Bay Bee Nansen

Bay Bee Nansen: The Shy Fighter – Kickboxer, Boxer, Trainer and Mother to Twins.

I tell people that I come from South Auckland. They’re actually quite shocked. There are a lot of hidden talents in South Auckland that New Zealand doesn’t know about. But we have the likes of Mark Hunt, Joseph Parker, we do have a lot of talent in South Auckland, so people shouldn’t be surprised. I do feel cool telling people I’m from South Auckland. Coming from a family where money was hard, Dad was hard working, to get to where we are now. They taught us a lot of things, like to work hard for what we believe in. So here I am now raising my twins. I’m acting manager for SMAC gym for a while, so I’m off training for the moment.

We do have a lot of talent in South Auckland, so people shouldn’t be surprised…I have five national titles in Kickboxing. I have a professional Muay Thai belt, a WMC New Zealand title. I hold that title, which is fought with all eight limbs – so that’s the elbows and knees, including punches and kicks. So it’s pretty full on, you also get knees in the head.

I get quite shy when people do ask me what I do. I tell them that I’m a fitness trainer, because I don’t want them to think I’m a tough guy. But when people ask where I train, I tell them SMAC Kickboxing gym and they get quite shocked. I think it’s because I’m really small, and I don’t have the look of a fighter. Anyone would just think that I’m a normal, little girl. They don’t even know that I have twins until I bring them up.

I am a fighter, and I have come a long way. I’ve had almost 50 fights for boxing and kickboxing. I recently fought for a title against Melissa St Vil and lost slightly on points. But it was a really good fight versus someone that’s ranked number 3 in the world, I’m quite privileged to fight her. I also have five national titles in Kickboxing. I also have a professional Muay Thai belt, a WMC New Zealand title. I hold that title, which is fought with all eight limbs – so that’s the elbows and knees, including punches and kicks. So it’s pretty full on, you also get knees in the head. I’m just waiting to get some more opportunities in boxing.

I definitely represent my Samoan side, I’m really proud to be Samoan, all of us know what it’s like being brought up the Samoan way, the Samoan culture, it’s really hard, but it’s brought me to where I am now, so I’m grateful. I’m quite thankful that I have taro legs. I’d like the tall and lanky look, but I notice Samoan people put on muscle quite easily. I get muscles much quicker than Caucasian girls, that’s for sure.

I’ve been doing this for ten years. I say I’ve come a long way because I was a troubled youth. I was mixing around with the wrong crowds, doing drugs, alcohol abuse, violence. I knew no better. I came to the gym and fell in love with it straight away after one training session. I quit everything, got into church. I’ve been fighting ever since. It made me feel the best I’ve ever felt. Every training, even if I’ve had a bad day, I come into train, have my training session and I leave feeling really good about myself. It’s a confidence booster.

I say I’ve come a long way because I was a troubled youth. I was mixing around with the wrong crowds, doing drugs, alcohol abuse, violence. I knew no better. I came to the gym and fell in love with it straight away after one training session…It made me feel the best I’ve ever felt.

I do follow after my brothers and sisters. My brother is also a world champion, my sister (Victoria Nansen) is a world champion. They’re definitely my role models in the sport, they’ve been doing it for 10 plus years. It was my sister that got me here. I thought I’d give it a try but I was really skeptical about it, you know, being a contact sport and I’d have to start sweating, couldn’t wear any makeup. But then I just fell in love with it, it just gave me a sense of purity. I started discovering all my strengths and weaknesses inside and outside of the sport, realising what I needed to work on, whether it was fighting or in life in general.

Inside the ring, it starts from mental preparation. The training towards the fight, there’s all these self doubts – it just makes me stronger. In my head there are so many reasons why I should quit, but it gives me strength and motivation to keep going and see how far I can get. In the ring, I can never stop learning whether I win or lose. There is always something to work on. It’s a learning thing for me. After my fights, whether I feel bad or not, I always treat it like education, but education about myself. There are some things I’m good at, and some things I’m not.

When I get hit, I guess the adrenaline really helps. When it’s in sparring, there’s no adrenaline, light practice, and you feel everything in sparring – but I don’t feel much in the ring. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I think it’s because I’m so full of adrenaline and nerves. I feel that I’m getting hit and I’m getting tired, but as much as I train, it’s a mental game.

When I do get hit, I am hungry to get the points up to win the fight. If I got hit clean, then I’m like, damn I need to get her back. But if I have my guard up and she hit my guard, or I blocked her kick with my shin, which is a leg check, then I feel good about myself. I get really nervous when I fight, and when I do get hit, I do get really aggressive and try and get them back.

In the ring, I can never stop learning whether I win or lose. There is always something to work on. After my fights, whether I feel bad or not, I always treat it like education, but education about myself.

My twins help with me overcoming my nerves. I cuddle them and kiss them and having family time, or down time, helps a lot. I talk to my partner who is a fighter as well. I talk to him a lot about how I’m feeling. He brings up my confidence. I do pray as well, I pray a lot when I get nervous. When I had my twins, I had 18 months off and then I was back into it. I really enjoyed being pregnant and giving birth to the kids. It did affect my training and I did start feeling quite down about myself because of the weight gain, but I started losing weight straight away. I try not to get distracted, and try to endure the feelings of fear. That’s what I’ve been doing in the past, but I use my twins to heal me.

Muay Thai and boxing is definitely my world, but it has affected me being a Mum. It has affected my time in training, and sometimes when I jump in the ring, I’m still in Mummy mode, so I’m still quite soft. Other than that, since giving birth to twins, my pain tolerance has sky-rocketed. As soon as I had the kids, and jumped in the ring and started fighting again my pain tolerance was better and mentally I was better, because I thought, I’ve gotta do this for my twins. They’re my motivation as well.

This is a family-run gym. My brother-in-law and sister run it. We’ve got up to 200 members and 50 fighters. People just love it here because it’s like a family gym. We give people a warm welcome. You don’t have to be tough or “thug-life”, you can be a nerd, or you can be some guy who has got a ankle bracelet on his leg, we’ll still treat everyone equally.

Sometimes when I jump in the ring, I’m still in Mummy mode, so I’m still quite soft. Other than that, since giving birth to twins, my pain tolerance has sky-rocketed…my pain tolerance was better, and mentally I was better.

I’m still working my way to be a world champion in boxing at the moment, I still want to bring home the World bling for my twins in both Muay Thai and kick boxing. My goals in the future would be to continue to inspire troubled youth, and overweight women and men in this country, I’d like to motivate them more. My partner and I are looking to opening up another SMAC gym.

I have worked with troubled youth, I had youth from Manurewa High for a whole year last year and just seeing them change after 12 week challenges, it was a real blessing that I could help them boost their confidence and feel good about themselves, because I got a lot of kids that were bullied. There are a couple in our youth class now, that’s cool that they wanted to continue learning Thai Boxing.

I’d say Muay Thai and boxing is for everybody, I sound really cheesy saying it’s a self-discovery, but I’ve been doing it for so long, and I really fell in love with fighting. For others that come into the sport that aren’t fighters, we don’t push them to be fighters, we just push them to learn and start feeling confident about themselves. I would recommend Muay Thai and boxing, whether you want to fight or not, it’s good for the body, good for the soul and it’s such a confidence booster, it changes lives, like it’s changed mine. Without Thai boxing, I don’t know where I’d be right now.

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Frankie Adams

Frankie Adams : On learning about her Aboriginal roots, landing a Samoan role on a Hollywood sci-fi show, and having the balls to leave Shortland Street.

I always say I’m from Samoa first, because my Mum brought me up very traditional Samoan. We went to church, she only spoke Samoan at home. But then I just say that I grew up in New Zealand, because that’s where my Dad is from. I’m a bit of both but I really identify with that side because Mum made sure that it was a big part of our lives growing up, and I’m really proud to be from there, so I never shy away from it.

It was my choice to leave Shortland Street. That’s a privilege, because a lot of people don’t really get the choice. I was just about to turn 21 and I just felt like I was becoming less inspired in that work place. That’s only because for me it became a job rather than an artistic outlet, and I was really gutted about that. It was time for me to leave, I felt like I’d learnt everything that I needed to learn, I had a great family behind me there, all the support that I needed but it was time for me to end that chapter. I’m really glad that I was able to make that decision myself because sometimes it can be really shit if they cut your contract without you realising. I finished in December 2014.

There’s this weird thing that I didn’t know even existed – that when you play a well known character from a show like Shortland Street or Home and Away, there can be a type of ‘curse’ I suppose they call it, where it becomes harder to find work…I was like, “nah fuck that, I’m leaving so that I can do other work. Why would you say that sort of shit?”

There’s this weird thing that I didn’t know even existed – that when you play a well known character from a show like Shortland Street or Home and Away, there can be a type of ‘curse’ I suppose they call it, where it becomes harder to find work because in the audiences mind, you’re always going to be that character. But I was never afraid of that, because in my mind, I was like, “nah fuck that, I’m leaving so that I can do other work. Why would you say that sort of shit?” I feel like, if you think it, then it will become you. I never thought that I wouldn’t get work afterwards. I have come to realise that the reason why I’m here on this earth is because of what I am doing, and there’s got to be some positive thing to come out of it. This is totally what I want to do, I feel very at peace with it, I feel at home on set, so there was no fear of me ever not getting work. I guess some of it was a bit naive, but I just always had faith that it would work out.

I left and then I did soul searching, I suppose. I’d never been detached from a contract, I’d always been under a contract since I was in high school. So for me going to LA and getting an agent there, that was a part of me just lapping up freedom. Technically I was unemployed for months after that. I did some more travel and I was starting to panic, then I got Wentworth.

That was the first proper job I’d done after Shorty, which to me was insane because the show is so great. I was living a drama school kids dream being on this incredibly amazing show at such a young age. I got to work with such wonderful, smart, funny, talented women, I got to learn so much off them, and the director is a woman too. It was so dope.

The character I play on Wentworth was the most gritty content I’ve had to do, an 18 year old in the prison at the bottom of the food chain, which means all the bad shit that happens in a prison literally happens to this character I’m playing. I did a lot of research on certain things that the character has, she wasn’t very mentally healthy so I did some research on depression. When I was on set, it was so much easier to do it when I was in the presence of everyone else there. Everyone was really supportive and once you start doing scenes like that, everyone is really focused and serious. There wasn’t anything that made me feel really uncomfortable doing this content, because everyone was in it with me. Some of it was really stunt coordinated, so I just had to think about the choreography of the stunt rather than thinking, oh god, all this bad shit is happening to me right now. It wasn’t easy, and I still think it’s going to be really hard for my family and friends to watch it.

The character I play on Wentworth was the most gritty content I’ve had to do, an 18 year old in the prison at the bottom of the food chain…I play a young Aboriginal girl, I actually have Aboriginal in my line, in my Dads side. I got in touch with one of my cousins and he drove me north of Victoria where our first Aboriginal family started, and taught me about the history. It was a lot to take in…You know how they had the time of ‘breeding out the colour’? My Aboriginal family now are all white.

In Wentworth I play a young Aboriginal girl, I actually have Aboriginal in my line, in my Dads side. They later told me that was the cherry on top when they were casting the character, because they really liked me, but they were concerned that I wasn’t Aboriginal. After I sent the tape, I told my agent to let them know that I’m aboriginal on my Dad’s side, and that I can prove it if they want. The next day they called and said I got the role. I got in touch with one of my cousins that lives in Melbourne, and he drove me north of Victoria where our first Aboriginal family started, and taught me about the history. It was a lot to take in. I got to learn quite a bit about that side, which was really interesting. You know how they had the time of ‘breeding out the colour’? My Aboriginal family now are all white. You wouldn’t know, you have to go back years and years to see the culture in the line. Now all my family are white, my Dad, you would technically think he is a white man. It is very heavy, it’s a lot to take in. My Dad is the most proud, white Aboriginal man you’d ever meet.

I did a film after Wentworth. I did ‘1000 ropes’ in Wellington. I did motion capture for a Luc Besson film. Then I did this art festival feature film where I played an extremely beaten up pregnant teenager who’d just run away from her boyfriend. I did that in Wellington for six weeks. Then I did the theatre show, ‘Puzzy’. It was great, it was my first theatre show and I was absolutely shitting myself, because I don’t know anything about that world. I know I’ve been acting for awhile now, but I’ve never done it to this kind of audience, and the actual play itself had some really out there content. It was definitely R-18. It was the first time they’d done a play that was young Pacific Islanders playing lesbians. So it was already controversial, and then Victor Rodger’s style of writing pushes the boundaries a lot. I’m so glad I did that because it taught me so much about being comfortable in your body, because you can’t hide at all, just being confident in taking risks with choices, and how to react to an audience. It was so much fun, I want to do it again.

I’m currently in Canada filming for a show called The Expanse, a sci-fi show based 200 years in the future. My character, Bobbie Draper is from Mars, and Mars doesn’t have an atmosphere around it. She dreams of beautiful oceans and green grass and forests and all that sort of stuff, but because Mars doesn’t have an atmosphere around it, it’s just a dust planet. Earth is just a really poverty stricken place, there’s the rich, rich, rich and then there’s the total poor. There’s no in-between.

I started reading the second book and googling the name of the character and everyone is like, ‘Oh my god, who are they going to cast for Bobbie Draper? I’m already in love with her.’ It’s really cool, I was really lucky to get this role because the brief was so specific. She had to be Polynesian. In the book she is actually from Samoa. I shit you not, they wrote her from Samoa. I was like, “OK, this is my role.” In the book she is like 2 meters tall, but they knew they couldn’t get an actress 2 meters tall, so she had to be around 6 foot, so she can look like the size of the character. Plus she had to have the emotional capacity to play the role. I got the brief and was like, “Where do I sign up? This is my biggest chance to get into Hollywood”, and because it was so specific, I knew that I had a chance, I just had to nail the audition.

My character, Bobbie Draper…I was really lucky to get this role because the brief was so specific. She had to be Polynesian. In the book she is actually from Samoa. I shit you not, they wrote her from Samoa…I got the brief and was like, “Where do I sign up? This is my biggest chance to get into Hollywood”, and because it was so specific, I knew that I had a chance, I just had to nail the audition…but the first audition I nearly cried.

I was so stoked when they shortlisted me. But the first audition I nearly cried. I had this breakdown to my boyfriend before I went, because the third scene I couldn’t get down. There were so many words, it was a really emotional scene. I was like, “This is my one chance and I’m going to fucking ruin it.” Luckily the casting director had my back, and let me learn it for another 20 minutes. I ended up skyping the producers of the show and having a meeting with them, and found out I got the role a week later.

They’re getting me to keep my kiwi accent because it’s a really diverse show, they love all the different cultures, and because it’s 200 years in the future and she’s from Mars, the dialect on that planet is really strange, so me keeping my kiwi accent is kind of perfect for it. I’m fully representing everywhere that I’m from. Kudos to the writers and producers, because they were adamant, and really wanted it to be someone who was of Polynesian descent. All the characters on the show are the culture that the books have written them as, or close to.

I’m not a trained actor, I like to keep it as natural as possible. Personally, if I put too much research into it, then I start to overthink it which makes the performance less authentic. You can put in so much work, but you can never predict what happens on set, ever. It always surprises you, it always takes you by surprise. The best thing to do is to just be ready for whatever they’re gonna throw at you, really.

You have to have the naiveté in order to learn things. I think the best way to learn is the hard way. A year ago, I would have totally shat myself if I got this job, but I actually don’t think a year ago I would have been ready. I think that all the work that I did in the past year was essential for me to be ready to do a role like this.

When I first left Shorty, the only thing I wanted to do was get out of Auckland. I wanted to go see the world, like, get me the fuck out of this place. I did everything just so that my heart was content to the fact that I wasn’t going to be here. Then, when I came back from America I couldn’t get a visa quick enough. I had to be in Auckland, and I was not happy with that, at all. I did more travel, went to Bali, Australia, all that. The more I saw of the rest of the world, the more I realised how lucky I was to actually have Auckland as home. I just didn’t realise how beautiful the country was. Now that I’ve traveled a little bit with work, I would happily base myself in Auckland and go whenever I need to do the work, which I’ve been really lucky to be able to do thus far. Auckland is totally my home, I want to buy a house as soon as possible, and just go away when I need to.

*All images by Damien Nikora

 

 

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Eliza Trubuhovich

Eliza Trubuhovich : travel enthusiast, long haul flight attendant and co-owner of the men’s heritage streetwear store and art gallery ‘Parlour’.

My Dad is Croatian, my Mum is Filipino. I’m Kiwi, but a lot of the time, I’ve been finding myself just saying I’m Filipino a lot recently. And I think that’s because of my trip to the Philippines recently. I feel really Filipino. When I’m back home, I’m like, yeah, I’m a kiwi, because I love New Zealand so much. Definitely when I’m overseas and I’m meeting other foreigners, I will say I’m Filipino, just without even thinking. I identify with Filipinos so much more I think, the way they live is quite inspiring. I’m just really proud of being Filipino, [my pride] has grown heaps. I think because this recent trip to the Philippines was a lot longer, and I was a lot older. I think the last time I went was when I was 16, so I didn’t have a lot of appreciation for workmanship or any of that kind of stuff. 

I identify with Filipinos so much more I think, the way they live is quite inspiring. I’m just really proud of being Filipino, [my pride] has grown heaps.

I don’t know much about my Croatian side, because that’s old blood. My Dad calls himself a kiwi, and the only reason I say Croatian is because of my last name. People are always like, ‘that’s not a New Zealand last name’. I haven’t been there. I want to, because I’ve heard it’s really amazing. It’s on the to do list. Travel and fashion is always going to be a part of me.

I promote travelling so much, I honestly want everyone to travel. I find that in America, young kids in America don’t really travel outside of America, because they’re only taught about America. I reckon if more people travelled when they’re young, there probably wouldn’t be so many problems in the world, not so much ignorance, [more] open-mindedness, understanding of everyone.

Everyone tends to leave Auckland, because of something we’re missing. But it’s because all the amazing people keep leaving! Why don’t we just try and set something up here, so people can start showcasing their work? Parlour is not just a streetwear store, we’re utilising the space as a gallery, a listening party – people can use this freely, just to create a vibe, a movement, and opportunity for people. Fashion pays the bills, but we want it to be a destination store. Every main city around the world has a destination store, where people can hang out, and you say, ‘Oh my god, have you been to this store?’ Where people are friendly, they’re not just trying to sell you something.

Everyone tends to leave Auckland, because of something we’re missing. But it’s because all the amazing people keep leaving! Why don’t we just try and set something up here, so people can start showcasing their work?

When you’re younger you tend to, not hate, but you criticise everyone. But now, I don’t criticise anyone. I think that’s really important, the more you let go of that, the happier you are too. I’m happier with myself, as well I think. That’s probably a big part too. Once you’re happier with yourself, you don’t really have a reason to diss anyone. I really appreciate life, and I fully preach to everyone to do what they want to do. I feel like Aucklanders hold themselves back from a lot. Or they feel like they can’t do it. I don’t really understand why people think like that, but they shouldn’t.

Sometimes I wish I studied as a backup, and I think people should do it. But I don’t think it’s a necessity anymore. The world is so social, that it’s about who you know now, anyway. If someone can see that you’re good at something, they’re gonna pick up on it. The other thing I’ve learned is that the world is really, really small. So be good to people, be kind.

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