KOI-CHAMPIONS: AMAZÍ

The second of our KOI-Champions, we welcome hula hooper, skater and fire performer, Amazí.

WORDS BY REBECCA RHYS-EVANS

Continuing the KOIBIRD Breaks a Sweat KOI-Champions series, our next guest champ is hula hooper, roller skater, fire performer and fitness instructor, Amazí. Bringing Studio 54 vibes with her wherever she goes, Amazí performs with LED hoops and fire (often whilst skating) for big brands, festivals and parties. Based in London, but really travelling the world for her work, Amazí is part of Marawa's Majorettes - the 5-time Guinness World Record holding hula hooping group. Watch the KOI-Champions video with Amazí and read the interview, where we learn how she got into her unconventional hobbies, and the time she hula hooped with Grace Jones. Kind of.

So you can hula hoop, dance, roller skate, anything else?!
Fire! I do hooping, fire fans, fire sword - fire sword is my favourite.

Sounds VERY dangerous. And how did you get into all these unusual sports? Did it start with hula hooping it escalated to fire, skating etc?
Yeah, kind of! I went to a lot of music festivals when I was younger and as everyone who's been to a festival will tell you, there's always a bunch of hippie hula hoopers in attendance, and I guess I was intrigued. But it all really started when I went to Rwanda for 6 months on a trip, I know I had to take something with me to keep occupied for when, for example, the power would go down and you'd have no internet. Most people take a guitar, but I took my hula hoop and pretty good. When I came back to London I was aware of Marawa and The Majorettes so I knew I wanted to worm my way in there. I never really knew at this point that you could actually make money from being a hula hooper, do it as a full time career. But once Marawa got me into skating, the whole circus community opened up. I wanted to try fire, everything!  

I read that you're a scientist as well as a hula hooper! An Amazing combination, are there many of you that work by day in quite a serious profession and then have these mad hobbies by night?
I actually quite my job as a scientist so I could perform full time, but in The Majorettes there are definitely a lot of people who sort of have two lives. Where many people come from a circus background and have trained most of their lives, in The Majorettes there's only a couple of us that full time hula hoopers, and then everyone else has other jobs. There are charity managers, architects, all kinds! 

"THE ONE THING I WOULD SAY IS THAT LOOKING BACK ON MY LIFE, I'VE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH BEING THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION."

What an amazing community to be part of...
It is, there's quite a wide age range too, the youngest is 18 and the eldest 45, we all do different things but have this one commonality. 

So how did the Majorettes get started, you weren't part of it when it was founded, right? 
That's right, I started 5 years ago but it was actually founded in 2012. Marawa got a grant for a troupe of baton twirlers for the London Olympics but it became hula hooping in the end. She taught everyone in preparation for various events around the park, and after the Olympics finished there was a strong desire to continue, so she created the group officially. 

You guys seem to be breaking world records all the time – The Majorettes, but also you personally. What's the record you've broken that you're most proud of?
I'm probably most proud of the group records, actually, as it's harder when there are more of you to accomplish the same thing at the same time. You know if someone drops their hoop, you all have to start again and it can get very tiring etc. So for that reason, I got most excited when we smashed the most hula hoops spun as a group. We did 30 each, and there were 10 of us, so 300 hoops! We want to break the record again though...

So a question for the girl that seems to be able to do everything, what's your party trick?
My party trick now is the splits. It seems a bit basic but it's just because I could never do it until I got to around 30, then I trained really hard to learn so I'm still proud and getting over that haha. 

Urm... I don't think the splits can be described as basic. I would be happy if I could do a cartwheel. In fact my party trick is just rolling my tongue so... you win. 

Would you describe yourself as a natural born performer then? Did you emerge from the womb with skates on ready to bust a move?
Weirdly, no! I was always quite academic and was never cast as the lead role in school plays or anything like that. But the one thing I would say is that looking back on my life, I've never had a problem with being the centre of attention. I know some people shy away from it but I'm literally like 'I don't understand what the problem is?'
I used to be quite embarrassed of how comfortable I was in the limelight, and receiving attention, and then I began to embrace it and eventually build a career out of it! I mean, why not! 

It's a British thing, I think. We're so cynical that we don't celebrate attention seekers in a positive way...
Definitely, you're so right! Why is that?!

And these activities; skating, hula hooping etc, is this your form of exercise then, or do you also partake in more conventional fitness – running, team sports, classes etc?
I've always struggled with team sports, jut because I'm competitive and I don't like letting people down. I also used to climb a lot too, and I do like the gym. The thing is, when you start hula hooping it's really impactful on your body, but then you get used to it so to get fitter you need to top it up with other forms of cardio and stretching. 

And what's the dream job in this kind of field?
I really think it’s different for everyone. Some will want to work on cruise ships as a rhythmic, gymnastics-style hula hooper, others will want to be in Cirque du Soleil, but for me it’s all about the variety of projects. I can be working one day at Tate Modern, working on a big shoot for a brand such as KOIBIRD the next, and then spend the following night in a dingy London club. I also do a lot of community projects and youth groups etc, I can literally never get bored. 


We’re really intrigued by the mental health aspect to exercise ­– partaking in sports not just to gain this perceived archetypal body but also for the positive effect it can have on us mentally. How have you found being active has affected your mental wellbeing?

For me it was a really big thing. I do enjoy being the centre of attention and I am quite loud, but in my last job in science I was really withdrawn and wasn’t myself. As soon as I found the hoop community and an exercise that was fun, it dramatically changed my personality. I was so much more consistent. 


Also when I was 29 I was in a serious accident that massively affected me. I was hit by a car, the recovery was longer than expected and I had a full leg cast for 6 weeks, I wasn’t sure if I would walk normally again let alone hula hoop and skate. Anyway, I would go to training in this full leg cast and train waist up just because it kept me sane. 

"I CAN BE WORKING ONE DAY AT TATE MODERN, WORKING ON
A BIG SHOOT FOR A BRAND SUCH AS KOIBIRD THE NEXT, AND
THEN SPEND THE FOLLOWING NIGHT IN A DINGY LONDON CLUB. I CAN LITERALLY NEVER GET BORED."

And do you have any role models that you aspire to be like?
I always think about this, I sometimes wonder if the girls from Absolutely Fabulous are my role models, haha! But honestly the people I aspire to most are actually those around me. Marawa for one, I think her skills and what she’s done is just amazing. Also my best friend Claire that’s also in the Majorettes; she’s an architect, a set designer, a performer... I’m just really lucky to be surrounded by the people I find so inspiring. 


Do you take your hoop with you everywhere?

I used to. I was once that person who would take hoops on holiday or to a festival, even to the annoyance of my partner who would be like “you’ve packed 4 hoops for this holiday, you need to leave them at home!” 

What’s the weirdest place you’ve hula hooped? Or has there been a less appropriate time you’ve whipped it out?
Ahh you know what, there was this time at a festival. We were watching Grace Jones and you know how when she performs Slave to the Rhythm, she does it whilst hula hooping across the stage? Well, we decided to join in! But in the crowd. And we weren’t far back, in fact we were very near the front and everyone around us was giving us absolute death stares, but we didn’t care ­– we were hula hooping with Grace Jones!


Like a peaceful mosh pit of hula hoopers!

Final question – tell me your absolute career highlight.
You know what, it sounds small, but my career highlight would have to be a show Claire and I put on together at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. We did it with The Majorettes and the crowd was really into it, we did it ourselves and I hooped there, so it just felt really good. Almost like our wedding day! 


Another would have to be this crazy 40th birthday party in the Maldives. They hired a whole island for a week of partying and flew out all their friends from Brazil. For us it was one day of work and the rest of the time we hung out on the beach, we had our own apartments with individual swimming pools and a private beach, plus it was all inclusive – it was mad. I honestly don’t think the birthday girl enjoyed it as much as us! 

WATCH THE VIDEO

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