Gail Kim is a fighter, in every sense.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Kim was an athlete from an early age and regularly competed in everything from basketball and volleyball to badminton. Her incredible drive propelled her through college, where she first majored in kinesiology and then transferred into the Ryerson University nutrition program. It wasn’t long, however, before Kim transitioned into the career that ultimately made her famous: wrestling.
With a long list of TV titles behind her, Kim has now retired from the sport, but continues to fight outside the ring as a producer for Impact Wrestling. She’s practically revered in the wrestling space, but the foodie world knows her even more famously as the incredibly cool wife of Robert Irvine. The two tied the knot in 2012, when Kim was still active on the mat.
Marriage and retirement haven’t slowed Kim down one bit, though. Today, she continues to travel, speak, and inspire — as she told Afterbuzz TV, "I’m very disciplined, I always have been." Read on to uncover the untold truth of this dynamic super-woman.
Gail Kim is one of the best female wrestlers of all time
At first, she fought in disguise. Masked and alias-ed as "La Felina," Kim lost her first match as a professional wrestler. But the losing streak didn’t persist. Within a couple of years, Kim signed with World Wrestling Entertainment, where she started a powerful, victory-heavy career. There, she was the first WWE Diva to win a championship in her debut match. After a series of continued WWE wins, she eventually switched leagues, and took Total Nonstop Action Wrestling by storm, starting in 2005.
She absolutely dominated as the first-ever Knockouts Champion, and became known as a title-grabber. She broke records by winning seven Knockout Championships, and spent over 700 days as the reigning champion. Fans grew so accustomed to seeing her with a title that when she was eventually unseated, it was almost unfamiliar.
When it’s strange to be seen title-less, you know you’re doing something right.
Gail Kim’s passion for the sport got her through the injuries
As you might expect, her winning reputation did not come easy — Kim experienced significant obstacles during her rise in the entertainment-wrestling world. She is no stranger to the danger of the sport and was injured multiple times.
"After my first injury, [my mom] and my dad said, ‘OK, you can quit now,’" Kim told Michigan Live in 2012. "But by then, I’d been working very hard to get where I was, and I had a passion for it."
Her mom wasn’t watching many of her matches, by that point. But the violent nature of wrestling wasn’t the only obstacle Kim overcame. As a woman, she explains, there are a whole host of other things to conquer, before even stepping foot in the ring.
"Oh my gosh, women have it so much harder than men," she continued in her 2012 interview. "If you ask me the differences are professional as well as physical. They change their clothes and are ready in 10 minutes; we’re spending hours on make-up and hair, only to get it all messed up in the first round. We have to look good … Girls nowadays follow us, but they’re still shocked when they come in. It’s so much harder than they expect."
But Kim continues to come back to love-of-sport as her lifeline: "But if the passion is there, it won’t go away," she concludes.
Gail Kim quit the WWE, to some controversy
Passion got Kim far, but after she began to feel under-utilized by the company, she decided it wasn’t enough. In 2011, she spoke publicly against the WWE via a string of tweets posted to her personal account (via SeScoops).
"The response of our match has been unbelievable and it was TRULY a dream come true. Imagine if we were given a storyline or some more time behind it! Sigh….," Kim wrote. The WWE diva later expanded on her frustrations, writing: "This is the current situation for everyone who’s asking: I quit last Monday. And apparently after a total of five years of working for a company where I was not utilized or appreciated, I am now, for some reason, valuable enough to keep me under the remainder of my contract so I can’t work elsewhere. Controlling? Thoughts?"
Kim ultimately brought her talents elsewhere, but was later brutally honest about her qualms with the wrestling conglomerate. The wrestling star said that she "never felt any power" and was worried that she’d be replaced if she stepped out of line, calling the work environment "very toxic."
Gail Kim struggled with racism in her career
While she was born in Canada, Kim is of Korean descent, During her time wrestling on the silver screen, she encountered racist undertones that, ultimately, she was vocal about.
"It was around me, just like, the conversations, I even had to have conversations with the office, like, I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do here because I do everything you guys ask me to do. I got to the point where I’m like, am I too Asian?" She said, recounting her experience (via Wrestling News Source).
While speaking out against institutions is perhaps more normalized these days, when Kim did so, she was more of a pioneer in her field. And she was brutally honest in her confessionals. "I was literally highlighting my hair near the end to become more white, I didn’t know what to do at that point, that’s why I left … It just felt really, I don’t know, suppressed, I felt very suppressed," she concluded.
Gail Kim is in peak physical condition and keeps her husband that way, too
Even though Kim no longer uses her body to perform professionally, she continues to keep it in tip-top shape. As she explained to AfterBuzz TV, it’s always been important to her to take care of her body, which means a fitness regime in addition to clean eating and limiting her alcohol intake.
In that same interview, Kim admitted that she still struggles with body dysmorphia, saying that she’s all-too-familiar with the phenomenon of seeing something else in the mirror than those around you see in person. She says it’s a side-effect of working in her industry for so long. "You have such a critical eye for yourself … you’re your own worst critic."
Kim doesn’t spend all of her time in the gym alone, though, and regularly pumps iron at the gym right alongside her husband.
Gail Kim met her husband on the set of his TV show
Speaking of Kim’s husband, he is just as famous as she is, in a different arena: the food world. Robert Irvine is a renowned celebrity chef, originally hailing from England, who has made himself a Food Network staple. The two have a profoundly unique meet-cute story — they were introduced when she guest-starred on an episode of Irvine’s TV show, Dinner: Impossible.
The episode, called "Mission on the Mat," features several wrestlers battling it out over dinner ingredients (via Michigan Live). The beginning of Irvine and Kim’s relationship is immortalized in a quote that made the final cut: "Quit talking to him," Irvine shouts at Kim, as she chats with a fellow wrestler while he is mid clean-up.
Reflecting on their time together behind-the-scenes, Kim says Irvine "liked the fact that he didn’t intimidate me." She can be seen close to his side throughout the episode. "We’re the only ones who would put up with each other," Kim says.
Gail Kim left the wedding planning to her husband Robert Irvine
After that episode, the Kim/Irvine affair continued, and they were married on May 10, 2012. As with all aspects of their love story, the wedding was unconventional: Kim didn’t plan a single aspect, beyond choosing her dress. Irvine arranged for a horse-drawn carriage to pick Kim up and take her on a quick tour of California’s Charles Krug Winery vineyard before the ceremony.
"He wanted to give me the fairy tale wedding," Kim told People magazine. "I didn’t know the colors of my wedding or what my bouquet would look like! But I trusted his taste. "When they arrived at the reception, Irvine guided Kim inside before saying, "OK, now open your eyes."
There was plenty to see –and taste. Irvine had arranged for Chef Masaharu Morimoto to prepare sushi, while Chef Michael Chiarello was on hors d’oeuvres and pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner was on desserts.
The entire affair was caught on camera and aired as Food Network special: Wedding: Impossible.
Gail Kim is a bit of a chef, herself
While Irvine made a name for himself in the food world, Kim knows her way around the kitchen as well — her nutrition degree comes in handy.
"To this day …" she told The DailyMeal, "I learn so much about how my body reacts to food. I am a believer of what I put in my body affecting my health … In the last year, I’ve pretty much cut out all cow, which is red meat and dairy, and I’ve noticed such a difference in how my skin is, my energy level… I’ve tried to go vegan, but that didn’t work out because I’m married to a chef."
Before meeting Irvine, she continues, she was the "go-to cook for everyone." Kim would cook for all her friends, even groups of 10-plus people. "Then I met my husband," she quipped.
But Kim still puts her skills to use. Her favorite dish to cook? Salmon. "For salmon or fish," she says, "I feel it’s all about the technique of how you cook it."
Gail Kim’s husband calls her a "Siracha Queen"
The couple is as adventurous in the kitchen as they are in their careers. While Irvine is known as a worldly, premium-cuisine connoisseur (a trait that exists in sharp contrast to his experiences stateside with the Worst Cooks in America), Kim is no stranger to fancy food herself. By age 2, Kim told Paste magazine, she was eating a full steak.
Kim remembers that she was "always a big eater," but never picky. As a kid, she ate a lot of home-cooked Korean dishes — her mom is a great cook — but also craved McDonalds "and all that crappy food."
"I eat anything with anything and she’s the same," said Irvine, in an interview with Star Tribune. The one big differentiator in their palettes? Spice. "Sometimes she’ll eat a lot more Sriracha than I will. She’s a Sriracha Queen. She loves spice more than I do," Irvine continued.
Gail Kim has healthy hacks for eating when she travels
Always on the road for work, Kim developed a set of fail-safe systems to keep her diet (relatively) clean while traveling. Instead of jamming Tupperware with home-cooked chicken into your carry-on, Kim recommends simpler alternatives.
"However much [water] you’re used to drinking in a day, double it on the day you travel," she said, in an interview for Robert Irvine’s website. Additionally, she says that carrying protein bars and –literally– hot sauce in your bag can help minimize hunger pangs while traveling.
Kim also makes sure to get a workout in before taking flight, and, surprisingly, doesn’t say no to the airport-Chipotle stop.
"Just leave out a few of the items that will bloat you (rice) and the ones that are very calorie-dense (cheese, sour cream, and guacamole)," she says, explaining her burrito hack. "You still get to fill it to the brim with chicken or beef, fajita veggies, salsa, and hot sauce."
Gail Kim is now a dual citizen
Kim is no stranger to accumulating titles. During the second half of her career alone, with Impact Wrestling, she won eight (and rumor had it, she could have taken a championship). She stepped out of the ring officially in 2017, retiring from wrestling citing back problems.
"My back was starting to deteriorate and basically what happened was I just couldn’t walk after a couple of matches here and there," she said at the time, "Basically, I made the decision that I didn’t want to keep on going."
But in the same year that she forfeited the possibility of winning further wrestling titles, the Toronto native locked down a new one in an entirely different arena: she became an American citizen. On October 10, 2017, Kim announced her dual citizenship, which she also shared in an exciting social media post soon after. She is now proudly both American and Canadian.
You can get Gail Kim to send you a personal hello
If you’re as enchanted by Kim as we are, after reading this piece, you won’t believe this: thanks to the magic of the modern world, you can get the famous wrestler to send you a personal message. That’s right, the celeb has a Cameo account, and for $60 you can request a message from her (she advertises delivery within 24 hours!) On her page, she says she "finally" joined Cameo, and she’s "here for you guys to give all your special shoutouts and messages for those you love, or yourself."
Her reviews on the platform are overwhelmingly positive — there is not one non-five-star rating. One fan wrote that Kim is "Absolutely unbelievable! An iconic and legendary trailblazer," while another said her "kind words gave me encouragement in these tough times," and mentioned that she sang to them.
Could be worth a try — maybe she’ll even break out one of her famous wrestling moves on camera!