Tell me, in this unprecedented time where are you now and how are you?
I am personally doing great. It took me a while to get used to saying that out loud and not feel guilty as I know this is such a tough time for so many people, but I spent lockdown alone in London. I enjoyed reading more, taking long walks to London Bridge and listening to loads and loads of music....and experimenting making a couple of cocktails but I'm happy that bars are open again now because I’d like to leave that one to the experts.
Now tell us about your new gig, Peloton!!! You are a celebrity rider!!! We want all the details. How did Peloton get in touch with you? Why did they decide you were a good fit?
I still can't really believe it's real, but then on a different level, I can totally believe it! My now executive producer Anthony came to do one of my rides at the studio I taught at, totally unbeknownst to me. I received a message on LinkedIn from him not long after asking for a chat. The chat then led to a screen test, the screen test lead to a first audition, then another audition, then two very nerve-wracking interviews with Cody Rigsby and Robin Arzon, head instructors in the States, then a final interview with CEO William Lynch. It was grueling and happened over the space of about 6 months but there are only ... cycling instructors on the platform and it shows how important the instructors are to Peloton as a company. It’s great that all the instructors at Peloton bring something new to the platform so I think part of making sure I was a good fit was knowing and showing that there wasn’t anyone like me already there. That’s one of the best things about being an instructor at Peloton; we were picked because of who we really are and we are always encouraged to totally be ourselves.
I was always involved in athletics. I liked sprinting when I was about 10 or 11, then I found triple jump when I was about 16. I was good at it straight away. I broke the U17 UK all-time record (I'm 100% sure someone else has smashed it since I set it though!!!) so I kind of felt like it was the right event for me. I also played volleyball. My school had the best school team in the country and we'd always compete in the UK Volleyball Championships against proper teams, mainly because we had a PE teacher who loved Volleyball. I got selected to play for the England Junior Volleyball team and although I was quite good, I struggled with all the tactics and game plays. I was better at just running in a straight line and jumping into sand!
What is ‘a day in the life’ of Hannah look like?
I like to go to the gym early to help me set up for the rest of my day. At Peloton, we have to create all our own playlists and rides so I can spend a long period of my day searching through music, thinking of themes for my rides and creating class plans. I have weekly catch-ups with my team; I have social, music and production teams, and it's always great to chat and bounce ideas off each other. If I feel like I've been in the house for too long, I'll walk down to Shoreditch and get another coffee...or beer depending on the time of day! My mum is a nurse and she'll often call me on her way back from work on the tube. I always finish my day by writing down a couple of things I'm grateful for. I try to write down the name of a person, something about myself and something about the day.
How has Covid-19 affected your life? Your family, friends?
As a nurse, it has affected my mum. She works with patients who have cancer. During the thick of Covid, her department got quite quiet as people were reluctant to come into the hospital in fear of catching the virus, but now that case numbers are dropping, I think she's getting a lot busier. I was scared for my mum at the beginning because she was getting on the tube every day and going into the hospital. Fortunately, she was fine throughout. If Covid has affected my life in any way it's that it has made me even prouder of my mum and what she does day in, day out! For me personally, the biggest change with Covid was not being able to go to the gym, but I became immensely happy to have my Peloton bike and be able to take workouts through the app!
What path are you on right now professionally?
I launched as a Peloton Instructor November 2019 and since then, I've just been kind of pinching myself every day knowing that I'm part of such an amazing team of instructors. I'd say I spent the first six months just getting to grips with addressing a camera, having to do so many different playlists every week, designing class plans, staying on top of my social media and keeping in touch with any new updates from the team. Now I'm getting the hang of it; I want to keep establishing myself as a music-led fitness professional in the UK. I think there is still a lot of untapped power between music and exercise. Someone might not be keen on exercise but really enjoy a certain type of music or a particular artist and that alone might encourage them to exercise. I want to keep bridging the gap between music and exercise because sweating and singing along to a banging track is the best feeling ever and I want everyone to feel it.
What was it like being in the Olympic circuit?
I was lucky enough to train with world class athletes like triple jump champion Trecia Smith and Yamille Aldama who has recorded one of the top 10 furthest triple jumps ever by a female. I saw how hard they worked and the sacrifices they made to get where they were. It’s not just the physical work, it’s also the mental work. It’s not easy to constantly prepare to compete against other people, and then when you do compete your mental preparation can be the difference between winning or losing. The year I performed best, I’d worked with a psychologist and I definitely credit the work we did as a reason why I performed better that year.
How would someone that knows you well describe Hannah? How would you describe yourself if you were asked ‘who is Hannah?’
I know my closest friends would say I'm loud and that I've always been quite confident in who I was, which meant I would always do what I wanted to do despite what I was being told to do! If I was to describe myself, I would say I'm a positive, non-serious, mistake-making, curious, fun human being…. basically, a bit like an adult version of a toddler...
What are you watching, reading and listening to?
During lockdown, I listened to my favourite radio show Soulection almost daily, it's a mix of hip hop, soul, funk, new electro sounds all in one. Every show is different, but the vibe is always the same, uplifting, positive and smooth. I’ve just finished reading Natives by Akala. He does a great job of speaking about his personal experiences of being a black man in the UK but also dives into the history of black people in the UK that I personally didn’t know too much about before this year. I hate that it took me this long to read Natives but I’m happy I’ve read it. I’m now reading Girl, Woman, Other which my cousin has given me to read; she promised me it’s good and I trust her! I try not to watch too many series or TV because I get sucked in and binge but I started watching I May Destroy You because so many people recommended it. I love that it is set in real London, the main character lives in Hackney which is where I live and I keep spotting where they are in London and it makes me happy! At the beginning of the series, she goes to hip hop karaoke at The Social which is actually a real event; I love how true it is to London and being a young adult in this city as well as the challenging subject it tackles.
How has the BLM movement impacted the UK?
I think it has opened people’s eyes and minds as to how much systemic racism has played a part in our society. I think there have been lots of people doing amazing things in terms of activism for years, but now our eyes and ears have been diverted to those people and we are all truly listening.
What is your view on the BLM movement? Do you feel as if this BLM movement may be the final push to cause change or will the issue of racism last much longer?
I think anything that pushes people to greater equality has to be positive. I’m kind of embarrassed that it took such a senseless act to spur on the conversations we are having now, but I think one of the biggest things that has come of it is a greater fearlessness to either speak up and out when you feel something is not right as well as give people the time and space to question their own belief systems and really realise how deep systemic racism goes. I think that some forms of racism are so covert that we all have a personal responsibility to drive real, long-lasting change.
Do you feel as though you are empowered to be a black woman and show your power after this movement? Or did you always do that?
I think straight after the killing of George Floyd I felt a massive wave of powerlessness and like there was nothing that could be to change the world. Exercise helps me in times like that because when you can witness the actual power your body can create through movement it teaches you inadvertently that you can take that power and use it anywhere.
Tell us about you and your family and if you have experienced racism in London, the UK or elsewhere?
I remember my mum and dad telling me of a time that they went on holiday together and got turned away from loads of hotels because they were a mixed-raced couple but here in London, being a mixed-race female, I haven’t witnessed any big overt acts of racism. There have been some small, more covert situations I’ve been in. I stopped going to West End clubs in London because I don’t like their approach. I’ve been in situations where me and the group of people I was with got turned away for no reason and although it was never said, you can’t help but feel it was because you were a group of black people. If I am going to party in London, I want it to be somewhere where everyone is allowed in.
When I look back at the time, I spent modelling, I would always go to shoots with my hair already styled in anticipation of a hairstylist on the job not having any products for my hair or reluctant to deal with it. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised that hairstylists knew a lot about products for my hair and how to style it. Other times though, my hair would just get left which when I think about it means that the hairstylist didn’t really do the job they were getting paid to do. It sort of created a low murmuring dialogue inside my head that says...you're not ‘normal’, but I love my hair, so I never really let it affect me.
I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have a mother who raised me to be a proud little mixed-race girl. My mum made sure I read books with black characters in them (Just a Minute and Gregory Cool were two amazing books I remember reading as a child), she got me black dolls to play with, she took me to the black hairdressers, I went to Jamaica, I visited my black grandparents often and this gave me a really strong sense of self. I’ve always been extremely proud of my mixed heritage to the point that if I did experience racism as a child, which I’m sure I did because I was the only black person in my primary school, it never affected my self-esteem. I thought being a bit Jamaican was the best thing in the world! When people asked me ‘where I was from’ I was always very proud to tell them that I was from Jamaica…. even though I’d only been there once and in fact lived in Essex!
Is London where you see yourself living in the future? If so, why or why not?
YES! I don’t think I could ever leave London! I love it with all my heart. I feel like London has shaped me into the person I am and in the future, I definitely want to give back to a city that has done so much for me. I feel like in London you get as good as you give. There are so many opportunities available to us here in London, so many amazing projects to be involved in and so much beauty and diversity I haven’t seen anywhere else.
You did visit Canada, what did you think of the country and people? Would you visit again?
I’ve been to Banff and Calgary! I was lucky enough to go into the mountains skiing in Banff which is something I’ve never pictured myself doing!!! I truly learned what people mean when they say that the silence is so loud. There’s a crazy perspective that you gain when all that there is around you is snowy mountains and trees so I’m thankful that my time in Banff gave me that humbling experience! It was very cold though! We hiked and I got icicles on my eyelashes! I would love to go back in the summer to see what the mountains look like then. Calgary was also amazing! Everyone is scarily nice in Calgary; people just say hello for no reason, which never happens in London, so it took me a minute to get used to the niceness! Also, Calgary is home to someone who has been a massive inspiration to me, Harris Kuipers co-owner Shelley Kuipers, so if it’s good enough for Shelley, it’s good enough for me.
What’re your favorite activities outside of work and fitness?
I know its technically still fitness related but I love riding my bike around London. Riding through central London never gets old. I love riding past the London Eye, Big Ben, Southbank, Hyde Park but my favourite is riding over the Thames on Waterloo Bridge. I love live music too and if an artist or DJ that I like is in town, I will always get tickets to see them.
What are your lifelong goals?
To show as many people as possible how amazing their minds and bodies are through movement...no matter what size they are, no matter what age, sex, colour they are. Whether they have two legs or one, whether your body has created another life or not, I want as many people as possible to come to the realisation that their bodies are absolutely amazing and capable of so much.
Aspirations for yourself, family, your community?
I think the simplest way to put it is that I want to see continual growth for myself, my family and my community. I think growth within my community is important as the more individuals in a community grow, the more they inspire other people to do more and be better.
Do you have any advice to offer us – and our broader community of women?
Offer what you can to help others when you can, and I only say that because Shelley has been a massive inspiration to me and has supported me when I needed it the most. I’d love to be able to do that for someone else one day.
Okay, we loved you in Harris Kuipers, why did you pick the Taylor and Florence?
I love the slip dress and well while I thought it was for my Mum, it was for me too! And I love linen too, so the Taylor was a perfect fit.