Beauty AND boxing beast

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Beauty therapy might seem a world away from boxing – but a Queenstown girl is crossing the divide. 

Hush Spa beauty therapist Gemma Nilson is among 16 brave contenders competing in Winter Festival’s charity amateur boxing extravaganza. 

The 25-year-old spends her days overseeing facials but come June 29 at the Events Centre, mascara and moistureriser will be the last thing on her mind: “It’s pretty different. At training, you’re wearing a sweaty piece of headgear … and at work I’m working with face products, I’ve got make-up on and I’m talking about how to keep your skin well and look good. 

“It’s not normal to get hit in the face, but I really want to do this,” Nilson says. 

Nilson says workmates are supportive while clients can be surprised: “Some are like, ‘little Gemma, our beauty therapist doing boxing?’ But they’re also very positive. I know this is going to be one of the best experiences of my life. I thought a challenge like this would be awesome.” 

Nislon takes on Megan Matthews, a massage therapist from rival spa Body Sanctum – and Thriller head trainer Steve Orr tips it as one of the fights of the night. 

“Megan is relentless … and just keeps going at it. They’re very well matched. 

“Gemma’s got some darkness in her. She’s got great technique and probably the best jab of everybody – including the guys.” 

Other contenders include builders, an electrician, tattoo artist, journalist and a radio announcer, and Orr adds: “It shows this event is for everybody – and it’s fantastic people want to test themselves in that kind of arena. 

“What we’ve learned is you can’t judge a book by its cover. You get seemingly tough guys who come in and crumble the first time they get hit and then beauty therapists like [Nilson] who come in and crumble others.” 

To make the final 16, contenders had to survive a selection weekend whittling 75 people down to 50 who’ve just completed a five-week fitness and boxing boot camp. The 16 now face two more months of rigorous training, four mornings a week. 

Corporate tables for Thriller, sponsored by Mountain Scene, have sold out but grandstand seats for $69 and floor tickets costing $59 are still on sale.