As a young girl, Kimber Lee knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up.

She loved the flashy costumes, and the concept of using her body to tell a story to an audience that was focused on her every movement. She appreciated the athleticism that was needed, and the sacrifices she knew she would have to make if she could beat the odds and make a name for herself in such a specialized and competitive field.

Kimber Lee at NCW Femmes Fatales in Montreal in July 2013. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis,

So, at an early age, she made the commitment and began training … as a dancer.

The girl who would grow into the 5-foot-3 “Princess Palmstrike” and earn a reputation as one of the toughest, most physical females on the independent wrestling scene grew up in Seattle, Washington, dreaming of performing Swan Lake. Her plans for the future changed when she discovered pro wrestling during a somewhat rebellious phase as a teenager.

“I had a group of friends who watched wrestling all the time, and I would watch it with them,” said Kimber Lee, who will be competing for NCW Femmes Fatales in Montreal this weekend. “My mom would never allow me to watch wrestling at home — you know, ‘it’s not something for a young lady to watch’ — but I had a TV in my room so I would sneak to watch it, and then turn the channel real quick if I heard my mom coming.”

Chyna, in particular, proved to be a major influence. She was a woman who was competing alongside with — and against — men. Chyna’s matches provided a sense of empowerment that resonated with her.

She had become a wrestling fan, even if she had to hide her fandom. But once she moved to Philadelphia for college, she discovered the vibrant local independent wrestling scene. She enrolled in the Combat Zone Wrestling Academy, and began training alongside fellow grappling hopefuls like Adam Cole and Joe Gacy. She found a world where terms like “heel turn” and “kick” had a very different meaning than in dance.

Selfie! Courtesy Kimber Lee

Drew Gulak was a training program coordinator at the school when Kimber arrived. He said he quickly saw the possibilities.

“Her potential has always been very high. That stood out,” Gulak said. “Kim is very much in love with the performance of wrestling. She has a very good understanding of the fundamentals — she’s more substance than flash, and flash has been in vogue on the indies for the past decade or so. She understands how to wrestle against a variety of different styles and let the story-telling develop. She has always been very driven that way.”

She said she didn’t receive any preferential treatment as a female during her training.

“I had to do everything they had to do. I had to do the same drills. I had to be able to bodyslam them, despite any size difference. They beat the tar out of me, but they beat the tar out of everybody equally. It was a great school,” she said.

Kimber Lee headlocks LuFisto at the NCW Femmes Fatales show in July 2013 in Montreal. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis,

She found some significant parallels between dance and pro wrestling.

“Being able to remember lengthy sequences of choreography, picking up the movements, being able to work with another person,” were all the same, she said. “I was already an athlete and had the stamina to go out there and perform for a long piece. Even some of the backstage etiquette was the same — don’t talk back, make room for the senior dancers. In a lot of ways, I was more prepared for wrestling than I knew.”

Like Chyna, Kimber has found herself frequently competing against male opponents. That’s just fine with her.

“I have always wanted to be looked at as a wrestler. I never wanted to be seen as a ‘female wrestler,'” she said. “That’s why I take any opportunity to wrestle anyone, regardless of gender.”

Since her debut in 2011, Kimber has earned a reputation as a hard-hitting striker who is willing to take on any opponents, male or female. In May, she defeated her mentor, Gulak (a former CZW heavyweight champion), in a hardfought inter-gender singles match for Beyond Wrestling. She also shined in a loss last year against the notorious Kana in SHIMMER, a woman known for her stiff, strong-style ring work. If there were any critics, Kimber Lee silenced them with that match.

Cherry Bomb and Kimber Lee at the SHIMMER show in New Jersey WrestleMania weekend in April 2013. Photo by Christine Coons

Kimber held the WSU tag team title with Annie Social, and frequently teams with Toronto native Cherry Bomb (as the aptly-named Kimber-Bomb) in SHIMMER and SHINE where they have established themselves as tag team title contenders.

“Kim will go toe-to-toe with anybody, whether male or female. She steps into the ring and always gives 150-percent,” Cherry Bomb said. “She believes men and women deserve equal rights and opportunities, and she isn’t afraid to voice her opinion.

“Kim and I are not only tag partners but we are also close friends outside of the ring,” Cherry Bomb said. “Our teaming came together organically. The chemistry you see is the real thing. I think that’s what makes us work so well together. I’m proud to have her as a partner.”

Kimber earned her fine arts degree in dance from the University of the Arts last year, and dance remains a vital part of her life. But, with bookings in NCW Femmes Fatales, CZW, SHIMMER, SHINE, and several promotions in the Northeast U.S., she is also becoming one of the finest female talents on the independent wrestling circuit.

“Going from watching wrestling on TV to being able to get out there and travel, it’s really pretty awesome,” she said. “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love.”

Check out Kimber Lee this weekend at the NCW Femmes Fatales show on Saturday, August 15th in Montreal, and at the Smash Wrestling card in Toronto on Sunday, August 16th.