Mia Kang does not want to be categorized. It can not be either. The 30-year-old is a model, but with a size of 8 to 10 she does not fit in the straight size or the plus size of the industry. She is also a martial artist who has recently completed her first professional Muay Thai bout (she won by technical knockout in the third round). And she even had a job as a commodities trader in London, a job she'd accepted after graduating with a master's degree.
No matter how you try to describe Kang, one thing is certain: she is not interested in boxing anyone. More than 15 years in a model career that has affected her well-being in different ways until recently. "My health has suffered from this industry all my life," she says. After Kang lost weight in her early teens, Kang was encouraged to try modeling. She was successful immediately. "I did not know what I was doing when I went to my first modeling agency," she says. "I booked my first photo shoot three days later, and frankly the rest is history." She spent years dealing with dangerous weight loss habits, was determined to adhere to the limiting standards of modeling, and never questioned her. "I grew up in this world, in this bubble, and I thought that's normal," she says.
It was not until about two years ago that she received a phone call asking her to only diet before, a shoot – a relatively routine request to her and something she had done many times – to the Kang it became clear that she could not do it anymore. "At 27, the industry wanted me to look what I looked like when I was 17 and my body was fighting," she says. "I resisted more. I have resisted emotionally, mentally defended myself. "She burst into tears.
Kang ended the shoot, but she knew she needed to change something. She had reached a low point and even thought of suicide in a particularly hard time. She decided to go to Thailand for a 10-day reset. There she discovered her love for Muay Thai, a martial art also known as Thai boxing. "I drove down the street on my first day and saw a gym in Muay Thai (19459013), put on the car, tried it and fell in love with it," she says. "I just loved how I felt about it." She eventually moved to the gym and stayed for nine months.
Kang's time at the training camp allowed her to heal from the damage her involvement in the modeling industry had caused over her mental and physical health over the years. Her life became easier: wake up, exercise, eat, rest. Maybe the beach is going. To repeat. Sleep. "I was so worried about what I looked like and my measurements and even the mentality of" Oh my God, I will die if I do not get this new Gucci bag, "Kang says about her time outside the training camp." I have I have lived a really simple life where I was I. I have really focused on myself. "
It is no wonder that Kang Muay Thai made the change – and Salvation – owing to her life, and now, when asked on her own terms and as always, she also wants to see other changes. "I've gotten to the point that I was like," I'd rather not live like this Living to "realize that something needs to change, not just for me, but within this world and within that industry," she says, saying she feels obligated to do something more than someone whose idealization is Body billboards and time sc graces around the world. "[I want to] make a difference in the industry and make sure the images I exhibit there are the images I would have liked when I was a vulnerable, impressive teenage girl suffering from eating disorders and this one Beauty standard subscribed to that was just dictated and held above my head, "she explains.
Kang does so by presenting herself as a strong and healthy role model, be it by posting violent training videos of herself on her Instagram or in New York Fashion Week is walking its first time last September, having previously been vacant because of its size. She is also an advocate of the vocal diversity in the body, which is committed to the fashion world to recognize models like her, who are currently regarded as size greats.
"I find it ridiculous that I've always been referred to as 'you're here too or that' or 'not quite that or not quite that', she says. It may seem ironic that someone who defiantly struggling against fitting into a mold to fight a categorization, but Kang is determined to make a difference, she does it to help the fashion industry make all kinds of bodies more inclusive and accept them the girl she once was, desperate to succeed in an industry where she felt there was only one way to do it, now, as a role model, fighter, or advocate, she's ready for her next chapter, whatever that may be, "I'll do anything I want to do," she says.
Mia Kang, model and Muay Thai fighter, is our 2019 New Year's challenge Star and the cover model for our special issue of the SELF 28-Day Challenge . Learn more about the challenge (and join in!) here .