Detroit’s Hula Hoop Queen Wants Back In The Ring

Bernadette King is Detroit’s hula hoop queen. The activity has helped her shed weight and gain friends. But now chronic pain threatens her favorite pastime.

Bernadette King loves hula hooping so much, she even takes it work. 

“That’s me, hula hooping at Henry Ford,” she says referring to a photo on her wall. “We had recess, so I was just out there hula hooping with some people.”

King is the hula hoop queen. You can find her at parks, on walks, at the front of crowds, hooping

“The only thing I had to look forward to was hula hooping and it was just the one thing that just kept me going.”

“Sometimes I hoop with two hoops around my waist, sometimes two hoops around my hands; I’ve done up to three hoops, three hoops around my waist.”

Stephanie Harbin
Stephanie Harbin

She got her first hula hoop a decade ago as a gift from a boyfriend. He’s gone, but the hoops have multiplied. She uses so many that last summer she started making them herself, using tubing from Home Depot. She bends it and crimps it, then she wraps each hoop in colored tape so they look like candy. 

It wasn’t long before she was hooping an hour a day, or more. She reckons her first summer hula hooping, she lost twenty pounds, weight she’d been struggling to shed since she was a teenager. 

“When I combined hula hooping with swimming, oh it was on!” She laughs. “I was very healthy and strong.” 

Today, though, she’s leaning on a stainless steel cane, the kind with four little feet at the bottom. It’s been four months since she was able to hula hoop. After pain and stiffness began setting in, she had back surgery. It helps a little. 

“There’s nothing worse than pain,” says King. “The only thing I had to look forward to was hula hooping and it was just the one thing that just kept me going.”

Click on the player above to hear how Bernadette King uses hula hooping to find joy in life.

This piece was produced as part of the Transom Traveling Workshop in Detroit, Mich.

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