Leah Van Dale (born October 23, 1987) is an American cheerleader, dancer, fitness trainer, model, valet, and professional wrestler currently signed to WWE under the ring name Carmella.
In June 2013, Van Dale signed a contract with WWE, and was assigned to their Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. In October 2014, she aligned herself with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, thus also becoming their valet.
Van Dale grew up in a small town outside of Worcester, Massachusetts. She attended the University of Rhode Island and later transferred to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. After graduating, she became a cheerleader for the New England Patriots for three terms, ending in 2010. She successfully auditioned for the Los Angeles Lakers dance team, appearing as a Los Angeles Laker Girl from 2010 to 2011.
Professional Wrestling Career
In June 2013, Van Dale signed a contract with WWE, and she was assigned to the company’s developmental territory WWE NXT in late September. In December, she announced that her new ring name was Carmella.
Carmella made her debut on the September 4, 2014, episode of NXT, portraying a hairdresser in a segment with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. Two weeks later on NXT, Carmella appeared in another segment with Amore and Cassady at the WWE Performance Center, announcing that she had lost her job as a hairdresser due to Amore and Cassady’s actions, and asked for a job at NXT. She made her in-ring debut on the October 16 episode of NXT, fighting a local wrestler, whom Amore and Cassady dubbed Blue Pants. Carmella defeated Blue Pants on two occasions, but lost to her on the January 1, 2015, episode of NXT after Amore accidentally caused a distraction. In March, Amore and Cassady began a rivalry with the NXT Tag Team Champions Blake and Murphy, while Blake and Murphy attempted to woo Carmella on several occasions. On the May 13 episode of NXT, Blake and Murphy distracted Carmella during her match with Alexa Bliss, causing her to lose. A week later, at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, Bliss attacked Carmella, during Amore and Cassady’s title match, ensuring the win for Blake and Murphy.
While continuing to manage Amore and Cassady, Carmella began feuding with Eva Marie, which led to a match between the two, on the August 26 episode of NXT (taped at the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn event), which Carmella lost. On the September 23 episode of NXT, in a rematch between the two, Carmella lost via count–out. On the January 13, 2016, episode of NXT, Carmella won a battle royal to become the number one contender to Bayley’s NXT Women’s Championship.