Mia Kang, born 30 December 1988, is a fashion model, Muay Thai fighter, body confidence advocate, and television host based in New York City. Kang grew up in Hong Kong and was bullied as a young girl for being overweight. She halved her weight at the age of 13 and was soon scouted as a model. Kang modeled across Asia and Europe through her high school and college years. She got a master’s degree in finance and financial law in England, and left modeling to work as a commodities trader, before returning to modeling in New York City and winning the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model search and being named a 2017 Rookie.
Despite her modeling success, Kang was miserable with the eating disorders that she felt the modeling industry demanded to stay thin, until she took up the martial art Muay Thai in Thailand. Training and fighting gained her respect for her body, healthy eating habits, weight and muscle. She now advocates for women’s body confidence, while continuing to model, and hosting Spy Games, an American reality competition television series.
Mia Kang was born and raised in Hong Kong, though she has Swiss nationality. Her father is British and her mother is South Korean; they met while living in Taiwan, then moved to Hong Kong for business. Both parents were academics, with her father being a physicist from Oxford University. She has four older half-siblings (two half-sisters with the same father and a Taiwanese mother, and two half-brothers with the same mother and a different British father), but they lived in other parts of the world as she was growing up.
As a teenager, Kang studied at and eventually graduated from the international Island School in Hong Kong, but never felt like she fit in. She says the Asian kids would socialize together and the western kids would socialize together, but she was half Korean and half British, and never felt she belonged with either.
Mia grew up bullied and overweight, though a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover with model Tyra Banks hung on her wall. When she was 13, a doctor told her she was obese, and at risk of weight related diabetes. So she went to the other extreme and essentially stopped eating, halving her weight in a couple of months. Mia says that she was around 86 kilograms (190 lb) before dropping to around 43 kilograms (95 lb); she was size 14 and became size 0. At the same time, she grew 6 inches (15 cm). The boys who had bullied her now asked her out on dates.
Getting thin led to her being scouted as a model while still 13 years old, by her dance teacher. One of her first jobs was a Levi’s campaign, and she remembers being surprised seeing her picture in shops in Times Square. After graduating high school, Kang modeled abroad in Tokyo, Singapore, Milan, and London. For several years she was signed with the London Models 1 agency.
Despite Kang’s modeling success, her father advised her to go to college, since modeling could be a short-lived career. So Kang also studied philosophy and economics at Bristol University, earning a bachelor’s degree, then got a master’s degree in finance and financial law at the School of Oriental and African Studies. She says her education is the thing in her life that she is proudest of, and intends to return one day for a doctorate or an MBA.
After graduating, Kang left modeling to use her degree in finance as a London commodities trader. She was on the path to becoming a derivatives consultant in her mid-20s, when she realized she felt stifled and decided to try the modeling profession one more time
Kang published a memoir entitled Knockout in 2020. In her memoir, she discussed her very personal journey from self-loathing to self-love as she struggled with body dysmorphia and eating disorders in her youth and during her modeling career. Her memoir is centered around her experience with Muay Thai and the positive impact it has had on her life. Knockout was published by Abrams Books in October 2020, and was met with positive reception.
Currently, March 2022, Mia Kang is active mainly on two social media platforms which happen to be Instagram and Facebook. On Instagram Mia has more than 293 thousand followers and on Facebook her audience exceeds 1.4 million.
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