Meet Christel! A beautiful hooper I met online. Within a few email exchanges I fell in love with her soul and positivity. She combines hooping with fitness (watch her video here!) and leads such an active exciting life, not to mention fervently promoting hoopers of colour around the globe! But instead of hearing me ramble, why not see what she has to say for herself!
1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? Where you grew up? What is your profession?
I currently live in the city of Marseille, France with my husband since 2014, but I am originally from Los Angeles, CA by way of the San Fernando Valley. So I am a “Valley Girl”, but I am not ditsy :p. My profession has me wearing many hats these days, I work in the field of hooping and fitness. Since moving to Marseille, my husband and I founded a non-profit association called Hoop de Mars, which is the first association of its kind to democratize and promote hula hooping as a sport and leisure activity in the city. Via the association I teach courses of Hoop Gymnique™ to all ages, organize special events, hoop jams, workshops, and perform at events in the region. I also am the Editor and Chief over at Duara Blog, a blog about and by hoopers of color.
2) How did you start hula hooping?
I decided to attend the “Shade a Day Party” event at Woodley Park in the San Fernando Valley; to celebrate the Summer Solstice with some friends, while I was at the park, I ran into a friend of mine Corina. She along with some of my friends had recently gotten into the Burning Man scene, and developed a passion for hooping and flow arts in general. When I saw her that day, she had a bunch of hula hoops in tow, and was nice enough to teach me how to hoop on my waist.
That day I knew that not only was hooping for me, but it would be something I would be doing for the rest of my life. The next day I bought 2 hoops at Toys R Us, went straight back to the park by my house, began watching videos on YouTube, and quickly found myself spending 3-4 hours at a time playing from that point on.
3) What does hooping mean to you? How does it influence your life? What positive changes did it bring about?
Hooping for me has been a way back to myself, a meditative sport, the way I like to re-center and de-stress, the best social lubricant, and my favorite form of exercise.
Hooping has totally changed my life for the better in every way imaginable, it has taken me from a SUPER unhealthy party girl, and has put me on the path to becoming a fitness professional.
My passion to become a better hooper, has been the driving force towards my rediscovering my body, improving my overall health, and has in turn connected me with so many people and communities; I would never have been exposed to had I been bitten by the hooping bug! That joy, feeling of peace, freedom, and fun I find while hooping, that led me to a better way of living and being, is what I try to share here with the people in Marseille.
4) How much time do you spend hooping daily/weekly?
I practice about 10+ hours in the spring summer during the week, and about 5-7 hours in the winter months.
5) What is your favourite music to hoop to?
I listen to everything, but I tend to hoop to a lot of Afro Pop, funk, soul, disco, hip hop, trap, and my first love house music (I was a house head, before I was a hooper)!
6) How many hoops do you own?
Personally I have 17 hoops that I play with regularly, and in total close to 80 hoops that we us for classes, hoop jams, or special events.
7) What is your favourite hula hoop to hoop with and why?
I love them all, but I am quite partial to a ridiculously large hula hoop. I love the feel of a big PVC hoop, and the freedom of dance I find in them. I have 2 that are 60”, those are too big for me to carry around without the help of my husband, so you will see me with a 50” amongst all my smaller Polypro and Polycarb practice hoops.
8) Who is your biggest hoop inspiration?
It would definitely be Deanne Love and Laura Charles! Deanne Love is a hoop mama for so many people in the hoop community, she has digitally taught me so many moves throughout the years, thanks to her tirelessly sharing her wealth of hoop acumen with the community via her YouTube videos, and her reasonably priced digital downloads. She’s not only taught me moves I wanted to master, she’s given me the vocabulary necessary to explain moves to others, and in my opinion no one has given more of their acumen and time to the community free of charge! We have a proverb African Americans that goes, “Each one, teach one”, and Deanne has taught many.
Laura Charles has been someone I admired for a long time, she is an amazing hooper, and was one of only 4 Black women hooping that I was aware of for many years (the others being Jaguar Mary X, Jocelyn Gordon, and Pamela Crawford). As it is very difficult to find Black hula hoopers or hula hoopers of color when you search for them online, it was not until Laura added me to her Black Hula Hoopers Unite Group on Facebook, that I became aware of just how many of us there really where, and “where” we were online.
She has been one of the most supported people in my hoop journey the last year, her feedback on my videos, as well as the feedback from members of that group; is really what has helped me to blossom and grow with my art. Seeing and interacting with hoopers who looked and moved like me, really has made all the difference in my hoop journey. When you never see images of people doing things you are passionate about, it gives one a distorted sense of self. It was Laura’s dedication to hooping, and her desire to have us be connected, her finding me, and adding me to that group; that really made all the difference in my hoop journey.
9) Have you gone to any hoop retreats? If yes- can you share your experiences with us? Do you have a favourite retreat and why?
I have been to 2 so not enough to have a real comparison, my experiences were mixed on both of them. The first one was poorly organized, the teachers did not come, and we ended up paying thousands of Euros; to have a “family vacation” with complete strangers. However, the location was amazing, I personally trained a lot, made friends with people I still talk to today, and came back with a changed diet. Thanks to the cooking on the organic farm we were staying at the 3 weeks we were there, and you know what they say, 3 weeks makes a habit”. I was able to see how removing certain products from my diet was beneficial for me, it gave me the will to continue eating that way when we got back to Marseille.
The other had a wealth of teachers, I learned a lot from each of them, the I made connections with people, the food was great. That retreat changed my hoop life completely! To have the opportunity to talk with these master hoop teachers about where you feel stuck at in your practice, to train with them (that is a confidence builder like no other), to learn from them was a game changer for me. I found the seeds of my flow on that trip, and the beginning of my “style” of hooping was born.
10) What is your most memorable hoop memory? Tell us the story.
Last year at the Festival d’Etang we hosted our hoop jam for 2 days there, we really met Marseille (the festival had 14,000 people over the 2 days), and we had people from all walks of life hooping at the same time in our Afro Hippie Hoops . It was just magic!
11) Have you faced any challenges hula hooping? If yes please elaborate.
The most “challenging” thing I have found consistently with hooping is how cliquey it can be, sadly I find the community is not as inclusive as it purports to be. This is the cornerstone of the Afro Hoop Movement and the Duara Blog project, which were founded on the principals creating spaces for people of color in flow arts, and promoting flow arts within communities of color. It has been my mission to promote the sport/leisure activity of hooping among people of the African diaspora and People of Color (POC) via producing online content, connecting with them personally out in the parks in the city where I live, when I travel, or online via social media outlets.
When I discovered that there was a dearth of images that represented Black people/POC in hooping or doing flow arts in general, I felt it was something that needed to be redressed. Thus the Duara Blog project was started as a way to create a space for people of color who are interested in flow arts, to be as a bastion where they feel welcomed, appreciated, could more easily connect with other flow artists of color, and be inspired by media that reflects them; because at the end of the day representation matters. Having a lack of media that accurately represents the achievements and diversity of people of color, is detrimental to one’s ability to manifest self-love.
12) Have you tried any other flow arts? If yes- which one(s) and how was your experience?
No sadly I have not, I would very much like to learn poi or juggling though!
13) Finally- what advice would you give someone who is new to hooping and just starting out?
I would say for me consistent practice is key to improving your level, try not to think in I can’t, and instead tell yourself, “I currently struggle with” (some moves just take longer than other for some people to master). Watch videos but not too many, I think we get so caught up in what other people are doing, tend to get down on ourselves for not being able to do something we have seen, or tend to copy from other people vs inventing a personal style of movement. Lastly never give up! Learning to hoop can be challenging, finding your place in the community may not be so easy for some, but if you really love it. All you need is yourself, patience, self-love, determination, and your hula hoop; you will get to where you want to go!!
14) What quality do you most admire in a hooper?
Humility and dedication to practice/willingness to continue to try even if you are not succeeding at your hoop goal, are the two things that make me really admire another hooper.
15) What hoop move are you currently struggling with/trying to perfect? Chest rolls! For 4 years I have not been able to do them, I went to my 3rd workshop recently, and something is starting to click…but they are so hard for me.
16) Do you have any current or future projects you would like to share with us?
This year I am looking forward to having our first workshop of hoop and movement here in July in collaboration with the Ninja Hoops, and inviting other teachers to Marseille to share their hoop/flow skills with us. For next year it is our goal to have a Mediterranean flow convention during the summer of MPSPORT 2017, we would like to have teachers and guests from countries from the Mediterranean
Thank you Christel for sharing your story with us! We hope to meet you in person one day!