When Ronda Rousey was named Best Female Athlete at the ESPY Awards in July, beating out the college basketball player Breanna Stewart, the Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and the highly favored Serena Williams, many in the audience probably turned to each other and asked, “Who?”
But Ms. Rousey, the most successful female mixed martial arts fighter of all time and one who was undefeated until being upset by Holly Holm on Nov. 14, has not only risen quickly in the ranks of famous female athletes, but she has begun to carve out a crossover career that has brought her fame well beyond the confines of her sport.
And as she stood on that stage, in a form fitting black-and-white mesh dress that brought both praise (among the night’s “best dressed,” opined Hollywood Life) and dismissal (“more club-worthy than red carpet-ready,” rebuked E! Online) from fashion commentators, she gazed out at a crowd that included not just her rivals but celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Britney Spears with a look that clearly said, “I belong here, too.”’
As her fame has grown, she has attracted interest from clothing companies (last year, Buffalo Jeans signed her as a face of the brand) and Hollywood. She had a small role in the film version of “Entourage” and has a substantially larger one in the upcoming “Mile 22,” starring Mark Wahlberg. She is also set to appear in the 2016 remake of “Road House.”
She is doing so with a body shape that, much like Misty Copeland’s, is redefining the concept of female beauty. In 2012, Ms. Rousey, who is 5-foot-7 and whose weight tends to fluctuate between 135 and around 150, posed nearly nude on the cover of ESPN the Magazine. She has also done shoots for Maxim and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
“If I can represent that body type of women that isn’t represented so much in media, then I’d be happy to do that,” she told an interviewer for the Styles section of The New York Times earlier this year. “When women say that going on publications directed at men is somehow demeaning, I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s one really effective way to change the societal standard women are held to.”
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