Female Futures

Kiwi action hero Zoë Bell on how every woman can defend herself

Zoe Bell for Reebok Confidence Unleashed
Stuntwoman, actor and all round GB, Zoë Bell is the perfect choice to front Reebok’s new CONFIDENCE UNLEASHED campaign.

Back in New Zealand to attend the country’s biggest, free, female-only self-defence class to date, Quentin Tarantino muse Zoë teamed up with S.A.F.E Self-Defence and Close Quarters Combat owner and lead instructor, Charlie Riley, to demonstrate some basic skills which could in fact save lives. And given New Zealand’s high rates of violence towards women (believe it or not, we have some of the highest stats in the world), this event could not have come at a more opportune time – coinciding with White Ribbon Day on November 25, a day which raises awareness of violence towards women.

Miss FQ digital editor Kelly McAuliffe got the inside word from The Hateful Eight star about why this campaign is so important to her, and what every woman can do to feel safe and empowered, even in the most vulnerable of situations…


Miss FQ: How did you get involved in the Reebok CONFIDENCE UNLEASHED movement and why is it something you’ve chosen to associate yourself with?
Zoë Bell: Reebok got in touch and told me they were running this epic event that was all about empowering women and asked if I could come home to be a part of it. How could I say no?! I was so excited and honoured to be asked and involved. Empowering women, particularly Kiwi women, is something that is particularly close to my heart.

New Zealand has a high rate of violence towards women – some of the highest in the world. What can New Zealand women, on a very basic level, do to arm themselves – either physically or in terms of information?
I’m not a self-defence expert but I think it is such an important life skill to have. In an ideal world you wouldn’t need to learn but it’s one of those skills that is better to learn and know than not, just in case. There are lots of self-defence programmes out there, it’s just a matter of getting a group of girlfriends or love ones together and doing it. The wonderful Charlie Riley from S.A.F.E Self Defence and Close Quarters Combat runs free self-defence classes for women and is so passionate about it. Even just knowing one or two small but effective techniques could make the world of difference.

What does confidence mean to you?
Having that feeling of peace that comes when the loud voices of self-doubt aren’t present.

What are three basic things all women should know, in order to feel safe and empowered?
Be aware of your surroundings and environment. Listen to your gut whether you feel confident or not. If you can’t outweigh them, get really messy and loud.

Can you tell me a little bit about White Ribbon Day and the importance of it?
The statistics are shocking and very sad, so the work White Ribbon is doing is amazing. The White Ribbon campaign aims to end men’s violence towards women, encourage respectful relationships between men and women, and raise respectful men by encouraging men to lead by example and talk to their peers. This year the particular focus is on making sure dads have the skills and confidence to speak to their sons openly and honestly about respectful relationships. White Ribbon Day is on 25 November.

For women who couldn’t make it along to your CONFIDENCE UNLEASHED class, what other resources can they turn to, in order to learn basic self-defence?
The internet! The real thing is always better though and there are lots of self-defence programmes and classes around the country. S.A.F.E offer free women’s self-defence classes which is amazing.

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There’s been a lot of  women speaking up and taking people in positions of power to task this year, particularly in the industry you work in. What do you think this means to women the world over and as part of this larger conversation?
Like any subject that’s been stuck in its ways for a long time, it requires a massive movement and swing to push the pendulum. I’m really pleased there’s a forum opening up that gives women permission to admit that they have experienced these things… The ultimate goal is that the people who are in a position of power that have committed abuse don’t do it in the future and the movement prevents others from going through the same situation. The fear is the pendulum swings too far the other end and ends up with people living in fear having to be so cautious that there’s a level of dishonesty required. I want this movement to be about empowering women rather than women receiving power because they are a victim.

What does it feel like being a woman in LA in this industry right now? 
Despite everything that is going on in Hollywood at the moment, it is also a really exciting time. Women are getting voices, there are more female directors, courses for female directors, incentives in place to integrate more female leads, producers and directors and there is a lot more real, interesting female content. The hope is that this time it’s not so much fad but it feels to me that foundations are shifting. Women are being baked into the cake even more. They’re the main ingredient of a film rather than the icing on top.

Your job requires you to stay fit and have incredible stamina and strength – please tell us your secrets! What is your everyday fitness routine?
I find ways to incorporate exercise into my life and because my schedule is always changing, I don’t have a routine as such. Training or exercise has to be something that I can maintain and actually want to do or else I get bored or resentful. I surf, I go for walks, I’ll run if I feel like it – my big thing is making sure that guilt isn’t my motivator to work out or keep fit. Guilt can paralyse you so much that you end up not doing anything at all or resenting having to work out. So I tell myself to just go for a walk to the beach in my gear and see what happens. Half the time I’ll end up running around the block, then another block, and then maybe another. Sometimes I just walk. I have to mix things up. I love classes like spin as once I am there, I am all there and feed off the energy of the class. In the gym, I prefer HIIT. I love pushing myself to the limit for 30 seconds then resting for 10 and creating circuits with short sprints on the treadmill and rowing machine. If I’m not near a gym, I’ll go to the park and do some short, fast sprints with rests in between. When I’m fit, exercise becomes a place for me to think. When I’m unfit, it becomes a mind game.

You spend most of your time in Los Angeles, but when you’re back in New Zealand, what is the first thing you like to do?
Have a steak and cheese pie!

What is next on the horizon work-wise?
There’s lots of exciting things bubbling away. I am directing another commercial before the end of the year. There are some really amazing Australian people in it and we are shooting it in LA. I’ve also got a couple of TV show ideas that I’m working on, too.


Where to get help if you or a loved one are experiencing family violence:

Women’s Refuge 
0800 733 843

It’s Not Ok
0800 456 450

Citizens Advice Bureau 
0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222)

Shine 
0508 SHINEE (0508 744633)

National Network of Stopping Violence Services 
0800 478 778

If it is an emergency and you or someone you know is at risk, call 111.

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