Oumi Janta glided onto our smartphone screens mid-pandemic as a roller skating star on Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld. Since then her viral videos have reached millions, she’s inspired a wave of lockdown-fatigued humans to take up skating, and has become an ambassador for the global roller skate community.
Amanda Sandström Beijer: To start, maybe you can take us back a bit, and share how the roller skating started for you?
Oumi Janta: It was maybe six or seven years ago. I wanted to go out with a friend and I didn’t know what to do, but I saw some posters up around the city for a Roller Disco, so I was like, okay, let’s go there.
I thought we would just roll around the floor in circles. But when I got there I saw people dancing in the middle of the room, and vibing and everything. There was a 60 year old guy doing his turns and spins, and I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on? It’s so cool! I want to do that too!’ So I did.
I took some lessons but eventually stopped because I wanted to feel the beat more. I wanted to drop on the beat when I wanted to, but at lessons it was more regimented – 1-2-3-4-5-turn. I just wanted to dance.
Amanda: You wanted to do your own thing - and then you did.
Oumi: And since then, living in Berlin, I saw over time people started to buy roller skates. And then more suddenly, during the pandemic, you could see people roller skating everywhere. It just popped up.
It’s the perfect sport because you can do it solo, and it’s perfect to do outside, so it was great during lockdown.
Amanda: So where do you think it will take off from here? Do you think that it will grow even further?
Oumi: I would be happy if it grows further. I mean, in the US they have all these roller rinks, but they don’t have this in Germany. It would be cool to see a roller rink popping up, or it being seen as a normal sport, not just as an exotic thing. Maybe kids could do it at school – that would be dope
Amanda: After the video went viral, that must’ve turned your life upside down overnight. Did you feel a sense of imposter syndrome?
Oumi: I tried not to analyse myself. But I definitely doubted myself because of the pressure.
I had this feeling – I couldn’t see all the eyes, but the eyes could see me. So I would skate and post my videos, but then the question came – what do people want to see now? Do they want to see the same thing that they saw in this viral video? So of course there was a lot of pressure, and it was tough, but also a really cool moment for me.
Amanda: Roller skating started as a passion then became a job. What's your advice for preserving the joy when your passion becomes work?
Oumi: That’s a really interesting question. First of all, it’s a beautiful thing that you can earn money out of your hobby or passion. But at the same time, you have to set your own boundaries and take your own time.
In my case, I had to skate solo, by myself and not at the field because there was no privacy there. And these moments are when I can really skate and learn some new tricks, because I’m also still learning. Then at other times, I’m in a better mindset to go out on the field, and just have fun, or to work. So it’s really important that you set your own time. And, you know, breathe and just do your thing. Otherwise, your hobby is no fun anymore.
Amanda: You always find the perfect vibe with your playlists. How important is music for jam skating?
Oumi: To skate without music is so boring. It’s not the same. It’s really important because it sets my movements, and I can express myself. It gives me energy. For the skating community, of course, it’s really important. I mean, we have roller discos and without music, this would just be roller skate ASMR.
I love hip hop or 90s music. Maybe that’s what people like, because it reminds them of the past – just like when your parents heard songs from their past. This just gives me vibes. I actually have a lot of playlists – just go to the link in my bio on Instagram to discover them.