April Jeanette "AJ" Brooks (née Mendez; born March 19, 1987), better known by the ring name AJ Lee, is an American retired professional wrestler. She is best known for her time in WWE.
Brooks began her professional wrestling career on the New Jersey independent circuit in 2007, where she performed as Miss April, notably in Women Superstars Uncensored. She signed with WWE in 2009 and spent two years in its developmental system, Florida Championship Wrestling, before she was called up to the main roster. Meanwhile, she took part in season three of NXT in 2010 and placed third in the competition.
In 2012, Brooks rose to prominence through several storylines, such as relationships with wrestlers who feuded over WWE's world championships, along with a three-month stint as the General Manager of Raw. In subsequent years, she won the Divas Championship a record-tying three times. She also won the Diva of the Year Slammy Award twice (2012 and 2014), and was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Woman of the Year for an unprecedented three consecutive years (2012–2014). She retired from in-ring competition in 2015.
April Jeanette Mendez was born in Union City, New Jersey. She is of Puerto Rican descent, and has two older siblings: a sister, Erica, and brother, Robert. She has described her family's experience while growing up as having to live in motels, other people's houses, and their car.
Her brother's childhood interest in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as WWE) influenced her ambition to pursue a professional wrestling career, which she cemented when she was 12 years old. She was inspired by the WWF's female stars, especially Lita, whom she met as a child at an autograph signing. Footage of the encounter, which shows the young Mendez being brought to tears, surfaced on YouTube. As an homage to her brother, who was in the U.S. Army, Mendez once wore camouflage wrestling attire.
After graduating from Memorial High School in 2005, Mendez worked several part-time jobs in order to save up the money she needed to both support her family and enroll in wrestling school. She attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, where she majored in film and television production and writing, until family and financial issues led to her dropping out six months into her studies.
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