For Marawa the Amazing, hula hoops are clearly the universal symbol of happiness. From London to North Korea, she’s circled the globe with her exuberant hula-hooping circus act, gleefully smashing five world records, her vampy shorts and teetering heels along for the spin. As the creator of Champions of the Universe, a new series for Refinery29’s Brawlers YouTube channel, Marawa’s on a mission to feature world records broken by women, including her own stunning victory over the most hulas simultaneously hooped. Swaying at the center of a mesmerizing orbit of 200 brightly colored rings, she and her badass coterie of female athletes couldn’t be more compelling to watch. A whimsical collage of leopard spandex and jewel-pink lipstick, Champions of the Universe spotlights these competitors–turned-performers at the center of a glam-fem celebration, inspiring us all to strap on our high-heeled roller skates (yes, Marawa actually created them) and set our sights on the record books. This isn’t Marawa’s first rodeo. After graduating from the National Institute of Circus Arts in Australia, she traveled the world performing with her hypnotizing hoops, favoring them for their ease and portability. Along the way, she met other women record-holders on-set and eventually developed Champions of the Universe as a way to bring them together under one show and expose their stunning talents to a larger audience.
“We all have this similar thing, where we’re young women who are doing our own version of old showgirl acts, but not in the circus,” she explains. “Our confidence comes from necessity and having to take care of ourselves on the road — you’re truly a one-woman show. It’s rough out there!” Make that a two-woman show. On Champions of the Universe, intrepid Marawa often plays the buoyant assistant to her athlete friends, as she does for Inka, who shatters the record for shooting the farthest arrow using her fishnet-clad feet to wield the bow (you read that correctly). Laughing, Marawa nervously recalls how quickly it became clear that Inka wasn’t playing around with her equipment. “They were arrows you kill animals with!” she says. Through Champions of the Universe’s dazzling maze of impossibly low limbo bars and hand-split phone books, Marawa’s message resonates with the stark clarity of a glitter-filled balloon: Female athletes dominate, and their world records deserve center stage. For Marawa, there’s always another fantastical feat to achieve; catch her training to run the fastest mile while hula-hooping during the series’ two-part finale. But in her dreamy landscape of reimagined 50’s silhouettes, psychedelic tinsel, and indomitable positivity, the most important step is gathering the courage to begin at all — the momentum will follow. “Get a record, get in the Guinness Book of World Records,” she urges. “A lot of people think they can’t — but they can. It’s like getting a tattoo. Once you do that one trip overseas or succeed at that one performance — once you start — you just keep going.”