Some women starve themselves or spend hours in the gym and in more extreme cases go under the knife to achieve what’s perceived to be the perfect body. Mia Kang was one of those women.
Kang is a model and Muay Thai fighter, half-Korean, half-English living between New York and Thailand. Kang was bullied because she was really overweight. When she was 13, she halved her weight and got scouted as a model immediately.
“The boys who were bullying me every day, making my life hell, were then asking me out to go to the school dance because I was suddenly a model and I was on billboards.
“For the next 15 years, I dealt with every eating disorder you could possibly imagine. It started with anorexia, to bulimia, all the way to addiction to laxatives, diuretics, supplements, anything that I could do that would help me be skinnier. Since I can remember, I’ve always been “too” something, too big, too short, arms are too this, your arms are too small,” she said.
Although Kang was a model in demand, jet-setting and appearing in Sports Illustrated and in Guess campaigns, she was very insecure and hated the skin that she was in.
“Everybody wanted me to look 17 but I was 27. I was super depressed, barely left my house.
“I remember I was asked to go on a 10-day liquid diet before a shoot to really shrink down, and I did it. Afterwards I was so miserable that I asked for a holiday, a 10-day holiday and I ended up moving into a Muay Thai camp for nine months,” she said.
Cotton On Body recently launched their High Impact Sports Bra, with mesh panels and no underwire for support and shape as well as padded straps for comfort. Their highest impact performance bra yet. The brand paired up with Kang who they believe is a wonderful example of what they stand for - empowerment, wellness, health and passion.
Kang tells us how those nine months at a Muay Thai camp affected her life.
How did Muay Thai help you get through to this point in your life?
I tried Muay Thai before but decided to do that just for a workout. Then I got obsessed with the technique. I really liked how it made me feel. It made me feel happy, it made me feel strong and I never thought about what I looked like. I just wasn’t ready to go back to work, and then, over the course of my time there, I gained a bunch of weight and got healthy and learnt how to eat meals and got a metabolism. More importantly I got happy and for the first time in my life, I was comfortable in my own skin. Fighting really gave me the confidence and the security to come back to work and come back to the industry and say, ‘look something needs to change’ because this isn’t healthy.
What do you love most about Muay Thai?
I love that it’s so humbling. I love that you can never know everything. There’s not one person who knows it all, you can always be better.
What has Muay Thai taught you about yourself?
They say you can’t teach someone to be a fighter - you’re either born a fighter or you’re not. One of the most interesting things was how much I was learning about myself through this sport. For example, I believe when you get hit in the face, there are three kinds of people: there’s the person who will run, the person who will curl up in a ball on the floor and get hit and there’s the person who will hit back. You can’t control that. Like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face and then you find out who you are, and it’s just an incredible journey that I’m now on.
How important is a healthy body image for you?
Very important. In the media, we have a representation for sample size and for plus size, which is amazing that it’s now become mainstream, thanks to amazing pioneers like Ashley Graham. She said she could only relate to Jennifer Lopez because that was the only remotely curvy person. There should be someone out there for every little girl to identify with.