With a background in modeling, acting, dancing and singing, Catherine Joy “C.J.” Perry is now showcasing her talents before members of the WWE Universe as the International Social Ambassador to WWE Superstar Rusev. She is Lana.
Now 30-years-old, Perry was born on March 24, 1985 in Gainesville, Florida to parents of Venezuelan and Portuguese descent. The future star studied abroad for much of her adolescence as she was raised in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union, where her father worked as a Christian missionary. She and her family remained in the country after it declared its independence from the Soviet Union on May 4, 1990. As a child, Perry aspired to become a professional dancer like her mother. At the age of fourteen, Perry enrolled in the Riga Choreography School – the graceful dance school of the Latvian National Opera – and began performing with the Latvian National Ballet.
Upon turning 17-years-old, Perry returned to the United States to pursue her goals in New York City. While residing in “The Big Apple,” Perry enrolled in a number of dance programs including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, Broadway Dance Center and the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. The developing entertainer then enrolled in Florida State University, where she majored in acting and dance. While attending the home of the Seminoles in 2005, Perry captured a small amount of fame via football. During a September game against the Miami Hurricanes, ABC Sports cameras panned over to Perry and her friends (including Allison Torres, Jessica Fuqua and future Brett Favre media target and Playboy model Jenn Sterger) dressed as cowgirls. Announcer Brent Musberger acknowledged the group over the air as he remarked, “fifteen hundred red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State.”
Perry took advantage of this brief fling of public consciousness to begin modeling in her home state of Florida, where she appeared in provocative photo shoots and as a spokesmodel for the energy drinks Red Bull and Matrix. Upon graduating from Florida State University, Perry relocated to Los Angeles, California to continue chasing her dreams of being a star in the entertainment industry.
As a developing entertainer, Perry discovered a little songbird inside her scrambling to be released. So in 2009 she joined “No Means Yes,” a girl group signed to singer and record producer Ne-Yo’s record label featuring herself and three other songstresses. The troop released one single, “Would You Like That” – and recorded two others (titled “Burn Rubber” and “7 Years Bad Luck”) before disbanding a year later. On joining the group, Perry remarked, “A girlfriend of mine in college referred me to the man that was putting the group together. I honestly was so scared to sing and I didn’t even know a song to sing at the audition so I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” I remember them saying we can work with her tone because she has the right look and she is a model that break dances. I am so thankful to this day for that experience because I do not think I would have ever gotten the role in Pitch Perfect if I hadn’t overcome my fear to open my mouth and sing.” Following this endeavor, Perry went back to her roots as she appeared as a backup dancer for recording artists such as Usher, Pink, Nelly and Keri Hilson. In 2013, she starred alongside Kelley Jakle in the music video for the actress’ cover of the Paramore song “Ain’t it Fun.”
An aspiring actress as well, Perry enrolled at Groundlings, an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe and school, and then under acting coaches Larry Moss and Lesly Kahn. The endeavor was fruitful as she landed acting spots on the BET comedy series The Game in 2011, the musical romantic comedy film Pitch Perfect in 2012, and an even in a topless scene in an episode of the Cinamax drama series Banshee in 2013.
With her chances of success in the entertainment industry diminishing, Perry sought refuge in the form of professional wrestling. In February 2013, WWE held auditions for potential Divas in Los Angeles, California featuring ladies the sports-entertainment organization had recruited from modeling agencies. The women ranged from models, aspiring actresses and dancers, one of whom was Perry. The accomplished entertainer impressed talent scouts as she was signed to a developmental contract in June 2013 – Eva Marie, JoJo Offerman, Brittany Fetkin (known on WWE NXT as Devin Taylor) and Erika Hammond (known on WWE NXT as Veronica Lane) were also signed to contracts.
It did not take long for Perry to make it to television as she debuted on the October 23, 2013 edition of WWE NXT. Appearing under the name Lana, was seen scouting Alexander Rusev during his bout against CJ Parker. Two weeks later, Lana became Rusev’s “social ambassador,” with her character’s background described as being born into a wealthy Russian family and having neighbors who were ex-presidents, diplomats and other powerful political figures. Her background at Florida State University was also acknowledged, but revised to fit her character. The official WWE website says she not only learned English while attending FSU, but majored in Foreign Affairs, Business and Social Media Marketing. Additionally, the duo was compared to Ivan and Ludmilla Drago, the antagonists of Rocky IV, a film released in 1985.
While Rusev made his WWE debut at the twenty-seventh Royal Rumble on January 26, 2014, Lana made her premiere appearance on the following episode of SmackDown in a pre-taped vignette delivering their message of superiority to the WWE Universe. On the Raw after WrestleMania XXX, the Rusev squashed Zack Ryder in his televised singles match debut with “The Ravishing Russian” by his side. The following month at Extreme Rules, “The Mistress of Destruction” caused a stir by dedicated his Handicap Match against R-Truth and Xavier Woods to her idol, President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Her acclaim of Russia’s scorned ruler has just escalated contempt for this compelling duo.