Stacy Keibler was a full-time student at Towson University and a novice wrestling personality in 1999 when a reporter asked about her long-term goals. When a wide-eyed Keibler responded that she would like to act on a sitcom someday, it seemed like a case of dreamy blond ambition.
But after six years in the wrestling ring and one ascendant season on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, the Rosedale native is realizing her dream.Keibler, 27, guest stars on tonight's episode of George Lopez. Her second appearance on the ABC sitcom is scheduled to air three weeks from tonight.
The former Ravens cheerleader hasn't limited her acting to comedy: On Feb. 12, Keibler will begin a seven-episode arc on the ABC drama series What About Brian.
"I really feel like I'm living a dream," says Keibler, whose profile skyrocketed after she finished in third place last year on Dancing With the Stars. "When I'm at work, I'm like, `Is this really happening?' I just can't believe that I'm really here and living in L.A. and doing this."
Not surprisingly, the leggy Keibler, who was named one of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" last year, plays a hottie on both shows.
According to an ABC news release, she portrays the "young and beautiful, but not too bright" fiancee of the title character's father-in-law on George Lopez. On the drama What About Brian, her role is as "the irresistibly hot Stephanie," a fledgling model and actress who forms "an immediate flirtatious bond" with Brian (Barry Watson).
Despite her limited acting experience, Keibler says the casts immediately accepted her.
"The night before I was about to go to work on George Lopez, I was like, `I've never even been on a sitcom set.' I was a little nervous," she says. "When I got there, George was just so amazing. The whole cast embraced me. They were all fans of Dancing With the Stars."
Her newly acquired, mainstream appeal was evident by how much ABC promoted her coming appearance on Lopez. It's a far cry from just a few years ago, when her exposure in modeling and pro wrestling tended toward the risque.
Keibler, who says her character on What About Brian might return next season if the show is renewed, currently is reading pilots for ABC, including some in which she would be the star. She also has a cameo role in the college-football comedy film The Comebacks, which is scheduled to be released this year.
Although it was her appearances on Dancing With the Stars that led to her signing a deal with Disney-ABC's Touchstone TV studio, Keibler had moved to Los Angeles nearly three years ago to pursue an acting career while she was still with World Wrestling Entertainment.
"I was wrestling four days a week. Then I'd come to L.A. and take an acting class, find time to unpack and pack again, and then get back on the road," Keibler says. "It was crazy because I was trying to start this whole new life while I was already in the middle of one."
She wasn't having a lot of success in Hollywood until -- at the suggestion of her mother -- Keibler had her publicist contact the producers of Dancing With the Stars about appearing as a contestant.
After several meetings, Keibler was offered a spot on the hit show. She received rave reviews from the show's judges. The exposure led to a flood of offers for movies, television shows and commercials.
Although Keibler had five months remaining on her WWE contract, Keibler inexplicably did not appear on WWE television shows after the conclusion of Dancing With the Stars. Speaking publicly for the first time about her departure from WWE, Keibler says the wrestling company fired her.
"My lawyer was in the process of renegotiating my contract ... and they ended up firing me during Dancing With the Stars," Keibler says. "Then I got a call a day or two later saying they're not going to fire me, but they're just going to let my contract run out. I don't know why they decided not to use the term `fired.'"
"I have a lot to thank Vince [McMahon] and WWE for because I wouldn't have been on Dancing With the Stars without them, but I was really surprised that they ended up firing me."
Attempts to reach WWE for comment were unsuccessful.
Life is too good these days to be bitter about her departure from WWE, Keibler says. In addition to her professional success, she is dating actor Geoff Stults, 29.
"We're pretty serious, and we have a great time," Keibler says when asked whether she is thinking about settling down. "I just don't know that I'm ready to get married right this minute, because this is such a crazy business.
"Everyone always sees these people fall in love and get married, and then they're away from each other all the time, and it gets crazy. I'm trying to be very careful because I just want to get married once."
Keibler, who credits her parents, Pat and Gary Keibler of Kingsville, for keeping her grounded, also says she wants Baltimore to know that she may have moved to Hollywood, but she hasn't "gone Hollywood." She was able to return home to visit friends and family three times last year and remains a diehard Ravens fan.
"I'm still a Rosedale girl at heart," she says. "I think that's why when people out in L.A. meet me and ask where I'm from, and I say, `Baltimore,' they're like, `Oh, that explains a lot. You're not from around here.'
"I would just really like to thank everyone, because I'm sure a lot of people from Baltimore were behind me and voting for me during Dancing With the Stars. I hope they enjoy the new stuff I'm doing and will continue watching me grow."