life hits a little better when you’re living on the westside. Insert Charm La’Donna, here to put her city of Los Angeles on the map the best way she knows how. Born and raised in Compton, the famed choreographer, songwriter, lyricist, creative director, multi-hyphenated renaissance woman arrives with a true knack for the art of creating—effortlessly inspiring the masses that they too can achieve their wildest dreams without being boxed into any one lane.
What do Selena Gomez’ “Look at Her Now” video (clocking in at over 191 million views and counting since its release October of last year), Dua Lipa’s recent MTV EMA performance, and Kendrick Lamar’s standout 2018 Grammys performance have in common? You guessed it, choreo by Charm. How about the Weeknd’s recent Super Bowl Halftime Performance? I think you get my point. With her mom putting her in dance class at a young age, Charm has always known her love for dance and performing, which soon transitioned into music.
Paving the way for that Black Girl Magic to prevail, the Epic Records signee thrives both in front of and behind the camera—even co-directing her own visuals. Throughout her new album, Westside, Charm unveils layers of herself through sharp bars, street wisdom, and undeniably catchy hooks, while stressing the importance of family, self-love, and resilience of girls in the hood across the nation.
Flaunt caught up with Charm in downtown Los Angeles moments before a video shoot, where she was already talking about the next release. There, we discussed her brother’s influence, the making of Westside, friendship with Kendrick Lamar, studio essentials, goals, and more!
Being from Compton, what was the household like growing up?
It’s crazy, because I grew up all over LA. With friends being from everywhere, it was cool. It’s my life, it’s nothing bad. Growing up with my friends and family inspires my music and who I am today.
Biggest influences coming up?
My brother was in a music group—he raised me. He’s who started me in this whole music thing. He was a writer and would take me to the studio with him after picking me up from school, if I didn’t have dance class. He influenced my love for music and writing.
How far apart are you guys?
He’s a few years older. He’s super proud now.
You danced for Madonna at age 17—were you nervous?
It was crazy. I trained my whole life in the arts, so to finally have that opportunity was amazing. That’s my first big big gig. It opened the doors for a lot of things.
Westside is out now! Bring us back to when you created this record.
I created Westside with these amazing Black women producers, NOVA WAV. We recorded it this year. When we’re in the studio cutting it, I knew it was my anthem. I’m heavily influenced by where I’m from and where I grew up. This particular song—I wanted to be proud of that. That’s what the song represents for me.
Where did you shoot the title track visual?
Because of Covid, restrictions have been crazy. We shot the video at a good friend of mine’s street in LA. Everybody in the video is either friends or family: I called my homies, my cousins, the cars you see, the bikes, even to my glam team. They’re all my best friends, people I’ve known for years. With Covid, I had to be very strategic with keeping it small and keeping it very safe. We shot it on one block where my friend lived, because we could use his house. Seeing all the people I’d grown up with there, helping support me, and making the magic happen—that video wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my friends and family. I co-directed it with an amazing director: Emil Nava.
What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?
Oh my God, Black Girl Magic is just it. It’s who you are, it’s who we are. It’s empowering. It’s that extra sauce that we have.
Being from the Westside, what does it mean to work with someone like Kendrick Lamar?
It’s beyond surreal. It’s amazing, something you can only dream about. Him being such an amazing artist, who he is, and what he is to the world, let alone Compton, I couldn’t even have dreamed of a better experience.
How did it happen?
To be honest, me being on the road with him was his idea. I’d known him for years, I’ve choreographed for him.
How was it seeing him perform at the Grammys and being a part of that?
I was on stage going crazy in my head. I was on a high feeling that I got to choreograph something and perform it. That’s the pivotal moment where I realized I could do choreography, still creative direct, and still be a performer as well.
How is it being able to do music and dance as both part of your artistry?
It’s special, they go hand in hand for me. Dance is a way to express myself with the body, and music is a way to express myself with words. Put them together, and it’s the ultimate art of expression.
The things you need in the studio?
The heater on. Food and snacks. [laughs] I like the studio chill—it’s me and the engineer. I’m not with a lot of people in the studio; this is pre-Covid.
What snacks do you like?
I like dried mangos, Hot Cheetos, so bad. I love my Mentos, the fruity Mentos though. I like the red ones, the strawberry!
Being the go-to choreographer for Selena Gomez, Meghan Trainor, Dua Lipa and Kendrick Lamar, what are your fondest memories?
Out of all those artists you named, my favorite memories is actually becoming friends with them. It made collaborating special. They’re all amazing artists, but what’s really more special is that I’ve gotten the ability to know them, and grow to be true, honest friends, and they support me as well.
Highlight working on Selena Gomez’ “Look At Her Now” video? Crazy it was shot on the iPhone.
We shot it on a bunch of iPhones, a million iPhones everywhere. Because the phones were everywhere, you were always on. Phones everywhere meant for me, for us, every second had to be choreographed. Every turn, every look, everything from top to bottom of the song. It was cool.
What do you feel in front of the camera?
I feel at home in front of the camera. You know when you work very hard on something, and you’re able to show what you’re working on? It’s that dedication, that will, and that want to do something, and then be able to show the world, it’s special. Even when I was younger, if I choreographed something or performed in my room, I’d come out like, ‘Here I am!’ It’s the ability to show what you worked on, and my hope is to inspire people.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
Inspiration, the want and the will to know you can do any and everything. I always tell my friends there’s no limits or boundaries. There’s no reason I can’t creative direct and choreograph for an amazing artist, and be a musician and artist myself.
Do you have any goals?
My goal’s really to put out great music and keep creating. Honestly for 2021, I want to be consistent with myself and not hypercritical. Because I’m a perfectionist. Small goal for myself is to be authentically me and do what I want to do.
What’s the reality with rehearsals and practice for the choreo?
I’m a viber, so I go off the music. I go off the people in the space. With Covid, it’s difficult because we can’t get as close. We can’t have many people around. Now I’m almost being forced to create before I get into the space to save time. That process is really off the music, even my own music. Choreographing to Westside was surreal for me, because it was all about me and my art.
I see you serving looks in the video—how do you describe your fashion sense?
My fashion is inspired by things I like, culture, and my stylist Allison who’s amazing. You’re always getting a hint of LA in there—as you can see I wore Chuck’s today. You’ll definitely get that.
What can we expect next?
More music, more visuals, me directing. Creating and performing.
Photographed by Nolwen Cifuentes
Styled by Tiffani Moreno
Hair: Ray Christoper
Photo Assistants: Tutu Lee and Brian Kendall
Cinematographer: Samuel Diaz