Today we’d like to introduce you to Chelsea Lyons.
Hi Chelsea, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I come from a family of strong, independent people. From as early as I can remember, we struggled with money. My biological dad was not around much during my childhood. He lived in Columbus, Ohio while I was living in Fairmont, West Virginia with my Mom and brother.
She had the help of my Great Aunt Mary who would watch us while my mom worked and went to school. I watched my Mom juggle responsibilities for years and my Aunt act more like a father to me than my own did. She was always there to make sure we got to school, had breakfast, picked us up from school, and helped us with homework until my mom was able to come to pick us up.
Needless to say, our Great Aunt Mary was the rock of our family. She was a strong-willed person who took care of everyone but took no-nonsense. You did not dare disrespect her or anyone she cared for or else that southern rattlesnake discipline would come out real quick, she didn’t care who you were. This chapter of my life is where I get my strong/forward, independent personality from.
Fast forward to my middle school years, we moved from our hometown in West Virginia to Cleveland, Ohio. My mom moved us for better job opportunities and to be near other members of our family. This in itself was a big adjustment. Leaving my hometown with my friends and family, to move to not only a new state but a completely different environment.
I believe this was the first time I truly experienced depression, I was 11 years old. See, in West Virginia, we lived on 13 acres of land. I was a kid raised in the woods, used to running and playing in creeks, making shelters in the middle of the woods. My Pap would hunt and I would watch him clean the deer he would catch. I knew how to start a fire by myself, how to catch a fish without a real fishing pole, and even nature warning signs and what to avoid when in the woods, all by the age of 10 years old.
In Cleveland, you are lucky if you get a plot of land for .025 acres and everything was twice as expensive as it was in West Virginia. So, our struggle continued in the over-industrialized city we were now living in. Our neighbor was nice enough to have her church help us out and donate food when we were really struggling. They also helped my mom out for Christmas when she was not able to afford much of anything for us.
This chapter of my life is where I learned to be humble and grateful for what I do have.
I helped raise my brother for the next handful of years while my mom worked. I did not have normal summers, they were spent helping take care of my 7-year-old brother. I would cook, clean, and find things for us to do that day. At that age, I was resenting my brother for this thinking it was his fault. When in reality, he was going through just as much as I was, if not more.
He looked up at me and I pushed him away. I did the best I could at taking care of him. I never neglected what needed to be done, but a part of me was selfish. I was 13 years old and upset that I had to be at the house day in and day out with him, instead of doing things teenagers did in the summer. I had to grow up and mature at an early age because of this.
That chapter of my life taught me a lot about seeing things through others’ eyes and not just thinking about myself.
A lot of the kids, I went to school with were not nice, I was bullied for years because I talked with an accent and had clothes that were not named brand. (The things kids make you feel like garbage over are absolutely ridiculous) The bullying got so severe that kids even got suspended over it, which in turn made the bullying worse. Some were even people who claimed to be my friends, but really they just wanted me around to laugh at.
I remember my mom telling me “Chelsea, they only pick on you because you are an easy target. They are miserable and it helps them feel better about themselves.” She was right. The moment I started standing up for myself and not letting it bother me, they moved on to other people, even each other. It took a few years to find the courage to stand up for myself, I wish I had done it sooner.
If anyone out there is a victim of bullying in school, I want you to know it does not last forever. The opinions of others do not defy who you are or give you your worth. Only you can do that, and you should know that you are a treasure in your own special way.
Find out what it is that you absolutely rock at, and use it to shine like the supernova you really are. Then, you will be too busy with your own life to even pay attention to what they are doing and saying.
That chapter of my life taught me how to stand up for myself and not let the opinions of others impact my life. Who cares what someone else thinks about you. They do not have to live your life, you do. And only you truly know who you are. This also helped me develop me “I don’t care what others think” attitude.
I will dance in public if I hear a song I like and do not care about. I will wear that weird shirt I found in the thrift store and not care. I will sing terribly at karaoke night and not care… Because at the end of the day, I was having fun and I don’t care if others were laughing at me while doing it. I was being my authentic self and was enjoying my one and only life.
The one thing that helped me get through a lot of my depression, through the bullying, the issues at home (we are going to skip the details about domestic violence and how I had to watch my mom go through that), was joining a competitive cheer team. I am not talking about high school cheer, not standing on the sidelines of a football game but the actual sport did through a gym.
It was my outlet to release a lot of the emotions and feelings I had. We would stunt and tumble our way through routines. It very quickly became a huge part of my life and a regular escape from reality for me. We would go to competitions and get dressed up in glamorous uniforms with glitter makeup, bows, and more. Perform in front of thousands of people on a regular basis. I became hooked to the stage and to the limelight.
For the first time, I was happy to be living in Ohio because it gave me that. I would do whatever it took to keep that for as long as I could. My paternal grandmother and dad helped with the costs of it for a few years. As I got older, I had to pay for it myself if I wanted to keep doing it. I got my first job at 15 for that reason. From then until graduation, I juggled school, work, and building my life as an entertainer.
This chapter of my life lasted for 9 years and is the reason I chose to pursue the entertainment industry as a career option.
In 2010, our cheer team was having a winning season. We had won numerous competitions back to back and we were gearing up for a Nationals qualifying competition. One day before the competition we get a phone call, my Great Aunt Mary had had a stroke. She was in the ICU in West Virginia, almost 4 hours away from where we were at in Ohio. I was not made fully aware of how severe the situation was at first, I just knew she was in the hospital.
My mom left to go home right away. Not wanting to let my team down as this was a deciding competition, I stayed in Ohio to compete. I took the floor a complete mess, but I pulled it together to put on one of the best performances I had ever had in my life. I was going to make sure that I did not stay for anything, we were winning that bid to nationals.
We were taping it so we could take it to West Virginia the next day and show it to Aunt Mary. We ended up winning first place and got our bid to nationals. I left right from the competition to go to West Virginia to be with the rest of my family. Upon arriving at the hospital, I realized the situation was more severe than I was led to believe. My aunt was in a coma and on life support. The doctors had deemed her brain dead.
That night, the decision was made to take her off of life support. She was holding on for a bit so we were taking turns going in and out of her room all night. It was just past 2:30 am, I was in her hospital room holding her hand and talking to her when she started to go. The nurse ran in, and soon my mom and pap followed. I sat there and watched my Great Aunt Mary pass away before my eyes.
This woman who had been such a strong staple in our family, who was more of a parent to me than my own dad… was just gone. And at 17 years old, I watched her take her last breath. Watched as her life slipped away… Just like that. She was only 54. It was the first time I had experienced such a traumatic loss. I did not know what to do. In the weeks to follow, I slipped into one of the darkest places of my life.
I wouldn’t have gotten through it if it wasn’t for the help of my English teacher at the time Mrs. Boyle. She identified what I was feeling and went out of her way to talk to me and help me. She helped me express my feelings through poetry as opposed to other negative alternatives.
This chapter of my life taught me that life is short. That you only get one. To live it to the fullest because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. Take that risk you are afraid to take.
The reason I tell all of this isn’t to get sympathy, but because I know I am not the only one to go through things like this. To let other people know that they are not alone when things seem to fall apart. When it feels like no one else knows what you are feeling or experiencing, there is someone who has gone through it as well and can help you.
Every single one of these experiences has helped shape me into the person I am today in one way or another. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. You may not know the reason at the time, but eventually, you will figure out why things happened the way they did.
Sometimes, you need bad things to happen to force you into the growth you need. Even though this bad thing happened to you, you can still try to find some sort of positive in it and a way you can grow from it.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road has not been smooth in the least bit. Let’s fast forward to 2019, I am 27 years old. I am married.
I went to school for Media/Marketing. I had worked my butt off for years to get anything that I had. Nothing was ever given to me. I had Juggled between school, a job, and an internship… or a job that barely paid me anything that I kept just to get the resume experience, for years.
I was paying my dues and doing what needed to be done so I could get ahead in my career. I had taken acting classes in Playhouse Square in Downtown Cleveland and had finally landed my first consistent acting job as an improv actor with Kringles Inventionasium.
I had also recently landed my dream job working in radio with Audacy Cleveland (Formerly CBS Radio) Working for two of Cleveland’s biggest radio Stations WQAL 104.1 and WDOK 102.1. I was doing voice-over work and was starting to make my way into animation voice-over. I had booked my dream trip to Los Angeles to go to the SOVAS Voice Over Convention in hopes of making connections and trying to take that next step.
A week before the trip, I find out I am pregnant. At this point, I was working 4 jobs. I was working as a waitress for the money, I had gone back to the media school I graduated from and became an instructor there, was working in radio, and was acting on a regular basis… now all while pregnant. I was overwhelmed and on the brink of canceling my trip to figure out the next part of my life.
I decided to go anyways just to see what happened. I am so glad I did (Again, take that risk) I met a lot of great people there. The one that stood out to me the most was Deborah Wilson. An actor and voice actor who was on the panel at the convention. She was so full of motivation and determination, you couldn’t help but be attracted to her energy.
She took the time to meet with people afterward, I asked her advice on being pregnant and still trying to pursue the entertainment industry.
I will never forget what she told me “Not only can you do it, honey, you WILL do it, and then one day your baby will look up to you like you are their superhero. There is always a way to make it work. If this is what you truly want, you will find that way because you are a mother now, that is what we do. We find a way to make it work for our families and our babies.”
Every time I start to doubt myself or doubt what I am doing, I remember what she told me and it helps me find my motivation again.
As the spring of 2020 came around, I was entering my third trimester when Ohio went into the Covid lockdown. The acting job was now gone, the job at the school was gone as well as things shut down for an unknown amount of time. I was still doing radio but was now using technology to broadcast from home since the studios had been closed down.
I was no longer waitressing because the inside of the restaurant had to close, but they did let me stay on and work take out as much as I could. Our income was severely affected by this as was the progress of my career, I was 9 months pregnant at this time. I worked up until my doctor told me to stop, a week later I had my son. I gave birth days after the lockdown was lifted.
This was shortly after George Floyd passed away, Riots filled the streets in Cleveland, all major highways were closed down and I was in labor. The only person who was allowed in the hospital at the time was my husband. I went into labor a few weeks early. Needless to say, stress was at an all-time high. Not to mention the mental toll of having to give birth during a pandemic. This was still at a time when so much was unknown about Covid, bringing a baby into that situation was scary.
As the summer went on, I fell into the life of a stay-at-home mom becoming comfortable with doing my radio show from home and that was my only connection to the outside world for months. I was going through postpartum depression. Watching my husband leave daily while I felt trapped in the house for days on end.
I was nursing at the time as well, which is like a job all in itself. As time went on and my son passed the 6-month age, the problems that came with an early delivery were gone and he was healthy. So I made the decision to try to go back to waitressing for some Christmas money.
I worked for a month and a half before catching covid. It had been going around the staff but they did not tell us. They were just waiting until people got sick before making you stay home since they were short-staffed. I caught it, my husband caught it, and my baby caught it. This brought on a whole different level of fear knowing my baby had it.
It was one of the original strands that I got sick of too. I caught it worse than my husband, so he became the caretaker of my son while I went through the worse of it. It got into my head really bad and in my lungs. It became hard to breathe and the extreme dizziness for days was the worst part for me.
Fast forward 5 months. It is now June, my son is getting ready to turn 1 and I am still having covid complications. The Cleveland Clinic has officially diagnosed me as a “Covid Long Hauler.” I was constantly going to doctor’s appointments as they studied the way my body was reacting to the sickness and tried to figure out ways to help me.
I had completely lost my taste and smell, I was a hard time breathing still – I couldn’t even carry a basket of laundry up 4 stairs without gasping for air. I was experiencing hearing loss, extreme random dizzy spells, and even my speech was impacted as I could not remember what it was that I would be saying in the middle of saying it. Attempting to live even a normal life was a challenge. Any hope of trying to return to work on a regular basis was gone.
I had been experiencing relationship problems for months and not long after all of this, I found out my husband had gone “outside of our marriage… for months” Once again, I felt like the world around me was crumbling down. I debated even putting this part in here because it is not something I had ever spoken about, but nonetheless, it is part of my story and how I got to where I am today.
I felt completely helpless between the Covid complications, having no real solid income at the moment, and nowhere else to go… I felt lost. Stripped of everything I had once been. I was no longer a motivated, career-driven person making moves. I felt completely helpless and alone.
The one person I was supposed to be able to rely on, I no longer could. I ended up having to start therapy and was put on a medication (Also no shame in that if that is our path or ever becomes it. That medication saved my life mentally).
It took a few months but slowly things started to turn around. The Cleveland Clinic found a treatment for my lungs that helped me be able to breathe again, which was amazing. With that, the dizzy spells started getting under control. I finally got the clear to start exercising again from my doctor, which was a huge turning point in my life.
I have always been my own worst critic. I couldn’t help but be broken down during this time in my life. It had been a year since I had had my son, and I still looked like I was 5 months pregnant. I felt ugly and overweight. My self-confidence was at an all-time low. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened If I had been able to get skinnier faster? So many thoughts and possible reasons ran through my head.
I had gained more weight since I couldn’t be active. I was almost 200 pounds, which was overweight for my body shape and size. None of my clothes fit me. I hated even looking at myself in the mirror. I would think back on the days I was an athlete and wonder what happened.
This chapter of my life taught me that I never want to feel that helpless again. To take me back and find who I truly was once again. My neighbor runs a boxing gym in Cleveland called Left to the Chin. I needed to find some way to let out all of the built-up feelings I had. In the past, I had used exercise as an outlet to release emotions. What better way to release the emotions I was feeling than by punching things?
Legally, of course. Once again, a person had stepped in to help change the course of my life. For the first time in a long time, I started to feel like myself again. Coach Ron helped me get back confidence in myself that I never thought I would have again. He worked with me through my dizzy spells and breathing problems.
The treatment I was on combined with the exercises we were doing helped get my lungs back to normal again. I started dropping pounds and fitting back into my clothes. Motivation to keep going. I have lost almost 40 pounds since September 2021.
Around the time I started boxing again, I was brainstorming ways to take my career to the next level. Ways to get back on a stage in front of people. Radio was not enough for me anymore. I had this newfound confidence! I wanted to do something big with it! I had recently gotten back into watching professional wrestling.
I was amazed at a lot of the behind-the-scenes work with it as well. I started watching all types of different shows and documentaries regarding it. It became something I was envisioning myself doing, but was always something I was told I would never be able to do. It wasn’t a “steady” job you can rely on. It was something that would never happen to a person like me. (I was told the same thing when I got into radio and I proved them wrong then too).
Anyways, I let that thought live in my mind. I wanted to do it, but is it something that was even possible for a person like me? 28 years old and never have wrestled a day in my life?
I continued with my boxing classes. Getting stronger and faster, my cardio improving by the day. One day my coaches approached me and asked if I would be interested in signing up to become a fighter through their gym. I gave it some thought but decided against it. If I was going to go into fighting, it wouldn’t be for boxing (Even though I love boxing) It would be for what I was dreaming about.
Professional wrestling. Combining my new fighting experience with my past stage experience. It was a crazy thought, people laughed at me when I first told them what I wanted to do… and THAT is how I knew it was the right decision. Living by one of my favorite quotes “Dream so big that you get uncomfortable telling small-minded people.” That was when I knew I was dreaming the right dream once again.
I applied to JPWA once I was confident in the shape I was in. Jacobs-Prichard Wrestling Academy. If I wanted to take this seriously, I was going to train with the best. What better place than a school run by two people who have been working with the WWE for over 25 years. My application was accepted and soon I found myself embarking on the journey to the next part of my life.
Leaving my son has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Even if it is just temporary for 3 months. I have traveled 8 hours back home for a weekend just to see him. I keep telling myself it will pay off and it will help me provide a better future for him. I feel I can not give him the most as a mom if I am depressed and unhappy.
If I am not me. I do not want him growing up seeing me like that, the way I had to grow up and see others I loved like that. I want to be a superhero in his eyes. I want to be able to give him things I never had. Show him all of the different things that make life amazing. I am doing this for my son and his future.
“Your new life is going to cost you your old one. It is going to cost you your comfort zone and your sense of direction. All you’re going to lose is what was built for a person you no longer are. Let it go”
Where I am at now… This isn’t a new chapter, it’s a whole new book.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Currently, I am known in the Cleveland area for doing the afternoon radio show on WQAL 104.1. I have been using technology to still do my show in Cleveland while I have been living and training in Knoxville. I specialize in media/ marketing, broadcast entertainment, and voiceovers.
This past year I was able to return to my job as a seasonal actor with Kringles Inventionasium, bringing whole experiences to families for Christmas. I have a range of characters but my favorite one I play is Taffy Saltwater. A curious teenager who is always investigating the shenanigans going on around the land of the north. I love the connections I get to make with the kids when I play taffy since she herself is a kid at heart.
The smiles I get to bring to kids’ faces on a regular basis is probably the part of my job I love the most. Whether I am working a radio event or am working as an actor. I love interacting with the public and helping make people’s day. I love it when I hear that Taffy Saltwater was requested because the kids loved the scavenger hunt I put together for them and my character to do.
The thing that I believe sets me apart from others is simple, I am me. I know that sounds vague but I am a really creative person. I always am coming up with original ideas without even trying. That scavenger hunt I just mentioned is a perfect example. That was not in my script or character description. But since my character loved to investigate things, I thought it would be fun if the kids could help me with an investigation.
So we set up the scavenger hunt to figure out a mystery. I do not have a problem going out of the way and doing extra small things to help enhance experiences. Creativity just comes naturally and I roll with it, especially if it involves having fun. I embrace my imperfections and find ways to use them to my advantage. “It is your imperfections that will change the world. The longer you try to befriend perfection, the longer you will delay living in your purpose”
Now I am finding ways to work that into my training at JPWA. I am letting that creativity show while I am in the ring. Doing different things than other people, learning how to put my own spin on things and stand out in my own way without even trying.
I am letting my naturally bubbly personality shine through and am showing the versatility of characters I can play. Both good and bad ones. I am persistent and will not stop until I get what I want. “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not you will find an excuse”
If I am told no, I do not see it as a failure but as a way to learn and grow. “What did I do wrong and what can I do better next time or different?” “If you never know failure, you will never know success”
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
My best advice for finding a mentor is to make yourself known to them in a natural way. Go to a seminar or event you know they will be at. Meet them there and start a conversation. Be approachable and professional. They aren’t going to approach you, but if you have the courage to approach them, you want to make sure they take you seriously.
I can not stress how important it is to look professional and dress for the job you want. If you want someone to take you seriously, you have to look like you care about yourself first. If you don’t look approachable and try to approach them, you are going to give an instant bad first impression. I also like to do something subtle that makes me stand out.
I have a bright yellow blazer jacket I like to wear to professional events. It makes me look approachable (Bright, clean, personality comes through) and makes me look professional without trying too hard since it is business casual and it is something people can remember. Chances are they will meet so many people at once, that they may not always remember you.
But when you go to follow up you can say “It is great to speak with you again, we met at the luncheon! I know there were a lot of people there, I was wearing the yellow jacket” they will be like “Oh, I do remember that!” conversation continues from there. I have successfully used this tacit many times.
- Instagram: @chelsealyonscle
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JeMiale Mckinney @JCompanyVideo