What Mayra Dias Gomes has accomplished in her 33 years on this planet would put most bucket lists to shame. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and now residing in Los Angeles, Gomes is an author, journalist, actress, model, ghost hunter, and pro wrestling fans will recognize her as May Valentine on NWA Powerrr. SlamWrestling.net recently had the opportunity to do an in-depth phone interview with Gomes. Our chat encompasses all the various facets of her life and ranges from fun to unfiltered to nerdy.
Slam: Mayra, what initially drew you to writing and when did you start writing?
Mayra Dias Gomes: Well, I grew up in a very artistic family. My father (Dias Gomes) was a writer. He was a playwright and he was television writer. He worked as a writer for 70 plus years in his life. He would have been 100 years old next year, actually and he had me when he was already in his 60s. So I always grew up around literature and television. My mom (Bernadeth Lyzio) was an actress on television. So my childhood was pretty much about writing, reading, putting on plays for my father and his friends to watch. The environment I grew up in and writing was always something that I enjoyed doing. That came natural to me. Ever since I was like a little kid, pretty much I just wrote. And I wrote in diaries, since I was probably eight until I was like 15 years old. Then I started writing online. But that was something that I did every day regardless and that I always enjoyed doing. I had a blog. This was before I published my first book. So I always loved writing. And if I had my way, I would have published the book when I was 11. I’m glad I didn’t! That would not have been a very good book for sure. (laughs) So I started writing my first book when I was 16 years old. It came out actually, when I was 19. But I finished it when I was 17. And then from 17 to 19, I was basically trying to get it published and edited.
Slam: And the name of your first book… I confess I don’t know how to pronounce it.
Slam: And what does that mean in English?
Gomes: It’s a rope that you use to tame large animals. I think there is no actual literal translation of it in English. I’ve looked for something to replace that word with my whole life. So if it was translated, it would have to be a different word. But that book pretty much talks about several problems that I was going through as a teenager. It’s a half memoir/half fiction book. And I was very lucky to be a bestseller by the time that I was 19 years old in Brazil.
Slam: Why do you think the book resonated so much with readers, especially with Brazilian teenagers?
Gomes: I think I’m very honest, I’m very open. And when I wrote it, I was going through these turmoils. I was dealing with my father’s death, depression, drug problems. And I was just very, very honest. And it was set in these environments that resonated with young people like the underground rock and roll scene in Rio and the underground rock scene in San Paolo. So it’s something that a lot of teenagers could relate to.
Slam: So your second novel was Mil e Uma Noites de Silêncio and the English translation is 1001 Nights of Silence. What can you tell our readers about that book?
Gomes: That was more of a existentialist romance kind of novel. I am so upset that I can’t send it to you in English right now.
Slam: So none of your books are available in English?
Gomes: Not yet. I am working on the translation myself. Because it’s very hard to have somebody who speaks Portuguese and English fluently and who is able to translate the entire culture because it’s literally set in like a completely different culture. But it has been published in Germany and Switzerland. I have started working on it (the English translation). I have half of one book translated and half of another one translated. It is a very hard work.
Slam: And then in 2012, you released a book with your sister (Luana Dias Gomes) and your mom called Dias Gomes and that was a book on your father. Why did you want to write a nonfiction book and why did you want to write about your dad?
Gomes: Well, he passed away when I was 11 years old. And he’s one of the most brilliant men that I have ever met. And so many people have ever met. I mean, he lived through so much. And I always wanted to have conversations with him that I never got the opportunity to have because I was a kid when he passed away. So we thought that it would be a great idea to go through all of his interviews, basically the earliest ones we found are from the ’50s. So it starts in the ’50s and it goes all the way through the end of his life in 1999. So it was a way of understanding him and getting to know him. And also interesting enough you can see so many changes that happened in the country itself, within several subjects like politics, theater and television, and just the world evolving alongside the interviews. So we thought that it was a very interesting thing to do, and that it would reconnect us to our dad pretty much.
Slam: I love that all the books are so different, and they’re even all different genres. Your next book was Finalmente Famosa or in English, Finally Famous. And first of all, I must tell you that I am a true crime buff. But this was a case that even I didn’t know about. Your novel was based on a murder in the building you were living in when you first moved to Hollywood, is that correct?
Gomes: I know! It’s crazy! But at the same time, now that I’ve been in Hollywood for 12 years, it has kind of become normal. You see so many things like this happening. I had just moved to Hollywood and that was the first building I ever lived in. It was on Hollywood Boulevard. It was a very historic building. It was owned by Charlie Chaplin at some point and it was the building that a lot of the silent movie stars moved to when they first moved to Hollywood. So there’s a lot of history and all over the walls are like pictures of the old movie stars that lived there like Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West. There’s so many. It’s really unbelievable. That building is like a piece of history. It’s also known to be very haunted.
Slam: I was going to say with all that history, it would have to be!
Gomes: Yeah, it really is. I don’t know if you believe it. But it really is. But anyway, my neighbor at the time, Paul Allee is his name, murdered his fiancé (Enedine Vigil). It was a very crazy story. He shot her in the hallway of the building. And he barricaded himself inside the building. So it ended up that the building had to be evacuated and the FBI showed up, and it was live on television. And the reason that he (Allee) was there, and she was there, just like so many people who are in Hollywood was to gain recognition. She was a makeup artist in the industry and he was in finances, but he was writing scripts, so he wanted to get into the business. And it was just crazy to me that they became famous through this crime, like through her suddenly becoming a famous ghost and him suddenly becoming a famous murderer. I decided to just write a story that really talks about how people come into Hollywood and the obsession with becoming famous, and how sometimes that happens through tragedy. And then how tragedy is absolutely marketable. And Hollywood has a whole business of haunted buildings, people who want to go to haunted buildings and talk to famous ghosts. So pretty much that’s what the book is about.
Slam: Are you planning to release any more books, maybe an autobiography?
Gomes: I think an autobiography is more for towards the end of your life, but I am working on a sequel to my first book. And I wrote some during the pandemic. I’m probably like, halfway through.
Slam: I also think with the adventures you’ve had, I think you could make an HBO miniseries on your life! Just putting it out there.
Gomes: I would love to do that! (laughs)
Slam: So my understanding is you dropped out of high school at age 15 and didn’t pursue higher education. Do you ever regret that decision?
Gomes: Honestly, no. I could give you a different answer, but the truth is no. I think I was very lucky that I was able to start a professional writing career that young, perhaps things would have been different if I hadn’t had that success. But the way that things worked out, I am actually happy that I started it really young, because by the time my class graduated, I was already publishing my second book. I was already working as a journalist. So I just started my life like really, really young. I felt like there’s no point to be in school for another three years. I already know what I’m going to do. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend that to just anybody, of course, because that’s a privileged situation to be in. But just for my life, specifically, it worked out.
Slam: What made you interested in pursuing journalism?
Gomes: It kind of happened all of a sudden, like I said, I always enjoyed writing. And I love music. I always got into concerts my entire life. And I just thought it was a natural thing. I wanted to write about music. And I remember being 16 years old before I even released my first book, and emailing the editor of Rolling Stone magazine (in Brazil) with concert reviews and asking to write for the magazine. And one time he answered me! He actually became my editor 10 years later, but when I was 15, he answered me and he was like, this is really cool. You know, you haven’t published anything else. You’re still a teenager. But you know, keep going to concerts, keep writing about it and in the future, you might have an opportunity to work for the magazine. So I already wanted that. But I didn’t have a path to it yet. So after my first book was released, it gained a lot of attention in the media, and an editor from the largest newspaper in Brazil (Folha de Sao Paulo) asked me if I wanted to write for them. So that’s how it began. I was 19 years old, I started working as a music reporter for them. And then I had a biweekly column in the newspaper. And just like one thing led to the other after that, like different magazines would ask me to write for them. I eventually had a literature review show on MTV Brazil. And then, by the time I was 23 and already in Hollywood, I had released the two books. I emailed Rolling Stone magazine again, and the editor finally gave me a shot 10 years later! I was like, holy sh**, I’m writing for Rolling Stone magazine! That’s been my dream forever! These things kind of happened accidentally in a lot of these situations.
Slam: In your opinion, what qualities does someone need to have to be a successful journalist?
Gomes: Well, I think first of all, you have to really enjoy your job. You know, it’s not a very well paid job in a lot of situations. So I feel like people who are pursuing writing careers, they have to be very persistent. They have to be very focused. They have to like reading. The more you read, the better writer you are. And I think also, don’t give up! If you have a platform, even if it’s a smaller online platform, or social media platform, try to to gain an audience. You know, nowadays, you have so many opportunities, because of the internet and social media, you can gain readers by just being online and attracting people to your page. So I think there’s a lot of different ways you can do that.
Slam: Are you an avid reader?
Gomes: Yeah, I love reading. I haven’t read much lately. I love reading for sure. I think my favorite authors would pretty much be the beatnik generation type of authors like Jack Kerouac. I love Hunter S. Thompson. Sort of that generation of authors.
Slam: I was so excited to read that you have written about the West Memphis Three case for Rolling Stone. I was obsessed with that case! I’m Canadian and when I was attending university, I had a long sleeve West Memphis Three shirt that I wore so often. This was before they were released, this was when they were still in prison. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The West Memphis Three case was named for the three then teenagers — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. — who were convicted of the murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The case was extremely controversial, with many people advocating the innocence of the teenagers, and was documented in several books and documentaries, most notably Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by journalist Mara Leveritt and the Paradise Lost trilogy released by HBO. In 2011, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were released after spending 18 years in prison utilizing the Alford plea.)
Gomes: That’s amazing! You were one of the supporters!
Slam: I wore that shirt so often it I had to throw it out because I got holes in it!
Gomes: That’s amazing! I was the same. I was obsessed with this case. Ever since I saw the (first) documentary. I was like this is just mind blowing. And this has affected me so deeply. And I just really want these boys to be free.
Slam: Was that how you first heard about the case, through the first documentary?
Gomes: I heard about it working at a heavy metal awards show. And at the time, several musicians were doing a campaign to help the boys. And I remember Marilyn Manson talking about it. And I became super-obsessed with the case.
Slam: I heard about the case/documentary after seeing a Canadian band discussing it on a local cable entertainment program.
Gomes: Exactly! So it’s so cool that so many bands got onto the bandwagon to help them. So I found the documentary and it moved me, like, I’m sure you understand. I couldn’t get it out of my head. And I really wanted to be a part of the campaign at the time. They were like, trying to get money for DNA testing. This was long before they were released. And then the crazy thing was that I went to this award show the following year wearing a West Memphis Three dress! And at that time, there was a Twitter profile for Damien Echols that saw that I was wearing that and they added me and they followed maybe 10 people at the time. And I wrote them a message. On their bio, it said if Damien Echols ever gets released, we’re gonna give him this Twitter account. So time went by and they were released. Like, how amazing was that? And Damien came out and they actually did give him that Twitter. So suddenly, Damien was following me. And I got right in and I sent him a message, I think it was maybe the second or third day he was free. And he answered me, and I was like, holy sh**! This is unbelievable. And I started telling him that I was supporter. So I started talking to him for a long time, several months. And eventually I pitched that story to Rolling Stone magazine. I was like I have this one-on-one communication with this guy who just went through this horrendous, traumatic case and was falsely accused and sent to death row. And Rolling Stone was like, yeah if you can get that story, we’ll publish it.
Slam: And you also did the foreword to the Brazilian version of the Devil’s Knot book by Mara Leveritt?
Gomes: Yes. Because of this story in Rolling Stone, people knew that I was involved with the case. And it (the Brazilian version of the book) was published by my publishing company. So my publishing company asked me to write it.
Slam: I’ve read that book, it is amazing! Leveritt includes so many footnotes, she backed all her research!
Gomes: Yeah, I was obsessed with that book too. That’s the book that made me obsessed with every detail. That’s awesome. I love that you were a part of that. I know how that feels.
Slam: I never thought I’d see them released from jail.
Gomes: I know, me neither. It was so impossible.
Slam: And just to me, not that I consider myself to be a naïve person, but it was truly the first time I really felt let down by the justice system. I just was like, how does this happen? There’s no evidence linking them to committing this crime.
Gomes: The more you get into this case, the more you understand how flawed the system is. That’s why I became so obsessed about it too and how easy it is to get a false conviction. How many people’s lives are ruined because of a false conviction? Like we don’t have enough money for an attorney or the police have to put it on somebody. But everything like the false confession and the prosecution wanting to get someone in there is just mind blowing how fucked up the system is.
Slam: Oh I could talk about that case forever, but we must move on! You have also interviewed people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jennifer Lawrence, Vin Diesel. Do you have a favorite interview that you’ve done?
Gomes: I always say the same thing. But I love my interview that I did with Vin Diesel (to promote the Furious 7 movie). Paul Walker had just passed away and we actually had like a really honest, friendly just really deep emotional conversation where he wasn’t you know putting on a gimmick for the camera or just answering anything as sometimes actors do because they’re doing one interview after the other. It was just a very real talk that we had that I was super grateful for. And he got emotional in my interview. And he cried during my interview. So it went a little bit viral because of that. And I was always just so grateful that he opened up to me. And I think we, we always have a good connection when we do an interview. So it went really well. So that’s definitely one of my favorite ones.
Slam: Who was your most challenging interview?
Gomes: I don’t know, that’s a good question. I think it’s challenging when you barely have time to research somebody, and they’re standing in front of you. And a lot of red carpets! Red carpets can be challenging. It’s one person after the other after the other. And you’re like, Oh, my God! I didn’t have a question for that person!
Slam: What do you think makes a great interview?
Gomes: I think treating your subjects as a human being and just having a real conversation with somebody. The same conversation you would have if they weren’t a celebrity. I think that’s what makes it a great interview. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal and just find out who the person is and have a meaningful conversation.
Slam: You also wrote a story about being raped as a teenager for Glamour magazine. I’m wondering why you decided to share that story being as it’s so personal?
Gomes: Oh, wow. I haven’t talked about that in a long time. Well, when I published my first book, that was something that was already in my book. But it was in my book as fiction. And I don’t know, at some point, I just felt like I wanted to talk about it. And I wanted to just let it out. And I felt like it could help all these teenagers that looked up to me. I’m not sure it was the best medium to have done it. But I don’t regret it. Because it’s something that happens to so many women.
Slam: Was it healing for you to write about it?
Gomes: I’m not sure. Probably not. I wanted it to be healing more than it was. I think you’re very judged when you come out with something like that. Brazil is still a very misogynistic country. It was definitely hard to read comments and a lot of people not exactly supporting you, and just doubting you pretty much. So I’m not sure it was healing, but I still don’t regret that I did it.
Slam: With having that experience, I was wondering what your thoughts were when the #MeToo movement happened in Hollywood and wrestling kind of had its own #MeToo movement with the recent #SpeakingOut movement?
Gomes: I think it’s very necessary for women to feel like they can have a voice especially in an industry that can be very male oriented. I think it is something that is due to happen in every industry. I’m surprised it took so long in wrestling. But I’m even more surprised that it hasn’t happened in music and I think there will come a time when every industry will have that moment. So I’m definitely happy that a lot of women had support to come out because once one person comes out, if other people don’t come out that person doesn’t necessarily have the support.
Slam: So how does it come about that you end up investigating hauntings? You even made a documentary about this experience.
Gomes: I was always obsessed with horror movies and horror stories. I grew up completely obsessed with horror movies. Honestly I was one of those kids that would always believe a Ouija board session, the glass game… the whatever game. I was obsessed with that kind of stuff. And when I moved to Hollywood I realized that there was this culture of haunted buildings, haunted old historic buildings and movie stars that lived in these buildings. So that was something that I was very interested in. I was like, this is so cool. I can go to this house and that house. I did several ghost tours when I first moved here. And I always talked about this kind of stuff online. And so a friend of mine who was working for The Hollywood Reporter, just suggested to them that I would be a good person to do this. I think I had already released my book, the Finally Famous book. And so I did that story for The Hollywood Reporter where I went to maybe 20 Hollywood haunted locations. And then the documentary is basically something that I’ve done over and over and over. I’ve been the guest in several different ghost shows. When they want to come to the building that I live at, the Hollywood Tower, they know that I’m here. So they’re like, OK can we get her to be the subject of this episode? So I’ve been on maybe five shows, bringing people into the Hollywood Tower. And there is a medium that I work with, Patti Negri. She’s been in several of those shows. She’s in all the famous ones. She’s really amazing. And so every time we do that, we hold a séance session, and people are freaked out because real things happen. So one of those times was a time that I did my own documentary, a short documentary called Hollywood Hauntings. And I held the séance on a Halloween night.
Slam: And how how did you end up modeling?
Gomes: That has kind of been natural, I guess. Ever since I published my first book, I would always be promoting the book through photo shoots. That’s just how you I got the word out about my book. I was doing an article for this place and that place and they always wanted to photograph me because I had sort of like a rebellious teen look. It was good for the photograph. I was always modeling for the promotion of the books. And just, you know, I became experienced in photo shoots. I’m like, why not? You know if I can use my image also to work, that’s something that I like doing. I love doing photo shoots!
Slam: Have you always been comfortable in your own skin and in front of the camera?
Gomes: Absolutely not! I was very shy when I was younger, super insecure. I think actually wanting to help that a lot was having to go through the motions of promoting the books and having to be in front of the camera and having to do photo shoots. But I was really nervous about all that when I was young. It really came with time that I felt comfortable.
Slam: People who have seen some of your photos are going to find that so hard to believe.
Gomes: Oh I was so insecure! I thought I was so ugly. But I mean so many girls feel like that. In high school, I just felt very different from people. I was very rebellious and precocious. I was very insecure. But gladly, I don’t feel quite like that anymore.
Slam: Another thing on your ample resume is acting.
Gomes: Well acting… everything I’m answering kind of sounds the same… but it’s also another natural thing. With me living in Hollywood, there are different ways that you can work and one of them is as a model and actress. So I got into acting one, because I enjoy it and my mom was an actress. And I grew up around plays, and I did a lot of plays when I was a kid. I did theater classes. But it was just another thing like, I’m in Hollywood somebody wants to use me then I would love to work as an actress. I didn’t actively pursue it where I have an agent, but I’ve had opportunities to appear in one thing here one thing there
Slam: How did you end up pursuing pro wrestling? Were you always a wrestling fan?
Gomes: Not always. I grew up in Brazil, and we didn’t really have a lot of access to wrestling. It wasn’t on television. It’s never been a major fixture like it is in America. In Brazil, it’s slowly getting some viewership now, but it’s still like… people don’t understand it. And I started to watch wrestling after I already lived here (in the U.S.). And I began taking an interest in women’s wrestling, because I would always see male wrestling, but I didn’t personally relate to it. Until I could see somebody that looked like me wrestling. And then I was like, wow, maybe this is something that I could do, you know, and I’ve always loved martial arts. I did a little bit of boxing, and I did a little bit of MMA (mixed martial arts) training, and I knew that I liked combat sports. But I realized I’m never gonna be an MMA fighter. I don’t have that personality to do that. And it really came just by watching WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). And I was going through sort of a hard time in my life. And I was trying to find something to reinvent myself with. And at the time, this producer friend of mine was casting different shows. And she told me that WWE was casting for a Diva Search sort of thing and you didn’t have to have wrestling experience and that I should go and it was so random. But I was like, I would love to learn how to wrestle. And then it ended up that after the casting, some lists leaked and my name was on the list, and I woke up to like, hundreds of news sites saying that I was in WWE! And I’m like, what the hell is going on here? I was just so in shock. I think that show ended up never happening, but it just stuck in my head. I was like this is something that I could do maybe. And basically, I was sitting at home one day and I was like, I wonder if there’s a wrestling school somewhere close to me. And I saw Future Stars of Wrestling in Las Vegas. And I decided to write them and ask them about it. And one of the owners said come down and see if you like it. And just because I kind of wanted so badly to change my life, I was like that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna move to Las Vegas tomorrow, and I’m gonna go to wrestling school. That’s what I did.
Slam: So when you went to train, how long were you training in Vegas and when was this?
Gomes: This was a year and a half ago (2019). So it’s very new. I think I was there for maybe five months or six months. And then I came back to L.A., because it wasn’t really working to just live in Las Vegas hotels forever.
Slam: Did you get to have a first match yet?
Gomes: I didn’t. I was about to have my first match in the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) before the pandemic hit. So I was training for the NWA. Well, that’s a leap from what we’re talking about. So I moved back to L.A. I was still trying to pursue wrestling. And I started training privately with Royce Isaacs. And Royce was already in NWA Powerrr. I knew Billy Corgan (musician and owner/promoter of the NWA) from the music business, and I’ve been a fan of the Smashing Pumpkins. And I had done music videos (Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts) and Cyr) with Smashing Pumpkins. Billy knew me because of this music video. And one day he just realized that I was wrestling. He follows my Instagram and I don’t know if he saw my training or whatever, but we started talking about it. So it started with a conversation with Billy Corgan and him essentially asking if I wanted to be a valet in the NWA.
Slam: So you’re May Valentine, a valet in NWA. How much of her is you and how much is a character?
Gomes: It’s a character.
Slam: It’s all character?
Gomes: It’s absolutely a character yeah. I shouldn’t say that though! (laughs) Wrestling is real! What are you talking about?
Slam: So you haven’t wrestled in NWA yet, do you know if there are plans for you to do so?
Gomes: Well, I am not aware if the show is coming back or not. We’re still not allowed to have an audience. I don’t know what’s going to be (in terms of) the future of NWA. I can’t speak for that. But I would like to think that if it does return than yes.
Slam: What has it been like to work with Royce Isaacs because he helped train you and now you’re his valet/girlfriend in NWA Powerrr?
Gomes: I was very grateful to be working with Royce. It was great that he was my trainer and we got to go through all of that together. I think it would have been different if I was valeting for somebody that I didn’t know so well and I wasn’t in training with, so I think it works out pretty well overall.
Slam: Why do you think you’ve pursued so many different things?
Gomes: I just think I have a lot of sides to my personality.
Slam: To me, you seem to be a very ambitious person too. Would that be accurate?
Gomes: I don’t know. Maybe you can say that I’m ambitious or maybe I just try to make the best of every opportunity. I think a lot of things happened to me without me actively pursuing it. Which makes me feel very privileged and lucky that I had some of these opportunities. But in a lot of them, I wasn’t even pursuing it. Take NWA for example, I never contacted them. NWA came to me. And it was the same for the job in the newspaper. It was the same for the job on MTV. You could say I pursued Rolling Stone, but a lot of the other jobs also came to me. I think that’s a unique story to have.
Slam: You also didn’t say no to anything either.
Gomes: That’s what I’m saying. And even in times where I didn’t feel ready for them, I was like OK, you’re only going to learn if you do it!
Slam: What would you still like to accomplish in wrestling and your other career paths?
Gomes: Well, I would love to debut as a wrestler and have matches. First of all! That’s why I’m training! And then writing wise, I still want to publish more books. I want some of my books to become movies. I think those are my biggest goals.
Slam: Do you ever take a lazy day and just sit around in your pajamas? You’ve accomplished so much!
Gomes: Of course!!!
Slam: That makes me feel so much better! (laughs)
Gomes: During this pandemic, I’ve become very unproductive a lot at times.
Slam: What advice do you have for people wanting to pursue some of the same career paths as you have?
Gomes: Don’t listen to anybody else and go for it! If you listen to people, they’re always gonna say that you can’t do it. And a lot of things seem ambitious and huge, but there are pathways to get there. And believe in yourself. It’s so basic, but you have to believe in yourself!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.