Charm La’Donna wants little Black girls to know that “we are magic”


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Charm La’Donna wants little Black girls to know that “we are magic”

Originally from California, Charm La'Donna is a prominent lyricist, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, and creative director

For COLORS’ collaboration with Motown celebrating Black Music History Month 2022, La’Donna spoke to journalist Sade Spence about becoming one of the most sought after dancers and creative directors of her generation, pouring everything into her craft, and her mission to encourage other young girls to walk through the door that someone else opened for her.

Charm La’Donna is a visionary like no other. An accomplished dancer, choreographer, creative director, and budding lyricist, the multi-hyphenate has worked in various capacities with some of the most accomplished entertainers in the music industry, including Pharell, Anderson Paak, Ella Mai, Jay Rock, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, and Meghan Trainor, to name a few.

According to La’Donna, all of her productions start with looking inward. “It’s always a feeling,” she tells COLORS. These feelings have gone on to create some of pop culture’s most memorable viral performances—think Kendrick Lamar’s 2018 Grammy’s performance—and win awards for infectiously good choreography, such as an MTV VMA award for Best Choreography for Rosalía and J. Balvin’s “Con Altura” music video in 2019.

Originally from Compton, California, La’Donna has always loved writing and performing. Her professional start came at an early age, as she toured with Madonna at 17 before going on to become famed choreographer Fatima Robinson’s protégé. More recently, in 2021, she dropped her debut EP ‘La’Donna’ which featured an array of head-bobbing beats with empowering lyrics. Find out more about her journey in the Q&A below

Sade Spence: You’re known widely for dancing and crafting unique choreography for some of the biggest names in music. What initially attracted you to dance as an art form? 

Charm La’Donna: I have been drawn to dance and the arts for as long as I can remember. I really can’t remember much of a life without dance.

SS: When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in dance?

CL’D: I was always training, but I would say my professional career began when I went on tour with Madonna aged 17.

SS: Since then you’ve worked as a creative director and choreographer for some of the biggest names in music, such as Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell. How do you develop your vision for each artist? Is it based on their music, their persona, or something else? 

CL’D: To be honest it is based on all of those things. When I create, I also draw on my own personal interpretation of those elements you mentioned, such as how I personally embody the music.

SS: What kind of conversations do you have with artists to make sure you bring their vision to life with that special Charm La’Donna flair? 

CL’D: It is important for me to know what the artist wants to feel and what they want their audience to feel. After that, it is all creation. Some artists know exactly what they want, while others leave it up to me and give me input during the process. I love to collaborate and I’m grateful that the artists I work with really trust me and allow me to be myself.

SS: What drives your creative processes? 

CL’D: I’m inspired by a lot of different artists, but most of all it’s the ability to create and have my ideas expressed in the way I intend that drives me.

“I don’t take “no” for an answer. If I do get a no, I go through another door.”

SS: Now, you’re making your own music. Has your time supporting other artists influenced or inspired your approach to your own music career?

CL’D: I have always seen myself as a student. I’m inspired by anyone who puts out art that they’re proud of. Working with a variety of different artists has definitely affected and trained my ear. I don’t think that I have a particular sound or musical style, it’s kind of a hybrid. I just do me. I used to think I could do anything. Now I know for sure.

SS: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt during your career so far?

CL’D: I tend to be hard on myself when I’m creating, so I have learned to give myself grace.

SS: What do you think has been the key to your success to date?

CL’D: I think the keys to my success have been my perseverance, my desire, and God. I go after what I want and I don’t take “no” for an answer. If I do get a no, I go through another door. Hard work is a big part of it. I love what I do, I have such a passion for it. I pour everything into my craft and I know that it will pour everything back into me in return. Networking, having friends, and being a good person are also all very important. No one likes to work with an asshole.

SS: What advice would you give to other multi-hyphenate creatives who aspire to rise to your level of success?

CL’D: You need a team. I started out by myself, but I knew that in order to achieve everything that I wanted I needed other people to help me. Finding that core team and developing it is key. Also, being consistent and very organized is important. Time management is paramount when you are doing and accomplishing so many things. You have to have next level discipline

SS: It is Black Music History Month. What does this mean to you? 

CL’D: I love Black Music History Month. I’m glad that we get to celebrate our contributions to music. I support my people and our art every day, but this month is definitely important to help spotlight our rich musical history.

SS: How do you feel about everything you’ve accomplished so far?

CL’D: When I look back at everything I have accomplished I think: “God, you have blessed me so much.” Sometimes I am still in awe of it all. I used to just complete a project or goal or achievement and move onto the next thing. Now, I’m trying to look back at the fact I have won awards, created viral moments, and been acknowledged, and be grateful for everything I’ve done. I’m also trying to give back to my community: to dancers, artists, and even little girls who look up to me. This—along with the fact that I knew this is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl—gives me a special reason to keep going.

“I pour everything into my craft and I know that it will pour everything back into me in return.”

SS: You mentioned giving back to your community. I’ve read you want to create a non-profit geared towards youth and the arts. 

CL’D: I definitely want to have a non-profit to help young girls who look like me thrive and become whatever it is they want to be. I want to encourage them to walk through the metaphorical door that someone else opened for me, to continue that legacy, and be a light that helps other people on their journey.

I think it is important for little Black girls to know that we are magic: we can do anything and no limits or boundaries will ever stop us. Building my organization is important to me as a Black woman and as a woman who cares about who comes after me. I have not officially started it yet. I am still working on building the right team to assist with this project: it is very dear to me and I want to make sure it is done right. But I am mentoring some young black creatives right now and giving them the tools they need to move forward in the industry. Mentoring, being able to guide and give advice is the ultimate win for me. That is what I love to do.

SS: Outside of your professional success, how has the arts impacted your life on a personal, mental, or physical level? 

CL’D: I always say that I don’t know what I would be doing without art. I’d probably be a lawyer. Honestly, dance and music have saved my life and my mental health. To have an artform that allows me to express myself when words fail me, to create on different bodies around the world, and to learn from so many different people is very special to me. It has allowed me to travel, meet new friends, and explore the world in ways you can’t even imagine. Dance and music have truly given me everything.

Charm La’Donna is a dancer, choreographer, creative director, and lyricist. She has worked with some of the most accomplished entertainers in the music industry including Pharell, Anderson Paak, Ella Mai, Jay Rock, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, and Meghan Trainor, to name a few.

This interview with La’Donna was produced as part of COLORS’ series celebrating Black Music History Month produced in collaboration with Motown Records. Want to find out more about the partnership? Head over to our YouTube channel to watch our special series of A COLORS SHOWS with Motown artists, or read this interview with Jamaica Craft.

Text: Sade Spence


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