Becoming A Thai Fighter Helped This Badass Model Develop A Whole New Outlook On Life

"And all I want to do is help women to love themselves."

For model and martial artist Mia Kang, finding her sense of self through Muay Thai — the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. — "happened for a reason."

In a video for Self Magazine, Kang explained how her own body image issues eventually led her to discover martial arts.   "I spent every day, of my life, from whether I was a size 14 to a size 0, every single day, waking up, looking in the mirror, and hating what I saw," she said.

Kang added that she grew up overweight, but at 13 years old, she cut her weight in half and immediately was scouted to be a model. Once in the industry, she did everything she could to conform to society's beauty standards. She developed eating disorders and turned to drugs, among other things. 

"It's hard to be a woman today. We are under such extreme pressure," Kang said. " ... It really doesn't need to be this way and I feel like I've lost so much of my youth just hating myself and succumbing to this pressure. And all I want to do is help women to love themselves."

In 2015, Kang decided to take time off and moved to Thailand to live with her family. There, she discovered a local Thai boxing gym where 8-year-olds were training in Muay Thai. Muay Thai is a close-combat sport that uses the entire body to fight. 

"They're going through six hours a day of the most brutal training in the world and they're happy and they're loving it," she recalled thinking. Moreover, she thought it looked fun, and decided if they could do it, so could she. 

With that, her trip to Thailand turned into an extended stay. "I lived and breathed and ate like all the other fighters did. I watched my body change, but I not only watched it change, I watched it change and I was loving it," she said. Her thighs and hips, once points of criticism, had turned into her "biggest attribute" for Muay Thai. 

Kang returned to New York and faced the modeling industry with a new mindset. She told them, "This is me. and this is the woman that we should be having in magazines, on billboards, and as a role model. Because I've been that 14-year-old girl that's looking in the magazine and wondering, 'Why the hell don't I look like that?'"

Tearing up, she added, "I spent 27 years miserable. And it truly upsets me because if I could speak to the 13-year-old me, I would let her know that everything is gonna be fine. And I would let her know that tomorrow she needs to wake up and she needs to feel happy because life's too short."

Watch more from Kang's interview below:

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