Clutching a napkin to her burning lips, Shaa Wasmund, personal assistant and image-maker to the strutting boxer Chris Eubank, fans her face, crimson cheeks puffing, eyes streaming. The waiter, apologetic and bemused, proffers milk to douse the flames. It was a viciously hot pepper sauce, masquerading as pink yoghurt, that had rattled this usually very together young woman.

She had wanted to interview Eubank for Cosmoplitan magazine, after winning a competition to write for it. So she did. Impressed with her 'front' - friends jokingly describe her as having 'balls with steel spikes on' - Eubank gave the obviously savvy Wasmund an exclusive, then asked her to be his personal assistant. She is 21.

Rudeness and snottiness, which sometimes seem like prerequisites for working in PR, are not part of Wasmund's professional etiquette, however. 'I will never be rude to anyone, even if they are rude to me, which often happens, or they ring at home at midnight on a Sunday when I've been on the go all week. It's very bad form.'

As her boss would say, that's 'serious-minded talk', and she means every word. Being pretty, poised and feminine are not attributes in the macho, sweaty world of boxing. She concedes that people have implied she got the job on the strength of her looks - and maybe more besides - but she says: 'No one has blatantly come up and said so, because both Chris and his promoter Barry Hearn have treated me with respect. They've involved me in every level of negotiation, so that's helped to give me a degree of credibility.' There are reports that Eubank is disappointed with the level of sponsorship he has attracted, but the dangers of the sport make it inherently difficult anyway.

Not that Wasmund needs help with her credibility. Studying for a degree in international relations at the London School of Economics, financed by a scholarship from McDonald's, lends her a certain kudos anyway. She is also fluent in German and Japanese, skills she acquired when she was placed on a 'mentally gifted minors' programme aged nine and attended a 'hot-house' school three days a week. 'Anyway,' she tosses her wavy brown hair and leans across the table, 'all I can say to the cynics out there is, read my CV and weep.'

Shaa was born in southern California to an Italian father and an English mother; her name means sunshine in Navajo Indian. She was shunted back and forth between Britain and the US by her hippy parents, going to nine different schools by the age of 15. When she was 11 her mother, Su, and her drug-addict father finally split, which meant a move back to Britain, with her mother and baby brother Neil, to a room in a Hertfordshire hostel and then a council- flat in grimy north London.

Wasmund's mother is still the dominant force in her life. 'Whenever I come up with one of my schemes, she'll never say 'Don't be stupid, you're far too young]' like everyone else. She takes me seriously and gives me constructive advice.'

The Sixties saw her mother as a radical civil-rights activist who moved with the Black Panthers, the black separatist group in the US. Shaa's godparents are Nigerian and Jamaican; she grew up going to Baptist church on Sundays, eating rice and peas, ackee and saltfish. Her mother then experimented with Buddhism and Islam. She taught her daughter to learn from experience, good and bad, and to know when to move on. It has all stood Wasmund in good stead.

Bored and understimulated at her London comprehensive, she went off the rails for five years. But she rallied back at 16 and won a scholarship to the City of London School for Girls, where she achieved two As and a B at A-level.

Recently she was approached by a BBC producer for a new series about exceptional people; he turned her down for 'logistical reasons', she told him it was no skin off her nose, but she was sorry he'd made a bad judgement call - a boxing term meaning a serious mistake. Taken aback, he changed his mind, and has made her the sole subject of one programme in the series.

Wasmund's latest project, run from her tiny flat in Finsbury Park, north London, is her own sports PR company, which has Eubank's support. Wasmund, not one to let the dust settle, has already signed up the 400m gold-medal runner Du'aine Adejo, even though the company does not yet have a name.

Another of her projects is the Women's Independent Network (cannily abbreviated to WIN), which is running a high-profile weekend of seminars, workshops and networking sessions on 9-10 April to inspire young, thrusting career women. For the weekend, Wasmund has roped in successful women, such as Marcelle d'Argy Smith, editor of Cosmopolitan, Eve Pollard, editor of the Sunday Express, Janet Street-Porter, Diane Abbott MP, Baroness Denton and many more. She has also won sponsorship from Suzuki, and acquired one of its Vitara pick-ups for a year into the bargain. 'I just told Suzuki that I embody the same values as their car: spirited, fun, dynamic, assertive, and good-looking to boot.' Hardly surprising that some people bridle at her brash self-confidence.

''WIN is about inspiring other young women to succeed in whatever field they choose,' Wasmund enthuses. 'Yes, there is a glass ceiling, but the only way for us to break it is not to make it a problem, but to take a sledgehammer and smash it. You have to stand on your own two feet, and if you have more difficulties than anyone else, you just have to be stronger in order to deal with them.'

So when does Wasmund, all of 5ft 3in, take a break? 'I don't have the time,' she says, laughing, 'I'm on an upward spiral right now, which is really exciting. So I don't really have time for men either.' She has just come to the end of a four-year relationship - 'things have changed so much for me and moved so fast, it was inevitable'.

Her ideal man would be a man's man - 'someone who's not afraid to defend himself and his woman', with a woman's mind - 'sensitive enough to give up his seat for an old lady on the bus.

'I want someone to challenge me, incite me to further goals, so we can inspire each other. For now though, I just want to be the best at everything I do or at least strive to be. If you strive to be the best at everything, you'll always be very good.' So far so good, but only time will tell whether she can handle such success so young.

'Shaa', in the BBC 2 series 'Telling Tales', will be shown on 9 May

(Photograph omitted)