After the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue launched her to superstardom in the modeling world, Mia Kang decided she needed a break. In 2016, she told her agency that she was headed to Thailand for 10 days. The trip ended up being closer to nine months, with Kang staying in a Muay Thai camp to practice the Thai martial art.
“I do a job that incredibly egocentric,” Kang says of modeling. “When you do martial arts, you have to leave your ego at the door.”
The trip to Thailand allowed Kang to take a newfound ownership over how she looked. Liquid diets and fasting were replaced with an emphasis on strength. As a result, she found her approach to her own appearance shifting.
“I remember the day when I looked in the mirror and felt secure with myself,” she says, “because I was happy and confident for the first time in my life.”
Kang also has a master’s degree in finance and financial law — so clearly she’s not going to let her looks be the only thing that define her. That’s a strong position to be in.
“There’s a difference between a model and a role model,” she says. “All I can do is try to be the role model that I wish that I had.”