Sydelle Noel is one of the breakout stars of Netflix‘s GLOW, a new comedy that stars Alison Brie. Noel has been acting in Hollywood since 2004, but GLOW is her first big project. She has also landed an unknown role in Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther.
Noel stars as Cherry Bang, an actress who has struggled to find roles since the Blaxploitation fad ended in the 1970s. Now, she’s stuck with a role in the new “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” (GLOW) league, working for washed-up director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), who she once slept with. But she’s married now and desperate for cash. She also becomes a trainer once Sam fires the male wrestler originally hired.
Here’s what you need to know about Noel.
1. She First Hoped to Be an Olympian & Attended Georgia on a Track Scholarship
Noel, who was born in Hollywood, Florida, didn’t intend to be an actress. She really hoped to be an athlete, attending the University of Georgia on a track scholarship. She had dreams of being on TV as an Olympian, not as an actress.
In an interview with Interview Magazine, Noel said her dreams came to an end when she suffered a stress fracture while running track professionally after graduating. That ended her track career.
“As an athlete—especially if you’re a child athlete into high school and college—you train so hard,” Noel told the magazine. “You don’t even have that mind frame of, ‘Well, if I don’t make it in this, I’m going to do that.'”
After her injury, she lost some of her muscle and stopped working out for a year. Suddenly, her sports manager suggested she break into sports modeling, which is how she ended up in California in 2004 and found herself acting.
Her early roles were in commercials and in non-speaking roles. She appeared in episodes of Everybody Hates Chris, The DL Chronicles and First Sunday in small background roles. In 2007, she finally got her first speaking role in an episode of Private Practice.
2. She Says She Knew Nothing About Wrestling Beyond Watching Hulk Hogan on TV
Noel needed intense training to prepare for her role in GLOW. She admitted to the Observer that she knew next to nothing about wrestling before she got the part.
“I knew nothing about wrestling besides what I saw on TV. At that time when I thought about wrestling the first person who popped into my mind was Hulk Hogan,” she said.
Before filming started, the cast had four weeks of training to prepare. After each workout session, she did Cryotherapy.
“I did Cryotherapy — that’s where they basically put you in a tank and freeze you for three minutes. I also got a lot of massages,” she explained to the Observer. “It was months of aching, but it was well worth it because it made me very confident in the ring.”
Noel said one of the big disappointments of the part was not getting to have an Afro. She thought her character would be stuck in the 1970s, but that wasn’t the case. “But, in the end, I’m ok with it because I think I still look really good in my ‘Cherry’ costumes.”
Executive producer Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black) also had the cast prepare for the show by watching GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a documentary about G.L.O.W. Noel said she had no idea that it was a real thing.
3. Noel Studied Improv at The Groundlings School & Lists Axe Throwing as a Sport on Her Resume
According to Noel’s casting resume, she studying improvisation at The Groundlings School, the world-famous Los Angeles improv theater group. Her bio also lists a long list of sports under “special skills,” including axe throwing, boxing, snorkeling, roller staking and darts.
Her bio notes that she is also a member of the SAG-AFTRA guild and has been living in Los Angeles since 2004. She earned a degree in Sports Management with an emphasis on Business from Georgia.
“Some folks think that I’m chasing a dream, but this is what I want to do, I am living my dream,” reads a quote on her bio. “I never think of failing or giving up, in the past, when I would put on my track shoes, it was to win, I may not have always been in first place, but more likely than not, I was in the top three. Most of all, I gave it my best shot. My career right now is like climbing a mountain, I stumble, I fall, but I pick myself up, dust myself off and keep going, ’cause I know one day soon, I will be at the top of that mountain.”
4. Noel Was 9 Years Old When Her Father Died
Their father, Sydney, is deceased. Noel was nines years old when he died, but she remembered him fondly on Instagram on Father’s Day.
“My dad was a damn handsome guy… #Fact,” Noel wrote. “Just want to take the time to say, #HappyFathersDay to the fathers out there and I want to give a big IG hug to those who lost their dads… just know you have a guardian angel. I know my dad is ours for sure!”
Noel has also posted a picture of her mom, seen below.
5. Noel Played an Athlete With Olympic Dreams in Her First Speaking Role on ‘Private Practice’
In her Interview Magazine interview, Noel said her first speaking part was in a 2007 episode of Private Practice. Coincidentally, she also played a track athlete who dreamed of making the Olympics. The character had a heart condition that made her dream impossible to achieve. She called the role “almost therapeutic for me.”
“The words that the character said were words that I needed to say and didn’t at the time. I remember the casting director giving me tissue, and going, ‘Oh my gosh, are you okay?’ And I was like, ‘I actually am. I’m glad I got to do this,'” Noel recalled. “I walked out not thinking anything of it, and not even two hours later my reps called and I’d booked it. I was like, ‘Guess I’ve got to do that again.'”
That Private Practice roles was just the tip of the iceberg for Noel. In addition to GLOW, she had a part in Black Panther, which means she got to work with director Ryan Coogler and actress Angela Bassett. She was just in awe of Bassett.
“I told her how much I adored her, and that she’s one of the reasons that I’m acting, and I know all of her work,” Noel told Interview of Bassett. “She’s so beautiful and so down-to-earth and funny and athletic.”