Chai is a wise young woman, who seems to have found her own personal formula to enjoy life and be true to oneself. She’s creative, loves to empower others and is a go-getter. Learn more about her in this week’s Hotseat.
Who is Chair Isenia?
I am a young and motivated woman who is determined to bring out the best in people.
Where were you born and how did you end up on this beautiful island?
I was born and raised in Amsterdam, Holland. I have Curacaolean heritage. And I have always lived in Holland with a big sense of feeling “different.” I’ve always been looking for certain vibes and the “warmth” in people. That was until I visited one of my friends to experience St. Maarten Carnival and then it all made sense: I was missing the Caribbean in my life! I found vibes! I was supposed to stay 10 days and ended up spending the whole summer here!
Where did you attend school?
For one year, I studied Media and Entertainment Management in Haarlem. But that didn’t fit me very well. After that, I studied Community Development at Hogeschool of Amsterdam.
What do you do for a living?
I am a professional hula-hoop dancer and SocaFit instructor. I teach classes in gyms and resorts and I host workshops at events, bachelor parties and basically every party I can spice up! Besides that, I make and sell Africa inspired head wraps, which I combine with Afrocentric matching jewellery.
Can you tell us more about Sisterhoops?
Sisterhoops is a community of women who choose to work out in a way that we all know from childhood: we use the hula-hoop to have fun and burn calories at the same time. We try to channel that inner happiness we all had as kids. My mission is to create a movement with women who feel comfortable in their own body, and show that!
What type of dance/exercise classes do you teach?
I teach the SocaFit by Chai classes, Hoopdance and Hoopfitness with Sisterhoops. I am also a kizomba instructor, and give private salsa classes. Those interested in learning more can check out SocaFit by Chai on Facebook.
What is the common thread in your work?
The thing all my classes have in common is that I want the students to go home inspired. That is my goal as a dance instructor. I encourage everyone to find their own style in whatever class I’m teaching. It’s not about “what level” you’re in, or how many of my steps you know to reproduce. To be your authentic self is the best you can be!
How do you juggle doing everything that you do?
I choose to simply do everything I love. My work never feels like an obligation to me. I took my passion and turned it into a purpose, so I don’t mind spending a lot of time doing what I like, which is teaching. In between, I try to plan some time for myself by swimming, meditating. I like being outdoors and since I’ve been living on the island, I now realise how much I love nature.
What are your pet peeves?
People who constantly bring people down. In my opinion, it makes no sense that bringing someone down would make you feel better about yourself.
What’s your dream holiday venue?
I think it would be the Bahamas, or the Seychelles, somewhere that I’m surrounded by water – there’s just something about Islands!
Do you have any hobbies?
I love collecting memories. I see that as my hobby. Back in Europe, I used to go to all kinds of reggae festivals, where I would bring my hula-hoops with me. That hoop connected me to so many cool people! Those are moments to cherish. And of course I keep up with everything involving Carnival: I like to go liming, making costumes and going on the road with my friends. I used to go to the annual Rotterdam Summer Carnival, Berlin Carnival and of course Nothing Hill Carnival in London.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“Love the life you live; live the life you love.” It’s a song performed by reggae band Midnight. I think I’ve played it over a thousand times. After spending so much time listening to it, I could not do anything but to adapt it into my lifestyle. It has become my motto.
If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you cook for them?
Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela and Nina Simone; I think those three people have been a great example to a lot of people in the world. And each one of their stories is one I would like to listen to. I would cook a completely ital (vegan) meal. I believe Bob would have appreciated that, plus it’s totally hip to cook healthy! Being a vegan, one of my favourite one-pot dishes is Trinidadian Bhaji rice. I would probably serve it with tempeh or some plantain. I like simplicity.