Before she married soap opera star Kristoff St. John, she was simply Mia Rosales, a beautiful Mexican-American who grew up living with an alcoholic father. Yet, it was also this same man who introduced her to the world of boxing. The rest is history. St. John went on to become the most famous Latina fighter on the planet. She was soon promoted by the twin heavies, Don King and Bob Arum. She was chosen by Hugh Hefner to pose for Playboy. She also won titles and was one of the most recognized celebrities in sports. However, it was St. John’s philanthropic work that didn’t draw headlines, which meant the most to her. After reaching fame as a sports icon, she started a non-profit organization to provide poor Mexican youth the necessary resources to succeed in their communities. It was her way of helping a people who, despite their efforts in the United States, get the short end of the stick. Yet St. John was only getting started on her path to educating others.
Recently, St. John wrote her first book, titled The Knockout Body Plan. However, don’t confuse her latest project with your typical fitness guide. Rather, it’s a reference point for a lifestyle meant to help those who suffered from the same ailments that she once did. It is a wonder to look at this fantastically fit athlete who exudes positive waves knowing what she had to overcome. And finally, she’s revealing the secrets to becoming stronger, both physically and mentally.
We sat down with St. John to explore her troubled childhood, her fantastic career in boxing, as well as how she’s fighting for the right to get you looking and feeling your best.
nocheLatina: Mia, I understand that you had a tough upbringing. Can you share some of those experiences?
Mia St. John: I grew up around my father who was an alcoholic. I found myself doing the same thing from the age of 11, until I sobered up at 21. I had low self-esteem at that time.
nocheLatina: How did you overcome your lack of self-esteem?
Mia St. John: I realized that we never overcome. We are always in a state of learning and overcoming obstacles. You learn to cope and take those lessons, using them throughout your life.
nocheLatina: When did you realize you had turned the corner?
Mia St. John: When I got sober. I was hospitalized for an eating disorder. It’s all mental. In life you cope until you have control over your obsessions. I came to the conclusion that we are powerless over our addictions. We let it go and accept it for what it is. You use your higher power. In my case I call on God to help me. I meditate and call positive energy. I accept all my faults. It’s important to love yourself.
nocheLatina: Even though you had your struggles, you took part in martial arts, which imparts the opposite feelings mentally, and even earned a college degree. So you are not just a pretty face even though you were a model as well.
Mia St. John: Quite true. It’s ironic, but it was my father who took me to my first Tae Kwon Do class. I did attend California State University and modeled to pay my tuition. The important part about the Tae Kwon Do class is that it indirectly led me to boxing. It was therapeutic, an excellent outlet for a lot of my problems.
nocheLatina: Tell us the story of how you entered the boxing arena.
Mia St. John: I wanted to compete in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney for Tae Kwon Do. I found out that I was too old to pursue that route. I wrote a letter to Don King. I even sent a photo which I felt helped. He later found me. I was at the right place at the right time. Later, I left to join Bob Arum.
nocheLatina: You established a solid career, but in 1999 you appeared on the cover of Playboy. How did that happen?
Mia St. John: Playboy made an offer. It was a lot of money. I wanted to show that female boxers can be athletic, but also retain their femininity. I was the first Mexican on the cover. It’s a case of what you can give back. I got a lot out of it as well. It was worth it.
nocheLatina: This leads to your first book, The Knockout Body Plan. Tell us about your first dip into being an author.
Mia St. John: The Knockout Body Plan covers mental health and nutrition. The message is basically that diets don’t work. You change your mindset to overcome the overeating cycle. You have to be satisfied with progress over visual results. As a pro athlete you don’t have to do all the things I do. You can cut it in half or do a quarter of what I do. It’s about what works for you.
nocheLatina: You once mentioned that boxing can be an uncaring place that serves as a meat-grinder of sorts. What did you notice during your career?
Mia St. John: Mexicans tend to fall into racist stereotypes. They are looked at as one-dimensional, like say a boxer only. They get used and abused a lot of times. They get treated like whores whose career is done and then they get kicked to the curb. I try to promote to kids that exercise is a must, but to also open up a book and go to college. Knowledge is power and it will lead you to glory. It means more than getting a boxing title.
nocheLatina: This led to what is your true love, the non-profit organization you have created. Tell us more about that.
Mia St. John: The foundation is called El Saber Es Poder. It’s the most important thing I have ever done. It has always been a goal to help kids rise above and overcome.
nocheLatina: You have had your share of political obstacles.
Mia St. John: Yes. When you deal with the government, it’s a struggle to get what you need for your organization, but it doubles when you deal with two countries, Mexico and the United States. Latinos donate computers to barrios and a lot of red tape is encountered when we try to get them to Mexican legs of your organization. I grew up with racism since I was a young kid in the 60’s, and now with the immigration issues. We try to offset that way of thinking.
nocheLatina: You fought for the first time in your native Mexico. Was that another dream realized?
Mia St. John: Yes, this came about when I wrote the WBC and asked if they could put a card together in Mexico. I mentioned that it was my final dream not yet realized. It was the highlight of my career. Mexico is first in my heart. I love t he U.S., but I felt like a foreigner growing up living with a lot of discrimination. Mexico is very accepting no matter what I do. They accept me for who I am.
nocheLatina: What future projects do you have in mind?
Mia St. John: I have a second book I am working on which are my memoirs. I will continue to work with my organization as well. There is never enough time and there is always more to accomplish.
nocheLatina: What legacy would you like to have left when all is said and done?
Mia St. John: I am grateful for the career that I have had. I don’t want to be seen as a boxer, but more as a woman who took risks and worked to reach all the dreams she had. I hope to be known more for the work of the foundation for it is my heart and soul.
To learn more about Mia St. John, click here.