EXCLUSIVE: The real story of boxing ring girl Kelly Birchmore

Kelly Birchmore

This is the story of Kelly Birchmore, 24, who was born in Exeter and lived there for most of her early years before moving to London and becoming a ring girl.

She was born in a quiet country town and lived what she describes as a "supernormal" lifestyle with an excellent upbringing. 

Kelly's sporting roots began at school. On every sports team possible, she participated in every sports day and even played Netball at a National Championship level.

Her love for boxing, however, came purely from surrounding herself with the sport rather than trading blows in gloves.

Kelly's big-city journey started at 19-years-old when she came to London for a modelling shoot.

"I was just obsessed with the City life; I was walking around London amazed by the lights, the shops, the people and things I had never seen before. 

"I had a chat with my parents, and I knew that London was the place to be, my parents were very supportive, and they never judged but allowed me to live my life and learn. So I did it alone, I found an apartment and a job, moved up here on my own with no family and just knowing a couple of girls from the agency, but it was all new for me. I had to learn who to trust and what I could do here in London. 

"It was a huge learning curve for me, but I am so glad I made a move when I did."

It was from humble beginnings in Exeter at just 18-years-old when she entered into the world of boxing - Kelly the Ring Girl was born. It was merely chance that a local promoter had a ring girl drop out of their show and, after seeing Kelly in a tagged modelling photo, decided to message her to be a part of it. 

She recalls: "It was purely by chance that I got into the ring girl side of work. I did it once for a local promoter, and after that, I received multiple messages from fight companies about working for them. It also massively boosted my confidence being in the ring, and I could make a lot of money very quickly." 

Kelly Birchmore

"I remember my first night as a ring girl, and the feeling when the music started to walk the fighter on was the craziest feeling ever. Everybody's eyes are on you, and I loved the feeling of doing it. I knew I had to impress if I wanted to continue doing work in this field too. My heart was racing, and I felt sick, but being in the ring with the fighter was a feeling that I can't describe and I became addicted to it."

Along with the good times and job satisfaction, there are negative connotations that accompany the title "Ring Girl". Some of these include judgements about you as a woman and discrimination against females taking part, but Kelly aims to kill the stigma that surrounds this type of work.

"I think in any industry where you are female in a predominantly male field, it is hard. People have to remember that we are not there to steal somebody's husband or try to sleep with the referee. We are there to earn money, and I honestly love to watch boxing - we get the best seats in the house ringside alongside all of the blood, sweat, and tears. It is a shame that there are such negative connotations from the outside. 

"I promise you a lot of girls are like me, just doing a job to get our money, survive in London and go home. I've been called all of the names under the sun. I get what it can look like from the outside, but there is so much more to it.

Kelly Birchmore

"It is important to know that we all suffer from being down on ourselves, but you have to look past the confident external pictures that people post. I get a lot of discrimination about my weight because I am a size 10/12, which in this industry is considered to be slightly curvier than the typical ring girl. I don't get booked for certain jobs because I am more on the curvy side so I will only accept jobs where my stomach is covered. I know that what I do comes with a lot of judgments, but I love what I do, and I think in 2019 we could all be a lot more open-minded," Kelly reflects.

"We are all human, and we all have some insecurities, don't ever let anyone's Instagram fool you. You have to imagine that when you get into the ring, no filters are covering you, no Facetune app. Nothing is like it seems on Instagram, and there are unflattering angles. I went through a stage where I had nearly 10k followers on Instagram, but I felt unsafe. I needed my life to be a bit more private, so I made my followers just close friends and family."

More recently, Kelly has decided to focus on different jobs away from being a ring girl that provide more secure money.  

"Being a ring girl is great when you are busy, but I have a lot of other jobs that pay better now because I have worked and built my working contact list."

Looking back at her time as a ring girl Kelly reflects on the realities of the industry and what she has learnt.

"It is a concise and sweet industry, you will do it for a couple of years, and it will be over. You will be the old ring girl in five years, and there will be a younger model coming up to replace you. 

"The industry is busy and overpopulated. I remained a humble, professional working girl so people knew they could rely on me, but it is not a forever thing.

"Being a ring girl has taught me to be confident in my skin. Even if I felt crappy about myself, I would love myself despite the negative comments."

Kelly currently works as a receptionist for a private equity firm at a billion-dollar company in Central London. On the weekends she works as a football box hostess for Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, West Ham, Charlton, Crystal Palace, and Fulham. 

Speaking about her array of different jobs, she said: "I am earning good money and am always networking with other brands. Word of mouth is your biggest selling tool. You could be the prettiest girl in the world, but if you are stuck up, late, and don't love what you do, then nobody will want to work with you again. I have also just started a Sunday job working as a PA for a real estate office. I am also an operations manager for a major events company, and I love absolutely everything I do." 

Kelly Birchmore

In 2019 females are taking the lead both within the sporting field and beyond. The Women's World Cup earlier this year proved women are a force to be reckoned with and are massive contenders in the sporting landscape. In the boxing arena, Clarissa Shields and Katie Taylor are flying the flag for female boxing. 

Why can we not take that respect for a work ethic into other streams of work surrounding sport like ring girls, journalists and in any field a woman decides to pursue?

Kelly believes women are more and more concerned with forming successful careers and being independent financially.

"I think that women are now more driven to be successful and be equal in a partnership rather than the traditional values of letting the husband be the breadwinner. They want to be a big part of their future and not have to rely on anybody else, and I think that is important. I think the landscape is changing for the better in regards to salaries. Especially in boxing where females are doing their thing, why can't we live in a 'man's world' and own it? We are striving to be go-getters rather than being housewives, and I love that."

With everything that Kelly has going on, it is clear that next year is going to be extremely busy, but how does she balance work and her other passions? 

"I would like to do more city breaks because I don't get a lot of time off, so I miss out on a lot. I want to find my future partner, hopefully settling down would be nice. I am not forcing anything, but I have reached a point where it would be a nice addition. I am saving hard for a mortgage. I want to swap the nights out to grinding every weekend in multiple jobs because I know it will all be worth it."

Kelly has already achieved and learned so much, so what would her advice be for her younger self?

"I wish a younger Kelly never complained so much! My advice to myself would be not to be so harsh on myself; there is much more to life than your looks. You can look pretty and well-groomed but looks fade eventually, and it comes down to being a kind-hearted person. As a younger Kelly, I would work on the internal and not stress so much about the external."

As women, the need to stick together and support each other in any role we decide to pursue has become even more critical. Kelly is an excellent example of overcoming negative opinions from others and developing your self-belief.

Kelly is an inspirational young lady involved in multiple streams of work that she enjoys while living her life a long way from home. Next time, before you judge a girl in this position stand back and think to yourself that the girl standing in front of you may be more like you than you think.

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