Welcome to Sky Sports Editions, where we meet remarkable sportswomen as they direct their very own cover shoot. Alongside all of the live women’s sport coverage on Sky, this new Sky Sports series provides a space for these extraordinary athletes to tell their personal journeys, in their own words. Before the Natasha Jonas Edition shoot, the boxer shared her thoughts with us on making history, motherhood and everything in between.
Moving past society's expectations of women requires grit. Boxer Natasha Jonas, spotlighted in episode two of Sky Sports Editions, attributes her success to her willingness to go against the grain. “I have always had this innate desire to prove people wrong,” she says. “I never wanted to fit into the stereotypical boxes people put you into. It wasn't always easy, but I believe I've stayed true to myself.”
Now a two-weight world champion, Natasha realises her own influence, with a new generation of girls looking to her for guidance. Her mission: to propel women forward in the boxing industry. “We've made huge strides in terms of progression in boxing,” she says. “But like with many female sports, we're nowhere near the finished article. Visibility is the key to most things, especially in sport.”
Always inspired by women who break the mould, Natasha credits her early role models: female footballers who pioneered a very male-dominated sport, and her high school PE teacher. “She believed in me, pushed me outside of sports to be and do better, academics-wise. She changed the way I thought about school. It’s been a powerful lesson I've never forgotten.”
Now, it's Natasha making waves. In May 2012, she made history by reaching the semi-finals of the 2012 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, becoming the first ever British female boxer to qualify for an Olympic Games. “I had dreamed about being an [Olympian] since watching the '88 games in Seoul, aged 4, telling my Mum I was going to be there. To share that moment with my Mum and Dad was magical.”
Hailing from Toxteth, Liverpool, Natasha stays grounded by staying tight with her friends and family. Having her daughter, Mela, has given her a whole new level of respect for her own mother, whose unwavering support instilled a sense of fearless determination in her. A proud Scouser, Natasha bore witness to critical events like the Toxteth Riots, Hillsborough Disaster, and Dockers Strikes. These experiences ignited her fervent drive for change, fighting to combat the lingering stigma the crises unfairly left on the broader community. “I remember hearing what politicians, press and people outside of Liverpool were saying about (Black) scousers, and thinking – that's not like the Liverpool I know; we're nothing like that, you got us wrong. I'll prove it.”
Natasha’s original dream was a football career, landing an 18-month scholarship at St. Peter's College in the USA. But after an injury derailed her plans, she headed back to Liverpool, where she spent four years as a mentor for the Youth Sport Trust, promoting sports and healthy living among school children – a passion she still pursues today. “I don't think I can change the world, but I can definitely impact my part of it for the better, or so I believe. I try to be the person I couldn't always see, that maybe I needed.”
Acknowledging stereotypes pushed on young girls, Natasha reflects on growing up. She wrestled with her identity and faced constant scrutiny for her passion for sports, a bold defiance of society's conventional expectations for teenage girls back then. “I was one of the lads – and that was fine when you were with the lads, but not when you were with the girls. I spent so much time trying to fit in and find my place, I was petrified to stand out,” she remembers. “I battled with it for years, then I just gave up the fight and became comfortable in myself. It made life so much easier. Sport was the only thing I believed I was good at – why should I hide it?”
Today, Natasha’s self-perception reveals two sides: Miss GB, the fierce competitor in the ring, and her everyday persona as Natasha. “Natasha’s a bit more laid-back, a bit more loving – but Miss GB is on the ball. She’s rough, she’s ready, she’s rugged,” she says. Though she's constantly clad in gym gear due to her training, Natasha takes pleasure in expressing herself through her everyday clothing. She enjoys experimenting with colours and pays attention to the little details: “I love a pastel, I love a blazer. I think certain colours suit me better.”
Now, as a mum, Natasha’s experiencing life from a whole new angle, describing a typical week of motherhood as swinging from great, loving and joyous, to overwhelming, stressful and defeating. “Mela puts it all into perspective,” she says. “Things I thought meant everything, suddenly don't seem as important.” True to her authentic self, Natasha refuses to conform to society's expectations of mothers. “It’s a label that I won't let define me as a person. I still stay true to the hopes and dreams of baby Tasha, but I [also] feel the need to set a morally good example and work ethic [for my daughter].”
For Natasha, keeping it real when it comes to who she is, her background, and her journey is crucial; a rare quality in such a ‘social media vs reality’ culture. “Failing, falling short and hard times are part of the process. They're what makes the good times great.”
Stay tuned for the next episode of Sky Sports Editions, where we meet award-winning English National Team netballer Helen Housby. Coming soon on Refinery29.