MMA Fighter Takes on Body Image Issues in Los Angeles, Hoping for Another Knockout
As an undefeated UFC champion and an Olympic medalist in judo, Ronda Rousey has established herself as one of the world’s strongest female athletes. Her popularity is responsible for the inclusion of women in Mixed Martial Arts.
Before Rousey, the UFC didn’t have a woman’s division. Recently, she has also taken on Hollywood with roles in major films. But she wasn’t always the bold confident person she seems to be now. As young girl, she wrestled with body image issues, body shaming, and an eating disorder. “When I was in school, martial arts made you a dork, and I became self-conscious that I was too masculine,” Rousey explains. “People made fun of my arms and called me ‘Miss Man.’ It wasn’t until I got older that I realized: these people are idiots. I’m fabulous.”
The Bad Girl that Became Popular
“Right now, I’m the baddest chick on the planet,” Rousey told Rolling Stone magazine. “And no matter what else happens to me, I have that.” Describing her unlikely rise to fame and stardom as a fighter in a New York Times story, Rousey says, “Everybody was trying to be Miss America, and they were so afraid to be criticized. No one wanted to play the bad guy role, and I’m happy to do it.”
Being this tough wasn’t always easy for the young athlete. Confronted with weight limits in judo tournaments, as a teenager, Ronda Rousey developed disordered eating habits, and this led to a bout with bulimia. Like many girls growing up in the LA area, she also faced an opponent she could never topple- the ultra thin models featured in magazines and mainstream media. Even on warm California days, she often wore a loose baggy jacket to hide her thick muscular body. “I was afraid to show my big arms,” she told the New York Times. “Eighty-five degrees out, I wouldn’t take it off. I wouldn’t let anybody see my arms.”
It wasn’t easy being different from other kids at school either. Rousey never went to parties, dances, or out on dates. By the time she was 16, Rousey’s arms were so formidable that she was constantly teased. She says kids would grab her arms and yell, “Flex, flex, flex!” The effects of this body-shaming may still haunt her. During pre-fight weigh-ins, a time when other fighters often flex their muscles, Rousey usually conceals her, holding her arms behind her back.
A Fierce Warrior Hits the Big Screen
Rousey may never be accepted by the slender popular girls she went to school with, but her fame has opened doors to jobs that even some of the top models might envy- acting roles in motion pictures. This summer, Rousey had a small part in Entourage, the film based on the hit TV series, playing a character based on her real life. She also had parts in action films like Fast and Furious 7 and The Expendables III. Co-star Sylvester Stallone told Yahoo Sports, “Ronda is absolutely a phenomenon. She’s beautiful. She’s tough. And she’s original. Outspoken. Very fresh. Not guarded. We’re lucky to have her.”
Rousey has more movie roles in the near future, and will soon star in the film version of My Fight/Your Fight, the bestselling memoir she wrote with her sister. She described the film to the New York Times as “a mix between ‘8 Mile’ and ‘Rocky.’ ”
Because of the harsh off the cuff comments she is known so well for, Rousey may never be a wholesome role model for young girls. But she is challenging the LA standards of feminine beauty the only way she knows- head on, with direct combat. Sports journalist Hannah Storm says, “She is one of my favorite interviews ever. She’s very very real, and she’s very down to earth, and she’s really, I think, a really cool example for girls, because she is very unapologetic about who she is.”
Ms. Rousey’s popularity has also propelled her into yet another competitive arena, the world of modeling. She has even posed for Maxim magazine and appeared in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. Rousey told the New York Times that she saw these photo shoots as a way to embrace and accept the body that used to embarrass her.
“If I can represent that body type of women that isn’t represented so much in media, then I’d be happy to do that,” she says. “When women say that going on publications directed at men is somehow demeaning, I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s one really effective way to change the societal standard women are held to.”
Weight and Body Image Issues in Los Angeles
Unlike the supermodels, Rousey talks openly about her weight. She is 5 feet 7 and fights in a category that restricts her to 135 lbs., but she told the New York Times that she feels most attractive when she is somewhat larger, at nearly 150 lbs. “That’s like my favorite weight,” she says. Sometimes, she prefers to weigh slightly more, she admits, because in photo shoots, she has to choose between flaunting a flat hard stomach or a plump ample chest. “You can’t have both,” she says.
In advertisements for Carl’s Jr. Hamburgers, she followed in the footsteps of Paris Hilton. Unlike Hilton, however, in the ads, Rousey looks like someone that really eats cheeseburgers. She had considered losing a few pounds before filming the commercials. “But because somebody said something really rude to me, I came into the shoot purposely way heavier. And the campaign ended up being amazing, even though I was heavier, just to make a point,” she recalls.
As a spokesperson for Buffalo Jeans, the New York Times describes her look in their photos and videos as “the girl next door, if the girl next door were really ripped.” Dari Marder, the chief marketing officer of Iconix Brand Group agrees, saying, “Frankly, that’s what we loved about her. She wasn’t supermodel size.”
Body and Mind
In an article on Rousey for Self magazine, comedian Chelsea Peretti admits she’s a huge fan. “Ronda fearlessly speaks her mind,” she writes. “I can see how her physical strength is powered by mental strength.” The MMA champion clearly shares this belief. “Even if they don’t know it, everyone has the instinct to survive,” Rousey told Peretti. “If I say that I’m the best in the world, sometimes people think that’s really cocky and arrogant, but I had to work hard to be able to believe in myself. In your teens, you start to become super self-conscious. I had to build that up.”
Recovery is Possible
If you, or someone you love, are secretly suffering from the symptoms of an eating disorder, call Center for Discovery now at 800.760.3934. We’ve been helping families find their way to lifelong healing for nearly 20 years. Call today and speak with one of our highly trained admission specialists. Or click on the link below for a FREE assessment or virtual tour to see the treatment center closest to you. All calls are completely FREE and strictly confidential.
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New York Times: Ronda Rousey’s Next Fight: Body Image in Hollywood by Sheila Marikar. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
RondaRousey.net: My Fight/Your Fight. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
Ronda Rousey: The World’s Most Dangerous Woman, by Erik Hedegaard. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
The New Yorker: Mean Girl, by Kelefa Sanneh. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
Self magazine: Ronda Rousey Shares Why She’s The Best Fighter In The World, by Molly Knight. Retrieved November 30, 2016.