Striking Beauties Gym: Fight Girls

Friday, May 20, 2011


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At Striking Beauties, a gym for women on the East Side of Providence, the exercise room is saturated in pink.  The paint on the walls is a blazing hot pink and the exercise-ropes could only be described as bubblegum.  Amidst this sea of coral, it might seem out of place that the instructor is telling her class to channel Mike Tyson who, of all the people in the US, might have the fewest feminine graces.  

“Use your imagination, pretend like someone is in front of you,” the instructor Kali Reis, a pro boxer, calls at the women in her Monday afternoon boxing class, who are squatting low and throwing punches.  Reis walks through the intensely concentrated crowd, giving each of the six individual tips. “Play pretend, really imagine that someone is there.”

All women, plus boxing

Striking Beauties, which hosted the first ever All-Female Fight in New England on April 2nd, first opened in 2009 in North Attleboro as an all-women gym with a focus on boxing.  The East Side branch, on Angell Street, is the second location in a larger plan to franchise.  At the moment they are relocating to Ives Street; the ceilings on Angell Street are almost too low to jump rope, and they have little room for free weights, treadmills, and larger exercise machines. 

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Dena Paolino, the owner and founder of Striking Beauties, has a friendly nature that puts a person at ease in a room filled with punching, kicking, and fighting trainees. She says that she always boxed and kick-boxed for fitness. “It was the only thing that kept my attention and kept me in shape,” she said. Paolino founded Striking Beauties when she saw that there were no all-female gyms in North Attleboro, and only two all-female boxing gyms in the US.

Paolino is a mother of three and a criminal lawyer with her own practice. But with the gym and three children, she only selects a few cases so that she has time for both her family and her business.  She does use her law degree to help out women she meets through Striking Beauties; she represents a woman who was in the 2010 Oscar-winning boxing film, The Fighter.

Turning wallflowers into punch-em-out fighters

She says that one of the perks is seeing the transformations from wallflowers to punch-em-out fighters.  “So many women come through the door out of shape, overweight, or quiet,” she says, “One girl didn’t speak for three months and I saw her really come out of her shell. There is something about boxing that is so empowering.  All girls in a man’s sport.”  

This special quality of boxing has caught the eye of some reality TV creators.  Two production companies, one in New York and one in Colorado are interested in optioning the boxing gym for a documentary and a reality show.  The groups are in talks with some national networks, like TLC and Oprah’s network OWN.  

When the women in the class get out the bright pink boxing gloves, Paolino addresses the color choice.  “I didn’t used to be a pink person,” she says, “but I loved the combination of pink and boxing.” It’s like leather and lace, she says—something tough and something feminine together.  

The design of Striking Beauties and its attitude is not frilly or frivolously pink; it’s hot pink, tough pink.  The gym has an industrial, retro-feel that gives the look an edge.  Like its logo of a pin-up girl putting on some boxing gloves, the attitude cries out, in Paolino’s words: “You can be as graceful and feminine as you want and as tough as you want.”


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