Mia Kang recenly won the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search and landed herself a spot in the magazine’s February bikini-babe issue. But despite her busy modeling schedule, she is also in training for her first professional Muay Thai fight.
However, her new found celebrity and success comes a big contrast to her early years at school in her native Hong Kong. She says that she was overweight as a young kid and got bullied in school. That is, until she hit puberty and she dropped half her body weight.
“The boys in my class who bullied me asked me out to prom. From a very young age I saw an ugly side of people,” she told the New York Post in a recent interview.
Mia first strode the fashion runways of Paris and Milan at age 17 but took her father’s advice to put her fashion dreams on hold and go to college.
She says that getting her master’s in finance and financial law from the University of London was the best decision of her life.
“I urge girls to prioritize their education – no one can take that away from you,” she said.
But Mia soon felt stifled by the intense culture of commodities trading in London and in 2015, she took a 10-day vacation in Thailand to unwind. She ended up staying for six months in a Muay Thai compound, training to fight.
“I have the utmost respect for fighters,” she said. “Going in every single day and getting your ass handed to you in front of people and standing back up and shaking [your opponent’s] hand saying, ‘Thank you, you’re better than me’ . . . it’s so good for your soul,” she told the Post.
Now she juggles her role as a Guess girl – her third campaign with the fashion company is out now – and training three hours a day, six days a week for her first pro fight, scheduled for May in Thailand.
In a recent interview with WellandGood.com Mia spoke about first foray into Muay Thai training in Thailand.
“I kept driving by this gym where these little Thai boys would train. Finally, I asked if I could train, and they said sure, and it turns out I wasn’t too bad. They asked if I wanted to take it a little more seriously and move in and train with the fighters. Now, I come back as often as I can to keep learning.
“What really appeals to me is that there’s so much discipline involved. Fighting is not so much the physical; it’s a complete mind game. You forget everything around you and completely rely on your instincts. That really appealed to me, especially in the industry I’m in, where it can be very narcissistic and self-centered. It was amazing to come here and just live this life and no one knew I was a model, and I never thought about how I looked,” she said.
She also said how proud she was of her Asian heritage and praised her new benefactor Sports Illustrated for their approach to choosing models for their magazines.
“There is a range of women from all different backgrounds and countries, of all different sizes and ethnicities, I’m so proud to be a part of that. I think that should be portrayed more. We should celebrate our differences,” she said.