Thais Kelly is a familiar face to many in Dubai's fitness scene. Through her work as a Relationships Manager for GuavaPass Middle East, not only is she responsible for creating, building, and maintaining relationships with the enormous network of gyms that are part of its network, but she also works with its various ambassadors, and is an indispensable cog in the well-oiled machine that forms their countless events held across the city and beyond. She's also a passionate journalist, having interned for the regional edition of a top-selling global glossy magazine, and contributes to a number of websites and digital publications across the world. If you met her in person, if it weren't for her good looks and the clearly youthful vibrancy that peppers her wonderfully self-deprecating, quick-witted sense of humor and intellect, you'd find it hard to believe that she's only 23 years old.
The Brazilian native - who grew up in Dubai and has lived here for 12 years cumulatively, after moving back after stints in California and Brazil - is a true world citizen. "'Where is home' is a hard question," she says, continuing: "As Pico Iyer would say, home is not a place per se, but something we build within ourselves (watch his TED Talk - so worth it!) and my home is where I am happiest, next to my loved ones, both in Brazil and Dubai." And believe it or not, her career didn't actually start out in the fitness industry - though it is what led her to where she is today: "How I ended up working at Guavapass is a fun story. It all started with a Muay Thai class. I was fresh out of college and looking for purpose when I started Muay Thai. During my very first class, I was introduced to Yi-Hwa Hanna, who was the Editor-In-Chief of one of the biggest magazines in the region. I explained that I had studied journalism and was seeking career advice and experience - while we were sparring, I might add - so she gave me her card. When I went home, I happily waved it around and told my parents, “Look, she’s going to be my boss.” One month later, I started interning for her and eventually met the girls from GuavaPass, who offered me a position with them (I was a member and obsessed with the concept!). What can I say? Good things happen at the gym."
Although she works for GuavaPass in her day job, Thais is still, and always will be, a passionate writer. "Writing has been my lifeline since a little kid. I am pretty sarcastic and straightforward in real life, but writing allows me to truly get in touch with who I am, to speak in ways I never would. My desire to express myself, to be heard, that's what got me into writing. The writing got me into fitness. Sounds strange, huh? But in writing I was expressing myself in works, at the gym I was silent - the hour a day I went to the gym was mine and only mine; it made me turn off from the world, whereas writing made me more in touch with it. When I started writing about fitness, it was just the best of both worlds. Although I still write for myself, my full-time job is fitness nowadays and getting to be in the organizing side of it is fantastic! I believe that one can change someone’s life with both writing and fitness, so that’s what I enjoy the most, changing people’s lives in a positive way," she says. Read on for her answers to our questions in the hot seat.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
Listening to music. Unfortunately I have zero musical skills, but listening to music is basically a lifeline for me, keeps me going. Also Netflix - just because it’s awesome.
How do you like to keep fit, and what is your philosophy when it comes to nutrition?
GuavaPass (yes, this is a plug)! But really, I love Guava. I was a member for months before I got hired and it allowed me to try everything. I fell in love with yoga, started rock climbing, embarrassed myself in dance classes, kept up with my martial arts and more. I do a bit of everything and that’s what encourages me to keep going. My philosophy is to never get bored, to keep on trying different things and always having fun. Fitness can make you feel like a child again - think of how active we are as children! That’s how I feel when I workout, like a kid playing.
Who inspires you?
My grandparents and parents. Also, John Lennon.
What's the best lesson your mum or dad ever taught you?
Make yourself indispensable, taught to me by my dad - works for so many aspects of life.
What might surprise people about you?
I used to wear an eye-patch as a kid - an actual eye-patch! I was born with horrible vision and have worn glasses since the age of two. I was meant to be blind from my left eye and in order to improve that, I wore an eye-patch and looked ridiculous. What’s not surprising is that I was very much bullied for that.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can find a picture of a pug for every mood and occasion in a matter of seconds.
If you could pick any superpower in the world, what would it be and why?
Teleportation, for sure. Can you imagine grabbing sushi from Japan for lunch and pasta from Italy for dinner?
If you could give one piece of advice that would inspire others personally or professionally, what would it be?
Whatever you do, do with passion. Give everything you’ve got all of the time. Doesn’t matter if it’s your relationships, career or dreams - make it count. It may feel like the world is not giving back to you in the same way sometimes, but you’ll always know that you have it your all and have no regrets.
What's your favorite dish to cook if you want to impress someone? And what could someone cook to impress you?
Anything that can be ordered on Deliveroo - I can’t cook to save my life. If someone can cook me a really good burger, they will definitely get to my heart through my tummy.
What's your favorite city in the world and why?
Ouro Fino, the small town in Brazil my mom is from. Some of the happiest moments in my life happened there.
What's your go-to shower or karaoke song?
Any Taylor Swift song.
When was the last time you were scared, and why?
When I was in Sri Lanka last month and was put face-to-face with a praying mantis, those things are terrifying!
What's the best gift that anyone's ever bought you?
My mom got me a trip to Thailand and Singapore for my 24th birthday - definitely the best gift ever.
What do you think is your best and worst quality?
Can I say my passion for both? I am passionate about everything I do, I give everything I’ve got all of the time. In a way, that both makes and breaks you. It gives you purpose and makes you understand yourself better, but it can get pretty exhausting and self-destructive when you don’t know when to quit.
What's the best way to make up after a fight?
With a burger, there’s nothing a burger can’t fix.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Bad TV, anything from Glee to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
What's the best compliment you've ever had?
What's your biggest regret?
I think it’s too early on in my life to say that I greatly regret anything, there’s nothing I can’t fix at this point if I put the time and effort into it. I tend to regret a lot the things I don’t say - specially when it’s a really good comeback that I only think of later.
If you could give one key piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t be such a little b*tch, toughen up kid.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future - both long and short term?
Supreme ruler of the universe? I am kidding! But I would love to keep on writing and eventually publish my own book. I think that would be my ultimate goal in life. I would also like to become an university professor eventually, but that’s would be many years from now.
What's one thing you'd never give up for anyone else, even the love of your life?
My career, it’s the one thing that is only mine and I accomplished all on my own.
If your life were a movie or reality TV show, what would it be called and why?
The Sh*t Show; I am kind of a low-key mess and I swear a lot, I think it’s appropriate.
Of all of your life accomplishments so far, what are you most proud of?
My university degree, it’s the reason I can call myself a journalist and I graduated a year early, which took a lot of effort and sleepless nights.
Three key items on your bucket list?
Hot air balloon flight, visit all Disneylands in the world, make a difference in at least one person’s life.
What are the first three things you notice in a person?
How they talk (be eloquent, please), what kind of music they listen to - and a good smile is always striking.
What are some of your biggest pet peeves?
When people make weird noises with their mouth, and when people say “But ummm…” while publicly speaking.
What are three of the most attractive qualities in another person, to you (whether romantic or platonic!)
Kindness, wisdom and confidence.
What's the secret to finding happiness, in your opinion?
Hope for more, but be satisfied with less.
If you knew you had one year left to live, what would you change about the way you're living right now and why?
I would work a lot less - not necessarily stop working because I like a sense of purpose - and use my free time to just read, write and travel.
How do you get through life's challenges when things get tough - any particular mindset or go-to mantras?
First and foremost, I keep my loved ones close. Sometimes you need people around you to show how much they love you so you can be reminded of the good things about yourself. It’s easy to forget about your qualities and the things that make you special. Remember there’s only one you, there must be a reason why you here and that you matter to at least one person - even if that person is yourself. Respect yourself and have patience. My biggest struggle in life is wanting to rush things and get to the finish line - this can be good in terms of achieving your goals, but it also leaves you in constant distress. It’s okay to just be young sometimes, you don’t have to have everything together. (I guess these are like 57 different mantras put together).
Find Thais on Instagram at @thaiskellyy