Kaz Crossley: Heritage, Inspirations and Good Vibes
Continuing into the last half of the year, it’s only right that we delve into good vibes and celebrate those who are taking control of their content and destinies. I was able to sit down and spend the whole day with Kaz Crossley and understand how she's worked to maintain a sense of good vibes with her wherever she goes. She proves herself to be quite a natural with the camera throughout the whole photoshoot, wanting to experiment with new poses and turning at angles she knew would be a success. She isn’t shy to give her opinions, wanting not just to be a talent, but a part of the crew. The whole day she plays her playlist which raises all of our spirits as the hours progress, hearing old songs from artists like Rihanna, Michael Jackson, and Amerie that brings us nostalgia.
To start with our interview, I ask about how she spends her good times, hoping to set the tone. “I love travelling, I just came back from Mexico! Experiencing new countries and cultures is one of my favourite things to do. When I’m not doing that I love spending time with my friends whether it’s going to a festival or even going to the gym, surrounded by anyone with good energy - I’m happy.” Known for her participation in Love Island’s series 4 and her over 1 million plus Instagram followers, Kaz has been in the limelight when it comes to the UK’s social media scene. Being in the media I expected her to be closed off and perhaps even have a guard up when it came to our interview but I was pleasantly surprised at how open and honest she was about her life and her constant evolution since coming off the show and evolving into the motivating woman she is today.
With our world's obsession with social media, Kaz reveals how she had to learn to take a step back and find hobbies and happiness that help her mental health. Practising Muay Thai has allowed her to flourish and create a space for her to grow, evolve and learn along the way. “I don't want to do it professionally but it is something that I want to do for my mental health. I fully enjoy it and being able to share it as a space within a community is good for my work and life balance,” she informs me, in thought of how carefree it makes her. Muay Thai, originating from Thailand and translating into ‘Thai Boxing’ has kept Kaz connected to her roots and heritage, “my mum is from Thailand and I don't think I would be into it if I didn't have that connection. I started practising it in Thailand before Love Island but it was only after I got more into it I got better.” I can sense that Muay Thai is more than just a martial art and fighting for Kaz, “it teaches you self-discipline, respect and strength not only in fighting but in your mind. That’s why I want to show as many women as I can how amazing this sport really is.” She has such a positive energy when discussing how this martial art has aided her, the smile on her face when she speaks, and the happiness that sparkles in her eyes.
Aligning herself with the sport, Kaz has managed to create her own business initiative in encouraging women to have the confidence to practice Muay Thai, which is a very male dominated sport. She explains to me about her business, Combat Collective, which is “founded by me to empower women to get into combat sports and realise that Muay Thai can benefit both your mental health and fitness. I created a space for women to give them confidence as Muay Thai is an intimidating sport especially when you walk into a Muay Thai gym, it is heavily male dominated. It makes me feel good and it is rewarding knowing that the women are benefitting from it and I can share what I’ve gained from the sport myself. It is a way for me to tie the happy Kaz in Thailand to Muay Thai and find a way where I can be the best version of myself in the UK.” There is a sense of peace when she explains how important this business has been in her personal growth, allowing her to maintain good vibes as she progresses. Delving and comparing our personal fitness journeys we both agree that being in the gym can be intimidating when it's full of men and you’re not sure about what you’re doing; but her business has given her the power to create a free space for women to learn and practice Muay Thai, “I'm excited to see what it's going to bring. It's only been three months but we have three courses running in London, soon to start in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. We have our first retreat coming up in August in Costa Rica, and are planning a retreat in Thailand next year - 2023.” She has been able to master and incorporate Muay Thai as a lifestyle. “I don't consider myself a businesswoman because of it. I've found things that I enjoy doing and found a way to make it into work. It just came to me and you just need to find something you love to do and it never feels like work.”
Being on one of the most popular TV shows in the UK there is this assumption that all the contestants have their lives figured out, that they’re going to get these amazing brand deals and be able to afford numerous houses and maintain a stress-free life. But Kaz’s honesty that life after Love Island can be hard and frustrating draws out the humanness in the process of finding oneself after such publicity and attention. She tells me humbly, “over the last couple of years I have worked with some amazing brands and have even started my own brand. After the show it is really important to find out what you want to do for a career. Instagram is not going to give you longevity, paid ads are good but I wanted to find what is good for me, and what brings me the most happiness and I’ve found that with Muay Thai.”
The last two years have been chaotic for the whole world and 2022 represents the year for everyone to aspire to be the best versions of themselves, as well as try to master internal happiness. “Internal happiness is hard to reach and I didn’t really know how to have it. I would always compare myself to other people, and coming off the earlier series of the show you're always going to be viewed as an older contestant. There's always going to be new contestants who are going to have more followers and a better engagement so it's hard to break out of that in your head.” Although Kaz realises she is always evolving and growing, connecting to her mother's heritage of Thailand and the community there is important to her. “I help out in a local gym in Isan, North East Thailand, called Wor. Watthana, alongside housing and training under privileged kids, which is run by Frances and Boom Watthanaya. I met them both in 2021 and through various fund raising initiatives, have now raised over £100,000 to build them a new gym, house and school; so, massive thanks to my followers for all of their contributions towards the fund. I help the kids in Thailand find their lives through Muay Thai, and when I go back I’m able to live that non-materialistic life and just train - it's my happy place.” People often find internal happiness from hobbies, such as reading, singing, and sports but Kaz’s has truly been connected to her home in Thailand and her community where she willingly helps children living in poverty, using her platform and status to make a visible difference.
From what Kaz has already accomplished she doesn’t take all the credit but gives those who have inspired her along the way their dues. “Frances and Boom - the owners of the gym Wor. Watthana are both huge inspirations to me and their Instagram is @watthanaya. Frances is from Canada and she married Boom who comes from a poor village in Thailand. They chose to give up their life and dedicate it to the kids from Booms village in North-East Thailand who are extremely underprivileged. They feed them, clothe them, train them, and are role models in an area with so much positivity. It’s their selflessness that inspires me to be better every day.” She even pauses for a bit and when I think she's done, continues to explain how this inspiration has interlinked with her and her fans. “I don't realise that little girls look up to me and say that I’m their inspiration and that inspires me a lot. Every time I get reached out to it motivates me, and they don't realise that that inspires me.” I am quite surprised at her response but it shows us that the people in our lives can be the ones who inspire us the most, instead of celebrities and influencers. There are the little moments in our lives that make up the day and what we choose, and the people that are with us every day who inspire us the most.
When I ask her what motivates her I expect her to maybe say her mum but it’s the kids who keep her going, “seeing how they live and how grateful they are with what they got puts everything into perspective. They push me every day to be grateful and appreciate what we have because we are so lucky.” At this moment she just about manages to hold back the tears that threaten to trickle down her face and I know that her connection to Thailand and its happiness is something that cannot be written or said, but felt and appreciated by her only. I’m able to understand a little bit more about the importance of creating her bonds with Thailand which has helped her maintain a sense of good vibes and goodwill. “Connecting with the kids in Thailand has really helped me to see how you cannot have a lot yet still be happy.” Through this charity work, she has made an indelible change, remaining humble throughout but oozing with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Discussing our spiritual beliefs and whether to what extent they play a role in preserving good vibes and gratitude everyday Kaz divulges, “I really believe in the universe and positive psychology in that what is for you will come to you. This year has made me believe that things are meant to happen for a reason and that any bad thing that does happen is for a purpose. It's sort of a domino effect - trust the time in your life because it happens for sure. Stay true to yourself, and don't let it affect you - which is the hardest thing to overcome because you can let it consume you and let it become who you are. But the most important thing is accepting what’s happened and when you think about it it may be sad but keep looking forward.”
It is clear as the hours go by that Kaz starts to get a little tired, coming back from the Glastonbury festival which headlined Kendrick Lamar. But she continues to have resilience and push through for us, providing us 100%, and maintaining a serene atmosphere to the set. “I have a wide taste in music,” she begins explaining to me. “I love Afrobeats at the moment, the energy it brings. I love my UK rap and old school, one of my favourite artists is Ashanti. Kendrick Lamar was headlining Glastonbury, and he is my favourite rapper of all time.” I also gather quite early on that travelling and having fun is something that’s embedded into Kaz’s life. Recently coming back from Mexico alone, training twice a day, and meeting new friends, she recommended solo travel for everyone if they ever have the chance, “I think it’s the best way to realise yourself and I was able to just refresh myself.”
Towards the end of our interview, I end by asking what amazing things she has planned for the last half of the year, one of which is her Costa-Rica retreat in August. “I'm also looking forward to presenting some Muay Thai fights. I’ve just gotten my dream brand deal with Venum. They are massive in the combat world and they have partnerships with the UFC. I'm their woman ambassador and their first ambassador that isn’t a fighter. They're bringing out a woman's range and they have exciting events and training camps all over the world. It's such a good quality brand to wear with a wide range of products as well, so it's a dream brand deal to work with and see what we can do next. I'm excited for Combat Collective because it's expanded in only a couple of months so to see where we take it next year is really exciting.” She excitedly tells me that she's also just moved to Manchester and is ready to grow and glow in a new environment with some of her close friends.
It’s clear that this year is and will continue to be Kaz's best year yet. Moving to a new environment, working and doing the things she loves, she is definitely going to be able to finish the year on good vibes celebrating the good times that have yet to come.
Interview & Words by: Serena Richards