Jelena Znaor: Our Hooper of the Week Interview
by Philo Hagen
While nothing as exciting as Envelopegate happened during the 2017 Hoopie Awards, they were pretty exciting nonetheless. Thousands of votes were cast by hoopers around the world and in the end, Hooping.org announced our 2017 sleight of winners. The awards all went to the correct winners too. One of them, the award for Hooping Promotional of the Year, went to a new face at the awards this year. Jelena Znaor (FB & @jelena_znaor) of Hoopnotic Therapy has been hooping up a storm now for years though. So who is the diabetic & dynamic hula hoop artist that spun her way onto Supertalent Hrvatska – Croatia’s “Got Talent” program? Who is the lovely lady from Zagreb that captured her very first Hoopie award this year? It’s time to find out. Join for a very special interview with Jelena Znaor, our Hooper of the Week!
Philo: Congratulations on your Hoopie Award Jelena! Tell us, when did you start hooping and how did it all happen?
Jelena Znaor: Thank you! It’s quite an honor. More than six years ago, I was looking for a form of exercise that was fun enough to keep me interested for a while. I always wanted to learn Poi spinning and, while watching juggling videos, I accidentally stumbled upon a video of Vivian Spiral graciously dancing with a hula hoop. It had never crossed my mind that hula hooping could be a thing, mainly because I played with a hula hoop when I was a little girl and I thought that waist hooping was pretty much it. But when I saw that video, I knew I had to try it. Only a few minutes later I ran to the nearest store and bought a sparkly pink hula hoop that changed my life.
Philo: How did it change your life?
Jelena Znaor: Not only did it have a very positive impact on my health, it also taught me not to give up easily from the thing you really want. It introduced me to a whole new world of circus and to many people who I am now good friends with. I became more confident and I got over my social anxiety. After all, I perform now. On stages. In front of people. For people. That is something I could not have imagined before. And the most important thing, I am really happy with my life. I smile a lot. Since I hold a degree in Psychology, I try to promote the positive effects of hooping on our mental health through a movement I call Hoopnotic Therapy. Who knows, maybe one day it will be recognized as an official psychotherapeutic practice.
Philo: Let’s hope so. What does your hooping life look like these days?
Jelena Znaor: I try to do at least two gym hooping sessions a week but that number increases significantly when I prepare for some performance. These days I perform more than I ever have, so I spend all my time creating choreographies, listening to music and designing stage outfits. My apartment is full of hula hoops and I have them in my hands most of the time, even while trying to solve some business tasks or thinking about what to cook for lunch. Sometimes I get so carried away that I move all my furniture to make room for hooping, even though it is well past midnight. I think my neighbors do not like me – a lot, hehe. I used to spend hours hooping in a park, but unfortunately I do not have much time for that anymore. But I always have my hula hoop with me because I never know where I will find good music or beautiful scenery for a “hooping photo”. I have photos of me and my hoop from all over Europe – from the bottom of the Adriatic Sea to the top of the Alps.
Jelena Znaor: Her Supertalent Experience
Philo: I love it! Tell us more about your Supertalent experience? What made you decide to enter and how did it all go?
Jelena Znaor: I was invited to go for an audition. At first the thought was not very appealing, but as I was thinking about it more, it was difficult to find reasons not to apply. I had a lot of obligations back then and I did not have time for my hooping classes. I missed hooping a lot. So I decided to do this for myself, to have some fun.
Philo: And look what happened. Did you enter it competitively?
Jelena Znaor: I did not think of it as a competition and I went to the audition without any expectations, really. I was interacting with my friends who were in the audience, trying to entertain them, and myself. But the judges were entertained too, so I got the Golden Buzzer which took me straight to the semifinals. Then the public voted and sent me to the finals where I won 7th place. I was very happy with the result in the end.
Philo: As you should be! Did TV change things for you too?
Jelena Znaor Apart from it promoting hula hooping, I used the media attention to show people that their medical conditions should not stop them from doing what they love, being who they want to be, and enjoying life, however impossible it may seem to them. Specifically, I am thinking about my medical condition, which is type 1 diabetes. One of the best things that happened during those few months while I was a part of Croatia’s Got Talent is that I was contacted by a lot of people with diabetes, who told me how I encouraged and inspired them.
Philo: That’s fantastic Jelena. What are you currently working on?
Jelena Znaor: I am immensely grateful to the growing online hooping community for never failing to inspire me. When I first started hooping, I set goals for myself thinking that, once I reach them, it will be enough. Today, however, I see that there are no limits, as long as your mind is free and creative. I have recently got back to the fire hoop and now I am enjoying the exploration of new moves I can do with it. Also, although I was not that interested in multi-hooping at first, it has become my great love and I am looking forward to adding that 6th hoop into my routine. I have also been discussing performances in some stage plays, which will be a whole new experience for me, so I am looking forward to that, too.
Jelena Znaor: Outside The Hoop
Philo: What do you do when you’re not hooping?
Jelena Znaor: I run a company with my partner. We produce guitar effects. Since we are in the music business, I go to a lot of concerts and I travel a lot. I spend my free time hand-making hoops for myself and for others and I am very happy to see my hoops twirling all over the region. I do not consider that a job, since it really relaxes me. So much so that sometimes I do not know when to stop. I am also into a living healthy and I spend a lot of time cooking and preparing healthy dishes.
Philo: Do you have a favorite hooping memory or two that you could share?
Jelena Znaor: This is a tough one. More than three years ago, I spent a few months preparing an acrobatic cabaret as a member of a circus association called Traumatic Arts. We produced and directed the cabaret ourselves. I had to invent my first real act and I decided to create a character called Dixie Biscuit with an over-exaggerated personality. Since the act had some elements of burlesque, I had no idea how the audience would respond. I was so nervous during my first performance that I did not even remember what I was doing on stage, but I will never forget the feeling I had afterwards, when strangers started coming up to me and congratulating me. There was a comment book for the guests/audience to sign, and the first comment in it was for me. The whole experience was so incredible that I still keep that anonymous manuscript. I think that night defined me as a performer.
Philo: And then there’s The Golden Buzzer.
Jelena Znaor: Absolutely! That is my second favorite hooping memory. At that moment, I did not know what it all meant, but I infinitely enjoyed it standing in the middle with a million golden confetti falling on me.
Philo: What quality do you most admire in a hooper?
Jelena Znaor: I think that today, when everything is available and when we are all online and connected, it is very hard to be original. I admire all those who develop their own unique style. Apart from that the personality trait that I most admire in a hooper is unselfishness, generosity in sharing knowledge and support for others. Although hooping has become quite popular today, we are still a relatively small community and we should be there for each other as much as we can.
Philo: Absolutely! And do you have any advice for someone just picking up a hoop for the very first time today?
Jelena Znaor: I would like to tell them not to give up easily and not to measure their success by comparing themselves with others. We are all different, we have different learning styles and we express ourselves differently. It does not matter if your foot is pointed, if your isolation is perfect and if you can hoop on your nose. It is important to enjoy the process and all the nice things that hooping can bring. Most of all, it is important to have fun and remember that we should not stop playing even after we grow up.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.