More Londoners than ever are working out – and it’s not all about beach bods and muscle gains. Amy Smith hears inspiring stories from exercise evangelists. Portraits Andy Parsons
Symoné (Rachel Brown), 24, is a Tottenham hoop, vogue and dancehall instructor-performer. She discovered the joy of hooping six years ago.
‘I was always one of those girls who pretended she didn’t want to do running at school but secretly did want to. The hooping started six years ago. I came across it randomly at a party and was mesmerised. I was someone who felt they couldn’t achieve, but at that party my mindset completely changed. I went home and searched for tutorials online. That first year, I went to Toys R Us and got a children’s hoop, which is such a no-no!
‘I definitely get inspired by how other people dance, in the club or in my classes. I love to see how people use their bodies, because everyone moves differently. Last year, I was asked to make a soca hooping routine for OMI [the man behind massive hit ‘Cheerleader’] at a pre-carnival concert in Trinidad and Tobago. It was amazing! And I realised just how well dancehall and hooping go because both include a lot of squats and wining of the waist.
‘I tend to rehearse routines on the tube, which can look absolutely ridiculous! I also train without the hoops in parks around London, at the gym and at home. I’ll do handstands, squats and planks – planks are my absolute favourite! Hooping tones the whole body and you can hoop from knee to chest, you can hoop on your elbows, your head, your nose, even your hair.
‘I started voguing two years ago at Jay Jay Revlon’s classes in Brixton. They were so tough! We’ve now started “Hoop x Vogue” workshops together. The battle world is my next step. I was so hyped after performing at the recent All Things London ball in June that I just had to join the “Sexy Siren” battle where you have to prove you are sex on legs to the judges. I didn’t win, but that didn’t matter because it felt so good.
‘I can look very extrovert, but I’m actually an introvert; I don’t like attention when I’m offstage. Though when I perform, I’m in absolute bliss – it feels like I’m loving my body.’
Symoné is co-hosting a ‘Hoop x Vogue x Dancehall Weekender’ at Haverstock School, Haverstock Hill, NW3 2BQ. Aug 5-6.
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