Stefania Picelli is, to put it simply, a head-turner. She knows she is pretty. She also knows the price that comes with it.
PHOTO & COVER: Dilokrit Nick Barose
STYLIST: Nu Rattanachot HAIR: Woryut
MAKEUP: Nick Barose using Tom Ford Beauty
SUNGLASSES: AVS eyewear
PRODUCER: Anchana Thongyai Na Ayudthaya
LOCATION: Dusit Thani Hotel Bangkok
"Because I am young and pretty, sometimes people don't take me seriously," said Picelli, who has been modelling since she was 13. But she is not just a package of good looks - her heart is that of a true fighter. The oddly bewitching combination is reflected in her personality - soft and feminine, yet very determined and confident.
"My father always says that I've got a hard head. He knows that if I say I'm going to do something, I will do it for sure," said the 26-year-old model, who is also an international Muay Thai promoter in Italy, her home country. Her childhood was mostly spent in Italy, but she came to Thailand often, and her connection to the Thai blood in her was never amiss. That deep bond, combined with her passion for sports, led her to the discovery of her true love - Muay Thai.
She started practicing eight years ago and found that it was an exhilarating way to exercise, and she appreciated the connection to her Thai roots. It was, at first, just her favourite hobby, but as she became more and more enchanted by it, she had an idea to start a business related to Muay Thai.
"In Europe, there are a lot of Muay Thai fans, but they are somewhat disconnected from it because the language is different, and the mindset is different. Being half Thai and half Italian, I figured I could be a link between these two worlds because I can understand both sides. I know how things work in Europe but I can also understand the Thai world," said Stefania, referring to the start of her work as a Muay Thai promoter, which began in 2008.
With that determination, she came to Thailand and started trawling around various Muay Thai gyms to explore the possibilities. She talked to the fighters about the possibility of inviting them to Italy.
It was not easy for a young woman to crack open the doors to the world of Muay Thai, and upon telling people her plans, they laughed. The hard-headed girl, unfazed by rejection, persevered and finally won their trust.
"To fly the fighters all the way to Europe, I had to have their trust first and it was difficult in the beginning. They had doubts because I am young and I am a woman," she paused, and continued with a smile, "I'm sure everyone has changed their idea about me now."
To her, Muay Thai is not just a sport, it is a way of life. She has seen how the fighters have been trained from a very young age - some as young as five or six years old, and grow up having a deep respect for Muay Thai and their trainers.
"It takes a lot of dedication and discipline. They have to train very hard in the morning and also go to school like other kids. Muay Thai training makes a person grow up a lot, and in the right direction."
She elaborated that by growing up in the right direction, she meant that when a person is trained from a young age, it is easier to discover his or her passion, and the child learns to respect people, which is a very important trait.
"I don't mean you have to grow up and be a fighter. You just know what you want, and that makes you a better person already." As a Muay Thai promoter, her work involves organising events, both in Thailand and in Italy. Her event, Muay Thai Combat Mania, has been an astounding success. The most recent event was Muay Thai Combat Mania in Pattaya in December last year.
"It is a huge event in Italy as well as in Thailand," she said.
Being a promoter is, she said, a huge job, and she has to spend six months in preparation for each event. It is unfair to assume all events, although bearing the same name, are carried out in the exact same way.
"Essentially, the events are the same, but each time I put something different in to characterise the event, so that the audience can enjoy a new, exciting experience every time. It is a hard job. I don't have much free time!"
Still, she hopes to be even busier. Her plan is to expand her business all European countries.
"It is going to be a huge job but I am sure I can do it, step by step," Picelli said confidently.
Muay Thai gyms in Italy are increasingly popular, especially for children. She said that at a gym she works with in Italy, she has seen a 50% increase in young students.
While the benefits are obvious, she feels that it is quite difficult to convince parents that Muay Thai does not make children aggressive.
"In Europe, they don't relate Muay Thai to sport. They think that if a child is trained in Muay Thai, he is going to pick fights. It's not like that at all. Everyone who trains properly will know that he can hurt someone, and he should never fight outside the gym. That's one of the first things they teach the children."Picelli would like to give modelling more time as her Muay Thai promoting business is well-established now, and she has staff to help her run it. However, if she really had to choose one or the other, it would always be Muay Thai.
"I started modelling for fun and I had a lot of free time then. But being a promoter means I apply what I've studied - business economics. Every time there's a new thing to do and I have to try to resolve it, and I like it," said Picelli, with palpable passion for Muay Thai in her voice.
About the author
- Writer: Napamon Roongwitoo
Position: Outlook Writer