This interview is part of the Real Talk Real Women interview series, where we bring you the life-changing, heart-warming and inspirational stories behind the most successful women in health and fitness. Make sure to follow us on Instagram for the latest interviews! For this installment, we are joined by Mia Kang.
You’ve appeared in a lot of famous publications. Did you always envision yourself becoming a model when you were younger? How did you get started?
I never aspired to be a model. I actually grew up overweight and bullied in school. When I was 13 I developed eating disorders and halved my own weight. I immediately got scouted as a model and started working. The boys in my class who bullied me every day were then asking me out. I saw a very superficial side of people from a very young age.
You left Hong Kong to pursue a modeling career in New York - tell me about that decision and how it has affected your career.
I had a great career in Hong Kong, and was simultaneously booking jobs in the US. I had worked all over the world but never in the American market. So I got myself an agent and I moved out here. It was a huge risk to leave a very successful career in Asia but I figured worst comes to worst if it doesn't work out at least I get to live in New York City for a while while I'm single and in my 20s. The first job I booked was Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, so yeah, it was the best risk I've ever taken in my life!
I know that you’ve suffered from numerous eating and psychological disorders as well as struggled with addiction. What can you share around that and what was it that turned things around for you?
When I was 13 and lost all that weight I just stopped eating. I didn't know that I had developed eating disorders all I knew was that it was working. This wrecked my metabolism which led to binge eating, bulimia, addiction to laxatives, diuretics, you name it. Then coupled with the additional pressure of being a model and maintaining a certain size, I was riddled with body dysmorphia and insecurities. This developed to anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and even suicidal thoughts. I lived off liquids and Marlboro lights and was NEVER happy with how I looked - it consumed me.
In 2016 I broke down. I was under insane pressure to have my hips less than 90cm. I was being asked crazy things like to go on a 10 day liquid only diets before shoots. I asked for a 10 day vacation to go clear my head. I went to Thailand, immersed myself in Muay Thai and a 10 day vacation turned into a 9 months trip.
I lived and trained like a fighter which taught me so how to respect my body. I learnt to eat meals, about nutrition, I saw strength in my body. I gained weight and I gained muscle and I was fine with it, I embraced it, I even loved it. Martial Arts saved my life.
Knowing what you know now, how would you define beauty?
Beauty is universal. It is a state of mind. It stems from within.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
Women think that because it works (that what I believed for over a decade of my life). But what they don't realise is that you can lose weight by eating! Don't destroy your metabolism. Understanding nutrition is so important, but what is more important is understanding that food is FUEL for your body.
Are there ever times when you feel insecure today and how do you deal with that?
Every day, just like everyone else. I even get those days (especially on my period) when I feel like I'm a hideous whale and just shouldn't leave my house and all I want to do is stay in bed in my fat pants and eat chocolates. I have learnt to love my insecurities and flaws, they are what make me me. They are humbling. They drive me to improve myself and be the best version of myself I can possibly be.
What is the one thing people don’t know about the modeling industry, that you feel they really should?
People think models are the most confident women in the world. Our appearance in scrutinised on a daily basis and actually we are some of the most self-conscious people on this planet.
What would you say to that young girl who is reading this and feels she can’t live up to the beauty standards that are set in the magazines and glossies?
Don't let anyone dictate what beauty is to you.
You have a background as a professional Muay Thai fighter and I believe you’re looking to pursue new challenges in the MMA realm as well - what can you share around your goals here?
There are a few more Muay Thai fights that I want to do. Then I will immerse myself in training for MMA. Honestly I love martial arts and I want to learn it all, this is a passion of mine. If I get to the point where my team think I'm ready and they think I can fight, I'll do it. I will take this at my own pace.
You also hold a Master’s Degree in Finance and Financial Law. Do you feel your educational background has played a significant role in the achievement of your success today?
Yes. My education is my greatest achievement of my life. It has kept me grounded and focused. I am a huge advocate of education and I am not finished, I will return to do my PhD or MBA one day.
What drives you to act as an advocate for healthy body image, anti-bullying, fitness and female empowerment?
I have been through alot and managed to come out the other end. I have a brain, a voice and a platform therefore I feel it is my responsibility and I have a duty to speak up and try and make a difference for the generation after me. If I can help alleviate some of the pressure that is on women today, that’s all I can ask for. I am trying to be the change that I want to see.
What are your biggest life goals?
To reach my potential, to make a difference and to be the best mother in the world.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!