Wrestling fans were stunned to hear of WWF star Chyna’s death on Wednesday.
At only 46, Chyna’s death was early and unexpected, and some media sites were reporting Thursday that drugs might have been to blame. Her passing was confirmed with a statement sent out from her Twitter account, reading, “It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero. She will live forever in the memories of her millions of fans and all of us that loved her.”
Chyna, born Joan Marie Laurer, had a prolific career in the wrestling ring, appearing in the World Wrestling Federation, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling circuits from 1997 to 2011, when she retired from the sport.
But what casual fans may not know is how much Chyna accomplished outside of her wrestling career. Here are eight of her achievements that may surprise you.
1. She was a great student
Chyna attended the University of Tampa, where she played the violin and cello and studied French and German, becoming fluent in both. She was also a member of the ROTC and studied abroad in Spain. She graduated in 1992 with a degree in Spanish literature.
2. She was in the Peace Corps
Faced with indecision about what to do after college, Chyna considered careers with the FBI and the DEA, which would allow her to use her foreign language skills. While she was trying to make up her mind, she joined the Peace Corps and served in Guatemala.
3. She competed in fitness
But because of her large physique compared to other women who competed, Chyna usually finished in last place.
4. She’s an award-winning porn actress
Whether you support the pornography industry or not, there’s no denying that Chyna found success as a part of it. Her first homemade sex tape, 1 Night in China, won an AVN Award for Best Selling Title of the Year after selling more than 100,000 copies in 2006. Her follow-up professional porn debut, Backdoor to Chyna, won the award in 2012 for Best Celebrity Sex Tape.
5. She’s a bestselling author
Chyna’s autobiography, If They Only Knew, spent weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List in 2001.
6. She custom-designed a line of breast implants
After complaining that her standard breast implants looked out of proportion on her large frame, Chyna designed her own. Those became the model for the Chyna 2000s, a line of implants made for women with larger frames.
7. She taught English in Japan
During her later years and up until her death, Chyna had been working to teach English in Japan, a country where she had previously trained as a wrestler.
8. She was vegan
According to Us Weekly, Chyna had become a vegan.