We had the good fortune of connecting with Marina AKA Mar and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Marina, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
You must take risks in your life. You have to get out of your comfort zone and do things that do not feel or look familiar to you in order to grow, get to different levels and get different outcomes. If I can be honest, I am not a big fan of taking risks because it is scary, but I know that taking them is absolutely necessary. I would not be here today if I did not take risks. I am very aware that stepping out of our comfort zone brings anxiety and it isn’t the greatest feeling to have, but we have to push through that feeling. It is absolutely worth it because when you go for it, something so magical always happens.

I look at it like this, if you do not go for it, you can miss out on the opportunity of being and doing something great. Without realizing it, we take a risk by not taking thee risk. By not doing anything you are actually taking the risk of living in regret and dissatisfaction. You take the risk of not being successful, happy or at peace (or whatever your end goal is). So if you are willing to take THAT risk knowing that the outcome is negative, why would you not take the risk to having an amazing outcome? Creating my company was me taking a risk, a huge one at that because I did not know what I was doing or where to begin. I knew nothing about building a business, growing a clientele or marketing. Even so, I still did it and look where I am today, glowing and growing.

I am so proud to say that taking the risks I have taken has changed my life and other’s as well. My company has enhanced the lives in my community and if I did not go for it, I would not have made this sort of impact. I am so grateful that I “did it afraid,” because if I allowed my fear to get the best of me, I would not be here today. One thing I have been saying since day one is “no one ever regrets putting themselves first and following their dreams.” Taking risks is 1000% worth it. It is part of the journey to greatness. What is the worst thing that can happen? You try it and it does not work out? That is fine because you can try again.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My belly dancing business is not my full-time gig. I am actually a full-time Social Worker. I fell in love with social work during undergrad and I loved it so much that I went back for my Master’s degree. I was the first generation to go to college and obtain 2 degrees. My parents migrated from Cairo, Egypt to provide my siblings and I with better opportunities and I took advantage of that. I am so grateful for the path I took and the journey I am on now. When I was in college getting my MSW, I was proud of being my parent’s first child to get a degree. I was proud of breaking barriers and following my dreams. But if you ask me today, what I am most proud of, I would tell you that I am proud of myself for never giving up when life got hard. Like many people, I have been through a lot of trials and tribulations, but none of which broke me down because I knew that when I woke up in the morning, I had another chance to continue going and fulfilling my purpose. I had another chance to do better. I overcame challenges because I always reminded myself that it won’t last forever. And I do not entertain the negativity. When something happens that may cause stress or an inconvenience, I try my best to be solution focused. I also was never afraid to ask for help when I needed it.

I work full time and run two businesses on the side. I get off of work from my 9 to 5 and then put on my entrepreneur hat. I work about 14-16 hours a day, but luckily it does not always feel like work. I also workout 4-5 times a week and still have a social life. Not to mention, I also have a fiancé. And I bring that up to say that it is so possible to have it all. It is not easy, but if you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it work.

As I sit here and reflect, I am most proud that I am exceeding my own expectations, removing fear from my life and being my own kind of great. I am proud of my hard work and dedication to provide myself and my family with a life we never thought to imagine because we thought small. What sets me apart from others is my passion and my desire to change lives, starting with my own. I move with love and my intentions are pure. When an opportunity presents itself, I give it my all and I do not give up on myself or it when things get difficult. I have learned that life is what you make it, so I truly work hard on creating the life I know I deserve. I never used to think like this. As a matter of fact, I was a negative Nancy. But when I realized that I was the one in control of my own life, I truly took control. What also sets me apart is that everything I learn that has helped me grow and become successful, I am teaching others. I want everyone to win. I believe that my light will still shine even if I shine some on someone else.

What I want the world to know about me and my brand is that I created my company to change lives. I know that when people see the words “belly dancing” they are intimidated, thinking they have to be a professional to step into that space; however, I am here to change that. Yes, I facilitate a belly dancing class, but it is very different than what first comes to mind. I teach a belly dancing fitness class where I have combined belly dancing technique with HIIT and cardio. It is effective, we burn up to 500 calories in the hour. It was created for everyone and anyone who wants to have fun while working out and need motivation to get healthier. You are guided and taught basic belly dancing moves, but it is deeper than belly dancing.

My goal is to enhance people’s way of life by encouraging them to gain control, push through fear, show up for themselves and never compare who they are to someone else. I coach individuals to get physical results, but I also help with mental transformations because I believe if you change your mindset, you will change your life. All that I do is driven by love, purpose and passion. It brings me joy to help other’s create a better life for themselves and it has been a true blessing to be doing it through belly dancing, which is something that has been a part of who I am since I was a child.

Furthermore, I also teach choreography and worked on a project called “Brown Skin Girl” that took off recently. As a belly dancing choreographer, I want to change the narrative of belly dancing in today’s world. Back in the day, in Egypt, the women were curvier, showed a variety in skin tones and had thick luscious hair. Their costumes told a story and so did their body. These days, you will find a common “look” for belly dancers that is the complete opposite; skinny waist, flat stomach, fair skin and silky hair. Women who have European features, which we all know is the look that’s praised the most.

I have come across so many women who think two things when you say the word belly dance; 1. They aren’t skinny enough to belly dance or 2. They aren’t skilled enough to belly dance. So I wanted to create a world where both of those are absolute myths.

When most people think of belly dancing, they think seductive, appealing, exotic, etc. Let me tell you something. Thick is seductive. Curly/kinky hair is appealing. Women of color are ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Specifically, I created this project to embrace women of color and show all women of different body shapes and sizes that they can be sexy too. And you don’t have to be a professional belly dancer to dance or perform. I create pieces that empower and uplift self esteem and confidence. It’s a space meant for you to feel safe, sexy and not judged.

Unfortunately, the majority of belly dancing classes/environments are not welcoming, due to the intensity of the course. So that’s why I create what I create; to provide women the opportunity to try something new that will promote connection to one’s body and inner sexy (without the intimidation).

Belly dancing was always seen as entertainment (performed by a certain look) and rarely seen as a form of art. I don’t want the sole purpose to just be entertainment, but to also tell a story. And I will be the one to tell that story through my pieces and dancers.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend was in town visiting the area, I would first take them to House of Vibes in Inglewood. HOV is a nutrition club/wellness studio that has the best vibe. I can guarantee you when you walk in you will hear great music, be greeted and someone will be dancing or singing, so you will have no choice but to catch a vibe. I will have them try one of our delicious shakes or “LIT” energy teas. Bomb.com. Next door, depending on the time, there will be some sort of fitness class going and I can promise you the vibe will be on a 100. So if they are looking for a good workout, we can take a class during the week or weekend. They are for sure hitting up my belly dancing class because it is super fun!

I love to hookah, so we will check out a hookah lounge in Anaheim. Maybe Nara or Nubia. My regular spot is Sahara in Harbor City. Chill hang out spot, good music and reasonable prices.

For breakfast/brunch, we can go to Good Vibes in Long Beach or The Pan in Gardena. GREAT FOOD!

For dinner, we will go to Joey’s in Manhattan Beach, Elephante in Santa Monica or Sausal in El Segundo.

Bar hopping, we will hit up Santa Monica or West Hollywood.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Firstly, I want to thank God for his glory. I would not be here today without His love and guidance. All that has happened to me, has happened for me. I know that whatever I do or don’t have, happens or doesn’t happen is all in God’s plan. I have asked God to guide me through this journey and asked that he shows me the way and I am certain that I am on the right path because of Him. And I have to give thanks to God for blessing me with the greatest support system a woman can ask for. When I was contemplating starting my business, my fiancé, little sister and my best-friend, along with some family and friends kept telling me to do it because they knew I could do it. Honestly, I was the only person that was getting in my own way and doubting my ability. My fiancé hypes me up like no other and reminds me that I can do it all. My little sister who is also my personal drummer, has always encouraged me to do this because she knew my love for belly dancing. She has also drummed during my classes, which brings an unforgettable vibe to the experience. Her energy and support is like no other. My best-friend has been my #1 fan and cheerleader since the beginning of time! She is always reminding me of my strength, challenges me to step out of my comfort zone and she is my personal photographer for my brand. And she is phenomenal. And there are many other individuals who have constantly supported my business by sharing it with others, bringing friends and family with them to my class, reposting content, etc. (You know who you are). And shout out to my dancers who slayed “Brown Skin Girl”. I honestly do not be where my business would be today if it was not for my tribe and their constant support and love. I am beyond grateful!

Website: bookwhen.com/bellydancemar

Instagram: @Bellydance_mar

Facebook: Mar Mar (Belly Dancing with Mar)

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrRa_tYO1FDIpztN4PQoSFg

Other: Tiktok @mar_bellydance

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.