sport news Kali Reis hits : How a champion boxer became the star of HBO's True ... trends now

sport news Kali Reis hits : How a champion boxer became the star of HBO's True ... trends now
sport news Kali Reis hits Hollywood: How a champion boxer became the star of HBO's True ... trends now

sport news Kali Reis hits Hollywood: How a champion boxer became the star of HBO's True ... trends now

Kali Reis was facing a crisis of confidence – the sort of thing that haunted the champion boxer growing up in gritty East Providence, Rhode Island. It was never an urgent matter, but on that California night in 2018, Reis was getting brutalized by undefeated welterweight champ Cecilia Braekhus on the sport's biggest stage: the first women's bout in HBO history.

With her face swelling at the end of the sixth round, Reis returned to her corner, where she was confronted by her manager and future husband, Brian Cohen.

'He got into the ring and was like ''Yo, Kay, you got to wake the f*** up – you're supposed to be here,' Reis told DailyMail.com.

Cohen wasn't her cornerman and shouldn't have even been in the ring, but he pinpointed Reis's problem, nonetheless: For all her talent and dedication, she felt unworthy of success and her performance reflected that.

'I just think it's in her genes, unfortunately,' Cohen told DailyMail.com, hinting at her indigenous background.

'I went through a lot as far as having really low self-worth, not thinking I was worthy of love,' said Reis, a half-Cape Verdean, half-Native American member of New England's Seaconke Wampanoag tribe. 'We talk a lot about genocide and that trauma is passed down. It was almost like this ''I'm sorry for even existing'' type thing… I was scared that my success would be too much for people.'

In that moment, Reis took Cohen's message to heart.

'Then I damn near killed the girl,' she laughed.

Norway's Braekhus had never been knocked down in 32 career fights but was floored in the seventh on an overhand right from Reis, who briefly looked poised to beat the future Hall of Famer. Reis ultimately lost a unanimous decision, but has since gone 5-0 while winning the WBA, WBO, and UBO light welterweight titles.

'I've had to remind her constantly that whether she's fighting for a title or auditioning for a part, she belongs here, she deserves it,' Cohen said, alluding to her side gig as an award-winning actress.

'Even as far as ''True Detective,'' you belong here.'

Yes, Cohen was referring to HBO's True Detective. In just her third role at the age of 35, Reis is starring as detective Evangeline Navarro opposite Oscar-winner Jodie Foster in the upcoming fourth season of the popular crime series.

'I kind of skipped the line a bit because I'm still very new at this,' Reis said, subtly apologizing for her success.

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Kali Reis is 19-7-1 as a boxer, and currently holds three super lightweight titles

Kali Reis and Brian Cohen attend 2021 Tribeca Festival Premiere of

Kali Reis is 19-7-1 as a boxer, and currently holds three super lightweight titles. (Right) Reis with husband Brian Cohen

Cecilia Braekhus of Norway reacts to a punch from Kali Reis (right) during HBO's first women's boxing match in 2018

Cecilia Braekhus of Norway reacts to a punch from Kali Reis (right) during HBO's first women's boxing match in 2018

Reis earned a 'Best Female Lead' nomination at the 37th Independent Spirit Awards and a 'Best Actress' win at the Newport Beach Film Festival for her debut performance in the semi-autobiographical 2021 flick, 'Catch the Fair One

Reis earned a 'Best Female Lead' nomination at the 37th Independent Spirit Awards and a 'Best Actress' win at the Newport Beach Film Festival for her debut performance in the semi-autobiographical 2021 flick, 'Catch the Fair One

Reis' inclusion in 'True Detective: Night Country' wasn't a major news story like the casting of previous seasons' stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams or Mahershala Ali. One June article described Reis as an 'unknown,' while Variety cautioned audiences that she is 'relatively new to acting.'

New or not, Reis is already succeeding in film, having earned a 'Best Female Lead' nomination at the 37th Independent Spirit Awards and a 'Best Actress' win at the Newport Beach Film Festival for her debut performance in the 2021 flick, 'Catch the Fair One.'

The story, which she helped craft with director and screenwriter Josef Kubota Wladyka, centers on a fictional Native American boxer named Kaylee (same pronunciation) who willingly enters into a sex-trafficking ring in order to find her missing younger sister. 

Until then, Reis's experience as an actor was limited to church plays and daydreams.

'Oddly enough, I was sitting outside one day and thought, ''if acting is meant for me, it will find me,''' she said, recalling her introduction to the profession in 2019.

One week later, it did.

Reis will soon be sharing the screen with Jodie Foster

Reis will soon be sharing the screen with Jodie Foster 

Wladyka reached out to her over Instagram after stumbling upon her profile as he researched Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), a campaign aimed finding the alarming number of native females who have disappeared in the US, Canada or Latin America. 

Reis was already active with the group and offered Wladyka the kind of partner who could bring authenticity to the project.

'Really early on, he wanted me to be a creative collaborator with him to tell the story because he was very well aware that this was an important story to tell, but it wasn't his,' she said. 'He just wanted to get the perspective of me and the community I represent.'

Statistics on missing indigenous women and girls are incomplete, mostly due to a lack of reporting, but the National Crime Information Center found 5,712 cases in 2016 - only 116 of which were in the US Department of Justice's federal missing persons database.

The Center for Disease Control lists murder as the third leading cause of death for indigenous women, and violence rates on reservations can be as much as 10 times the national average. 

To Reis, the problem is that indigenous people –and particularly indigenous women – are simply ignored by society.

'I don't understand why we get overlooked,' said Reis, who spends her spare time mentoring and teaching self defense to indigenous youth. 'You want our street names, you want our clothes, you want our culture, you want our beliefs, you want the food, you want the music, you want the feathers and the headdresses and you want dress up like us for Halloween. But you don't want to respect the people that it comes from?

'You want to forget about us? It baffles me.'

Director Josef Kubota Wladyka, Kali Reis and Darren Aronofsky attend 2021 Tribeca Festival Premiere of

'Catch the Fair One,' which Reis helped craft with director and screenwriter Josef Kubota Wladyka, centers on a fictional Native American boxer named Kaylee (same pronunciation) who willingly enters into a sex-trafficking ring in order to find her missing younger sister

Director Josef Kubota Wladyka (far left), Kali Reis and Darren Aronofsky (near left) attend 2021 Tribeca Festival Premiere of 'Catch The Fair One' (pictured: right) at Hudson Yards on June 13, 2021 in New York City. The film, which Reis helped craft with director and screenwriter Josef Kubota Wladyka, centers on a fictional Native American boxer named Kaylee (same pronunciation) who willingly enters into a sex-trafficking ring in order to find her missing younger sister

Kali Reis reacts after defeating Jessica Camara and winning the vacant WBO junior welterweight title in 2021

Kali Reis reacts after defeating Jessica Camara and winning the vacant WBO junior welterweight title in 2021

Her lack of experience notwithstanding, Reis thought she had the right background for the opportunity. Not only had she often dreamt of acting, but Reis considers herself a creative person from a family of artists.

Her grandmother on her mother's predominantly Wampanoag side was a painter, her mother sang and danced ballet, her siblings rapped or played instruments or both. And her Cape Verdean father, split from her mother and intermittently absent during her childhood, was briefly the keyboardist for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

More importantly, acting served as a welcome diversion following the death of Reis' brother Drew, who lost his battle with brain cancer. (Her father has since passed away, too)

The next step for Reis was what she calls 'bootcamp' — intense acting and improvisation classes with New York-based acting coach Sheila Gray, who instantly recognized

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