Marawa the Amazing
BY KELLY BESWICK
Marawa the Amazing’s hula hooping business now stretches across East London to the United States. Not bad considering as a child she couldn’t hula to save her life
Once, on a trip Down Under, I met a young girl called Rebel, who was such an unprepossessing and conventional child, it was as if the fates had convened to make her the polar opposite of what her name implied. I was therefore feeling a slight trepidation at encountering the self-styled Marawa the Amazing, also originally an antipodean. What if she also singularly failed to live up to her lively moniker?
Well, I needn’t have worried, Marawa isn’t just amazing, I’d go as far as to say she’s spectacular, with a flamboyance, drive and passion that has put hula hooping not just firmly on the East London fitness map, but has also lead to a successful merchandise business based Stateside, where she now divides her time. Oh, and did I mention she holds eight world records for her phenomenal hula hooping skills and has been known to hula 133 hoops simultaneously while wearing high heeled roller skates.
But before you conclude that Marawa was one of those girls in the school playground with a hoop permanently attached to her waist wowing her classmates with her hulaing (if that’s even a verb) prowess, think again. “I was absolutely rubbish at it as a child,” laughs the Melbourne native, whose half Australian and half Somali on her dad’s side. ‘It’s an image that’s stuck in my mind, me being the kid in the playground who couldn’t keep it going. I think that’s why I was so keen to conquer doing it later in life.”
And conquer it she most certainly did by indulging her love of performance and showmanship and running away to the circus. First she toured circus schools in China, an experience she says “blew her mind”, before discovering to her delight that circus skills had become a legitimate degree in her home city. However, her application for a place at the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) to do a bachelor degree was initially rejected, but she reapplied for the following year and thankfully got in.
Initially her heart was set on becoming a trapeze artist. “But I quickly realised that you really have to dedicate your entire life to doing it,” she says. “You always need to be hanging off things because aerial fitness can be lost very quickly. Then you have to have the right equipment and the right space to practice. It’s just a lot more complicated than hula hooping where you just put your hoop in a bag and go wherever you want.”
At the same time as acquiring her hula hooping skills with NICA’s world-renowned trainer, Marawa was also honing her incredibly glamorous showgirl style (think 40s starlet but with more glitter, pom poms and attitude). When asked about her distinctive look, she lets out a hearty guffaw. “I remember one of my trainers rolling her eyes at me because I always needed to know what costume I was wearing and what music I was using before I could put the routine together. This is a completely backwards approach and unlike how most people work. But in the end she accepted that was my way and would say: ‘go on, off you go, there’s no point in you doing any practice until you know how you want it to look’.”
Upon graduating Marawa did indeed put her hoop in a bag and go wherever she wanted, performing and teaching her skills in such far-flung places as Nepal, North Korea, Zagreb, Poland and Mexico. But then Marawa landed in one location that immediately felt like a home from home and that was East London.
“It was an area that just clicked with me,” she recalls. “The people got me and I got the people, so I decided to settle for a while, still doing shows abroad, but also running classes locally.” At the time Marawa was still a one-man band, but all that was to change in the build up to the Olympics.
“I got approached by the Round House in Camden. They were putting together entertainment for the torch relay and asked whether I’d be interested in putting together a project with local girls. So I started to audition for people to come hoop with me and I eventually got it down to 12 girls and we trained together for three months and created this piece that we did to accompany the torch.”
Such was the chemistry between the troupe, however, that they couldn’t bear to part when the performance was over. “They were all like ‘what do we do now’, so we decided to carry on,” says Marawa, which is how her Majorettes were born. They’ve since become a leading fitness team and international performance troupe. “Prior to the Majorettes, I was working completely solo, and while I loved it, I now get to go as part of a team which is much more enjoyable,” she enthuses.
Better still, Marawa’s Majorettes are on hand to take workshops and fitness classes in their chief Hula Hooper’s absence, with Chief Majorette Obi Pearl currently running classes in Shoreditch, Dalston and London Bridge. “It’s getting more like a franchise,” says Marawa. “At the moment Obi is doing most of the classes but the plan is to expand that out and get the other girls doing more classes and also bringing it into schools.”
Then of course there’s the merchandise side of the business, most of which is conducted online (everything is made in the US which is why Marawa spend a good deal of her time there), but should you wish to purchase your hoop, bag etc. in person, then head to the Hoopermarket in Gillett Square Dalston where free taster sessions, known as Hoola Schoolas, are also run on a regular basis.
As Marawa’s website boldly attest: Conquering the world with hoops, and with her charisma, skill and business nous, who knows, it just might be possible!