-and-a-half years prior to working for WCW. I'd been on the road as a background dancer or singer for probably seven years. I've toured with BLACKstreet, Keith Sweat. I've done videos for 112, Society of Soul, a bunch of different groups. I've done all kinds of stage performances. I was also doing commercials and movies. I was into a little bit of everything.

How did this all start? Was it when you were Miss Black America?  

Yes. My senior year of college, I just decided to run for Miss Black America. That was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life when I won that title. 

What was your talent? 

Dance. I did a modern piece to "I Am Changing."

Jennifer Holliday? 


How did being a national . . . I don't want to use the term "Beauty Queen," but I don't have a better one. How did that change your life?

That was probably . . . hmm. That experience was life-altering because I ended up having to be pulled out of school because of the hectic tour schedule. That's actually what started my traveling--my professional traveling, if you will--the Miss Black America Pageant. It was an awesome responsibility. A lot of the things I did were motivational speaking related. I would speak to high school kids, I would speak to young kids. I would instantly become a role model. It's an awesome opportunity. It's a wonderful thing. I toured all over the country speaking, performing, making appearances in general. It's something I will always cherish for the rest of my life. Like I said, that's when I actually started touring, making a life for myself on the road.

I'm sure it was life-altering--speaking to people that look at you as a role model even though they may never have the opportunities you had.

Absolutely. It's a humbling experience if nothing else. It makes you realize how much you actually have to be thankful for. It also drives home the fact that when you do have a lot to be thankful for, it's your obligation to give back to the community, to help those that may not be able to help themselves, or just to encourage someone that may be downtrodden. It's just an awesome responsibility, and I'm such a better person because of it.

You're using a combination of the experiences you have--as a background singer for James Brown and the dancing from The Nitro Girls--in the new Diversity5 project. How did you get involved with that? 

It originally started because whenever the five of us would go somewhere together, we would always attract attention. I'm talking about people who weren't wrestling fans, that didn't know we were the Nitro Girls, or that we worked for WCW. They would always ask us, "Are you a group?" We have this incredible chemistry whenever we're together. Finally we just started saying, "Yes, we're a group," "We're a singing group," or whatever. With me having a lot of contacts in the music industry, a couple of friends came to me and said, "Well, let's get you guys in the studio" and see what happens. So we went to the studio, and we ended up with these songs we have! It just opened our eyes to a whole new experience. We said, "It's time to get really serious about this. We can take our group to the next level" and a singing career came out of it.

Are you the only one that's been trained in singing? I know you're all taking voice lessons. What is it like having the most professional experience?

Sometimes it is a lot of pressure. Like you said, we are having vocal lessons right now. We are going through extensive training. Everyone is doing great. Vanessa and Teri also do lead vocals. We're pretty much all on the same level. We're all working really, really hard, and we're getting great results from it.  

You currently have a couple of singles available. Are you doing any writing on upcoming projects? 

Yes, actually Melissa and myself are writing the majority of songs on upcoming projects. The two songs we have out now were written by Tamiko Starr and M. Doc and they're both produced by M. Doc. Those two songs are both available on our website--www.Diversity5.com. 

Great. What should we expect in the future from you and the group?

From the group you can expect it to go toward a harder, rougher edge. The next songs that we're working on are more pop-rock. They're edgier, which

is what you think of when you see us. You don't think about your bubblegum pop sound. It's going to be a bit extreme. I think the fans are going to love it.

You say the fans have gotten to see you and "know you" as a kind of sexy, mysterious character on WCW. Do you carry that over into your personal life?

I do. I tend to be kind of mysterious in my personal life because I'm very private. It's hard to be private when you're a public figure. I tend to keep people guessing. I am sort of a mystery, an enigma to most people. The sexy part? I don't know. I think that's funny!

Why is that funny to you? 

I don't know. I just never considered myself as being "Sexy." It's just strange to me. I've always been the one . . . Valedictorian of my high school. Miss Black America. Degree in mathematics. The bookworm. The nerd kind of person. So when I'm described as "sexy," it just makes me laugh.

Do you think that's an unnatural assumption, given some of the costuming you wore in WCW?

I'm sure it is a natural assumption for people, but with me it's all about character. It's an alter ego. It's Paisley, it's not me. That's why I think it's funny when people say I'm sexy. Well, maybe Paisley is sexy, but me? I just consider me to be little ol' me!

With the Diversity5 project in motion, are there plans for you to return to wrestling somewhere else? Should fans look for you there?

Well, I'm leaving all of my options open, but right now I'm focusing mainly on Diversity5.

There is some talk about Diversity5 performing in New York for Pantene?

Yes, we went to talk to some people up in New York about giving a performance at a function in New York that Pantene is hosting. We haven't received a definite on that yet, but that's going to be happening in [the] spring--which is coming up. Gosh! That's soon. Time is flying! It still looks 95% sure that it's going to happen--and we'll let you know on the website.

Are you interested in doing any of the types of projects Teri [Byrne, fellow D5 member and former Nitro Girl] is doing? She's got her own comic book upcoming and a line of fantasy art, too. She's also been in Playboy.com. Are you interested in exploring any of those?

Sure! Absolutely. 

Would you be interested in doing the Playboy.com site? Have they approached you about that?

I'm pretty sure they have. I think my publicist said something to me about that. I just have to get back to her to find out. The main thing is I don't have any pictures. I would have to have a photoshoot, and that's the main thing holding me back right now.

What are your feelings about being associated with something like Playboy? Are you interested in posing nude?

No, I have no desire to do a nude photoshoot. I saw the pictures Teri did for Playboy.com, and I thought they were beautiful. I am open to something like that, but as far as doing a nude shoot . . . no, I'm not interested in that.

Is that because of who you are as a person--or for professional reasons?

It's who I am as a person. I think "Playboy" the magazine is great. I think it's tastefully done. I don't have any problems with nudity or anything like that. It's just a personal choice. I would rather not.

Is there anything you'd like your fans to know? 

I want to thank everybody for all the support they've given me. I have received so many emails since I was released. I want to thank everybody for the support--and let everybody know we're still out there. They can visit us on the www.Diversity5.com website. We have merchandise available and we'll have a listing of upcoming appearances, too. 

For more information on Diversity5, check out www.Diversity5.com

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