RENEW ISSUE: Christabel Zamor's amazing transformation into HoopGirl -- now a national fitness franchise
Hooping also began to fill in for the cultural activity that Zamor had so desperately wanted to study at UCSB. She had sought to understand how tribal rituals played a role in society, but she realized that dissecting a cultural form appropriated from the third world brought up questions of co-optation that she didn't want to wrestle with. Hooping provided the same rhythmic, percussive, ritualistic aspects and counted as an indigenous rite in California in the early aughts, when its popularity was exploding. Burning Man was where Zamor tapped into hooping as a "sacred, transcendent experience," one that she ultimately felt empowered to interpret for a national audience.
Now 10 years later, Zamor has performed at events for Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, and Cirque du Soleil. She has been hired to represent fitness brands and health club chains. She is licensing HoopGirl® Workout teachers across Canada, England, Australia, and the United States, where her hoop regimen has been certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
At 38, she is a fitness guru and the leader of a profitable exercise business. In her books and DVDs, she maintains a bubbly exuberance in describing her physical transformation. "My unwanted extra fat just disappeared and was replaced by gorgeous muscle," she crows, describing her journey. But she leaves out transcendence at Burning Man in favor of the elation of calories burned.
Zamor admits that she has had to be a chameleon to market herself and her hooping. Unlike other elite hoopers who began to develop the art form around the same time or even earlier, Zamor hasn't been content to limit herself to a part of the San Francisco subculture. She hopes to bring legitimacy to hooping, which sometimes means talking abs and aerobics. "To spread hooping, I have to be able to spread the lingo. I gain respect by speaking a language that people respect."
But when she is training HoopGirl dancers, she says she still refers to hooping as a spiritual practice. Her mantra — hooping is sexy! — is as much about a sense of self-worth as a satisfying session in the sack. The once "introverted loner" has been able to use hooping to help shed her old self, literally — and she's eager to show us that results are replicable at home.
"The hoop adheres better to bare skin," she explains, "so I started wearing less clothing. Showing my arms, showing my legs — it's like the hoop was asking me to take those things off. I started to feel like I didn't have to hide who I was."
Flipping through pages of toned hotties in her book, or watching the bootie-shorted babes in her DVDs, it might be difficult to believe that the sexiness of hooping isn't about, well, sex. But Zamor says there is something deeply and inherently feminine about the hoop — and it's not just that the ladies look better shakin' it.
After two surgeries for endometriosis, Zamor is convinced that the "soothing gyrations" of the hoop against her pelvis have helped heal her. "Hooping provided the insight I needed to slow down and focus on my body," she says, explaining that it's also a way to strengthen her core and reproductive organs, bringing fresh blood to the pelvic region and awakening her libido. Now, six years since her last surgery, she emphasizes that her doctor was amazed at how quickly she healed by hooping through the ordeal.
Next up, Zamor will be working on bringing that whole-body healing to women who may not be willing to step inside the hoop. She has expanded her business to include empowerment classes that honor the "divine, delicious feminine" and that will help women become a more supple, radiant, and luminous version of themselves, she says.