Dubai: Serbian expatriate Lolla Kaddoura, 36, remembers she loved sports and fitness, right from a very young age.
Hence it was not much of a surprise to those around her when she took her passion for fitness one notch up in later years.
Lolla says she became a fitness influencer because she wanted to spread the message of the benefits of fitness especially after she became a mother.
“All my life I have been into sports. I played volleyball and was in the swimming team of my school and university. Sports has been a huge part of my life,” said Lolla.
Lolla opened her Instagram page in 2016. Today, Lolla’s Instagram handle, lolla_fitness has 18.5 k followers.
The intention behind starting the Instagram page “was to capture my activities”, says she.
“I am also a scuba diver and used to post a lot of my underwater photos. Then I started doing races. In 2017, I moved to the UAE and started taking part in Spartan and triathlon races.”
Turn back the clock
Lolla worked in a number of positions before arriving in Dubai. Largely, she worked in the fitness industry besides working as a physiotherapist.
At one point in her career, Lolla was hired as a fitness director aboard a luxury cruise ship. She did two contracts with them. She also worked as a sports animator and recreator for the youth in Serbia before coming to Dubai.
Meeting her future husband
Lolla met her husband Mohammad Kaddoura, 41, at a Spartan race in 2017 held in Hatta. Mohammed works as a financial manager for a private company in Dubai.
“The Spartan race where I met him was a 21 km challenge with obstacles. It was interesting because I gave him his medal. After the race, we got to know each other better. We fell in love soon and got married,” gushed Lolla.
The couple resides in Dubai Hills in Dubailand with their son Noah.
Lolla said meeting her husband was perhaps the turning point in her life that led her journey to become an influencer.
“Mohammed and I got married in 2018. Our son Noah was born in 2019. My influencer journey really began from the time I became pregnant with Noah,” she said.
She feels it was her fitness journey through pregnancy that picked the curiosity of women.
‘I am pregnant, not sick’
“Basically they got a message that even if you are pregnant, you can exercise. I was always inspiring people. I started sharing what exercise you can do when you are pregnant. This attracted a lot of new mothers and ladies,” Lolla said.
“Pregnancy tells you to relax. I put a different perspective to that. The message I sent out was that I am pregnant, not sick. I am not powerless, I am just pregnant.
“Pregnancy tells you to relax. I put a different perspective to that. The message I sent out was that I am pregnant, not sick. I am not powerless, I am just pregnant. So it is alright to get some fitness going,” she continued.
From the year 2016 up until 2019, her Instagram posts were all about her achievements.
“I won many medals in the races I took part and my posts featured these achievements. This caught the attention of a lot of women and my Instagram followers started growing,” she said.
Working out with the infant
After her son Noah was born, Lolla started including him in her workouts and that became a hit with her followers.
“People saw that exercise is a lifestyle you incorporate just like other things you adapt into your daily routine. Having children does not have to restrict you from getting a lifestyle going. So it was a natural process of including my son into a fitness routine,” Lolla says.
Making money and saying the truth
Lolla said the money comes in different ways. “When I started my social media posts my intention was not making money. I wanted to spread fitness to women especially new mothers. But as my posts started gaining popularity, I started getting contract offers. Currently, I have short and long-term contracts. It is difficult to put an exact figure of how much I make, but on average it can run into a couple of thousands of dirhams a month.”
“Social media can also be quite confusing. I do my research. When my profile started building up, so were the options for sponsorship and earning money from my page,” she recounted.
Lolla said she is doing it the way she likes to do it.
“When I started the page, it was never about becoming an influencer or earning money out of it. All I wanted to do was raise awareness in the most responsible fashion,” said Lolla.
“I have certain standards. For example, I am a wife and a mother. I don’t like showing skin to promote fitness. So I always do research about the brand before signing up with them,” she explained.
She is very keen to make her posts inspiring, decent and respectful.
“When I became an influencer in the Middle East, it was one of the biggest achievements. I stayed true to my lifestyle. Basically, I did a good job of showing every day how a regular woman from the neighbourhood can become an influencer,” she said.
“My parents supported all my sporting endeavours and this is huge for me. I remember how my mother used to wait for me with my backpack after school is over. I would hand her my school bag and she would give me the backpack. That was her way of encouraging my love for sports and fitness. Last year she was with us on the Dubai Run. I was very fortunate to have such an environment to grow up in,” said Lolla.
How to become an influencer
“Luckily, I don’t have to fake it. I am always true to myself. My Instagram page as an influencer comes with a big responsibility. As women or even as human beings, we are not always in the mood for fitness. But as an influencer I have a responsibility to show my followers my fitness routines and all that I have done for the day,” she explains what drives her.
Lolla is a Spartan Race global brand ambassador and topped the podium in several Spartan races, with multiple Trifectas. She is also currently a FrontRunner for ASICS, with a master’s degree in sports sciences.
“With these accolades – including two marathons and many other trail and road runs behind me – my biggest achievement was staying fit throughout my pregnancy and after having my baby, Noah,” Lolla said.
“For all the mothers out there, just remember there’s always a way to take care of yourself. Never quit; never give up! Living in such a diverse and comfortable city like Dubai, I am grateful for every day where I get to challenge myself and go the extra mile,” Lolla said.