Interview: Candy Lee Is All Sweet Everything


Her name is Leilani Tominiko, but you can just call her Candy Lee. Based out of New Zealand, Lee is one of the wrestlers from the Australasia region who has been turning heads on the internet with her killer kicks and a kill-them-with-sweetness attitude to her haters.

Candy Lee says her favorite colors are pink and glitter, but loves the color green as well because “it makes [her] feel so zen.”

She hates odd numbers, but loves the number 7. “7 just seems so interesting to me.”

She is a Vegan who loves unicorns, and her favorite Pokemon is Jigglypuff.

Despite her love for unicorns and pink, Lee is not to be underestimated. As one of the few openly transgender wrestlers in the scene today, she’s made quite an impact in the New Zealand women’s wrestling scene. Currently sporting the title of “Candy 3 Belts,” she is the PWE Women’s Champion, Maniacs New Zealand Professional Wrestling Women’s Champion, and the IPW NZ Women’s Champion.

Recently, I sent Lee some questions to get a better idea of her life in wrestling outside of the Twitterverse, who she wants to wrestle, and who her pick is to win the next season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Ashley Leckwold: What made you interested in wrestling? What made you want to become a wrestler?

Candy Lee: So what got me hooked, like I’ve said in other articles or interviews, was watching WWE Royal Rumble PPV and watching Taz vs. Kurt Angle. Watching WWE basically but it was in all honesty women’s wrestling that made me fall in love. Candice Michelle is who inspired me to want to be a wrestler. I really wanted to be like her. Also Kelly Kelly and Nikki Bella. I’m a big Diva era fan, but don’t get me wrong. I love the evolution of women’s wrestling too.

AL: How would you personally describe your own wrestling style?

CL: I think I like to be like the Divas but mixed with being a strong powerhouse, so like graceful, athletic and strong.

AL: Are there things you take inspiration from outside of wrestling that you incorporate into the ring?

CL: I like to be extra, so I draw a lot from pop culture. Like Drag Race, hip hop and everything that’s trendy I guess. I try to serve extra looks and be extravagant. Also I love out there, sparkly things and really love carnival fashion and magical beings.

AL: What is the wrestling scene in New Zealand like compared to other places? How would you describe it for people outside of the country?

CL: I guess the scene here is quite small compared to other scenes, it’s similar to Australia in a way. Has a lot of work still though.

AL: Do you think wrestling is moving towards a better place of inclusion of queer/trans/gender non-conforming wrestlers? What do you think could be done to improve it?

CL: I hope it is. I mean it’ll be ideal for it because the world is progressing as a whole and I’d love for it to happen in wrestling. I think people need to give us opportunities, and like for people to stand with us and create safe spaces for not only them but I think just in general because pro wrestling should be for everyone.

Credit: Brad Fisher

AL: Along that same route, how do you think wrestling could improve with the treatment of women?

CL: Creating safe spaces and not devaluing women. Treat them equal and not as below men because women are doing amazing things for wrestling. But yeah, having that safe environment backstage would be ideal.

AL: You’ve been dealing with a lot of transphobia on Twitter lately, but you’ve let it roll of your shoulders. What is your strategy for dealing with that particular brand of negativity?

CL: I usually just share their ignorance because I will share ignorance to out them […] because they should be held accountable for it. None of it bothers me because I’ve heard it all before and been through a lot throughout my transition and have had worse happen. These people aren’t going to get away with it, not on my watch.

AL: Probably an obvious question, but what are your dream matches? What places do you want to wrestle?

CL: Of course, Candice, Kelly Kelly and Nikki. I’d also love to wrestle Sasha, Becky and Charlotte. But to be fair, I want to wrestle everyone… I want to wrestle in Australia, UK, US, Japan or just everywhere.

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AL: Finally, this isn’t related to wrestling, but I would be remiss if I didn’t ask: Who is your pick to win RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4?

CL: OMG I have to go with Valentina, I love her and she’s ICONIC.

This interview has been edited for clarity.