[INTERVIEW] Choreographer Turned Musician Charm La’Donna Details What It Takes To Master It All

Charm La'Donna

Some people are simply a Jack (or Jane) of all trades, but Charm La’Donna is mastering it all! From back-up dancing for Madonna at seventeen to choreographing The Weeknd’s 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show, she has established herself as a force to be reckoned with!

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Mentored by world-renowned choreographer Fatima Robinson, Charm has been the creative director for music stars such as Dua Lipa, Rosalia, and Meghan Trainor. Fans may also be familiar with her work from Kendrick Lamar’s incredible GRAMMY performance!

The multi-talented artist is now venturing into the music scene as a rapper, singer, and songwriter (amongst many other titles!). Signed to Epic Records, Charm has just released her new EP, La’Donna, an album borne from her experiences growing up in Compton, CA.

She recently sat down with us to discuss her career and new music. Check out our interview below!

Parlé Mag: Thank you for joining us! I’m so curious about how you got into choreography and now music. Give me a quick recap.  What’s your story? How did you get into dance?
Charm La’Donna: How did I get into dance? I started dancing and performing at a very young age. I knew I loved the arts! I knew I loved to perform since my mom, when I was about three or four years old, she put me in dance class. And from then, the love for music and musical theater kind of grew. I went from dancing to choreographing very young; but I didn’t know I was actually choreographing. I just knew I liked to put steps together, I knew I liked to make up my own moves in dance. So it kind of transitioned into a career. I went on my first tour when I was like 17 years old, as a dancer. Then when I got back, I did college and I was going to really work on my choreography skills. That was one of my majors—choreography, arts, and culture. 

I became an assistant to a big choreographer and director, who’s still my mentor to this day; and I started choreographing and dancing for a lot of artists. And it just blossomed! Simultaneously [I was] doing music, but music was never my forefront. I kind of put it on the back and I was just doing it for me and my friends. I’d make songs with my friends and call it a day; and then recently in the past two years I’ve just been like, ‘Yo, I wanna put my music out’ and then here we are here and I’m with you! Choreographing my own music videos now!

Parlé Mag: Nice! So, you went on your first tour at 17—how did you get to that point? There’s plenty of girls in dance schools across the country; how did you end up on tour at 17?
Charm La’Donna: I will say that I am blessed and highly favored. It was nothing that was planned. Like I said, I’d been working my whole life—you know dancing, in classes, working on music. And I feel like it was just my timing. I auditioned, and I had never really auditioned for anything. I auditioned for this particular tour and I got it! So it [was] literally life-changing overnight. I remember being in AP History class and the next day I’m in rehearsal. So, it’s kind of crazy!

Charm La'Donna 2021Parlé Mag: What was that moment like for you when you found out you were gonna be joining this tour and you’re like ‘Whoa, my seventeen year-old life may change’?!
Charm La’Donna: Um, you know it’s crazy because… I dedicated a lot of my time—you know, like athletes and other dancers and people who have passions when they’re kids. You dedicate so much time to what you love, and I dedicated so much time to what I loved. So when that happened for me it was more so like, ‘What?! Me?!” I got to travel the world when I was seventeen and I ain’t really left Compton! (laughs) So it was crazy; it was surreal and a testament to hard work. 

My mom always told me that when it’s your time, it’s your time. And it was my time.

Parlé Mag: And now you’re on the music side! You said earlier you worked with your friends in the past and did little things here and there. So, were you always interested in performing as a musical artist or was it a hidden talent you just wanted to explore?
Charm La’Donna: You know, I always wanted to perform! I’ve always wanted to do my own music; I’ve always loved being on stage. What re-sparked it for me was when I did the 2018 Grammys with Kendrick. I was on stage with him and I choreographed that and I got to be on stage and dance it, and just the energy I felt. I was like, ‘Oh yeah! This is definitely where I’m supposed to be! I can do it all.’ And that’s what rekindled that idea. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, though; I just always put it to the back burner. It was always just a hidden gem back there; and then like I said, the past two years it’s kinda been something I’ve been really pushing myself to do. And believing in myself how I believe in so many of my other friends and artists. 

Kendrick Lamars Full Performance Grammys 2018

Parlé Mag: Has it been challenging to get people to see you as not just a choreographer, but something more? To see you as a multi-talented artist?
Charm La’Donna: Well that’s a great question! I feel like it’s always challenging to get people to see what they don’t want to see. So, my job isn’t to convince anybody. My job is to just continue to do me—because I am that! I don’t have to convince anybody of that. God has given me gifts to be that. So, I get love, I get support; and for those who don’t, they’ll jump on the bandwagon when they need to! You know how it goes, (laughs)! But I just think that if you know me and you’re around me, you know that I love and I do many things. Even as a child, I didn’t think to put myself in a box or say ‘I can only do this or that’. I’ve never been that person. So, I assume people just take me as I am! 

Charm La'Donna feature 2021
Parlé Mag:
That’s good! I feel like that’s so inspiring because during the pandemic, a lot of things changed for people. People lost their livelihood; so how were you able to adapt and pivot during the pandemic?
Charm La’Donna: That’s also a great question. You’ve got ‘em! When the pandemic first started is when I started putting out music. I think I put out my first record May 14th, 2020—the pandemic started in March. So [in] May I put out a record. That was me pushing myself to believe in myself in a time where I could’ve just said ‘Fuck this! So much is going on in the world’.

But I felt like the space I was in, I was ready, no matter what. People can say, ‘Hey that’s bad timing; you’re a new artist. Why would you start pushing music out now’ And I was just like, it felt right for me. And continuing to create is what I love and being able to create in that time is what got me through. 

That for me, was a stepping stone and a push for me to continue on and continue to create, continue to inspire and inspire myself and my friends. It’s so crazy! When I was dropping songs, I was getting so much love for my friends and they were just so excited that they even started pursuing different things. My friend started doing hair—she’s never done hair in her life and all of a sudden, now she’s doing hair! So it was definitely challenging for so many people and I think it’s also not reinvention, but a way to rethink things. 

Parlé Mag: Yeah! I feel like you had a choice. Everyone had a choice like you had a choice—you could either sit in despair or you could tap into those things that you’ve put on the back burner.
Charm La’Donna: Yeah! And I always say whatever your heart desires, because some people react and respond to things differently and some people handle things differently. So if it’s for the person to be still, then that person be still but for me it was to create, to continue to create.

We definitely were still though! (laughs) But, I had so many ideas and I didn’t want to be stuck in my own mental space. That make sense? So putting out my music, creating my visuals, getting my friends involved- it was just peace for me! 

Parlé Mag: Nice! So let’s go ahead and talk about your EP, La’Donna. What can we expect? What was your inspiration going into it?
Charm La’Donna: La’Donna is out! It’s seven songs, of course that are all dear to me. La’Donna is literally a representation of who I am. I named it La’Donna because it is me! It’s rap, we’ve got melodies on there. I’m talking about my stories, stories of my friends. For me, all empowering. All empowering music. I think it’s uplifting, I think it’s recovery music, I think it’s different- but it’s definitely true to me and where I’m from! I’m a Cali girl, L.A. native, Compton born and raised. You see how I just light up talking about it! 

Parlé Mag: Clearly, this is your thing!
Charm La’Donna: It’s so special! For me to put it out and even be talking about it right now, I’m just grateful. 

Parlé Mag: I was watching the videos and they have a very particular aesthetic; were you part of that process? Were you just working as a team and that’s what you came up with?
Charm La’Donna: I co-directed all the videos that you’ve seen. I did the treatments for all the videos that you’ve seen. It definitely starts with an idea. And like I said I’m fortunate to have amazing friends that are already in the industry, and we literally pooled to pull this together and I told them my idea and they just literally ran with it.

And that’s why I feel like the videos are so cohesive because they all stem from the core of where I’m from, and representation in my music and there was heavy involvement from friends and family. Every video you see, there’s friends and family in there helping me in some kind of way! (laughs) I shot “Palm Trees” at my auntie’s house; I shot “Westside” at the homie’s house. 

Parlé Mag: That’s the benefit of being in a place like L.A. You have great weather, and there’s always people that can shoot. You have access to all these things that people in other parts of the country don’t have, so that’s a blessing!
Charm La’Donna: Yeah. It was definitely hard though! It was hard to shoot those visuals because we did it during COVID. But it came [together] and I’m so grateful for everything and everybody! 

Parlé Mag: Love it! Well, now that the country is slowly but surely reopening, do you have any plans to perform? Maybe go on tour?
Charm La’Donna: Yeah! I’d love to perform and get out in the sun with the palm trees safely. But that’s the goal! The goal for me is like I said, that little girl who wanted to perform, who wanted to be on stage. And I think it’s gonna be epic once we get there! 

Parlé Mag: I think we’re getting close! Hopefully soon. 

But, I won’t keep you for too much longer. What has been the most surprising thing about your journey as an artist?
Charm La’Donna: The most surprising thing? Hmmm…. You know, I think it’s as simple as that I keep learning. Everyday I’m learning as a new artist, releasing my own music and even still working in my other fields. I’m continuing to learn and grow, and slowly but surely I’m receiving the love and support. So sometimes I’m surprised—I’ll be at random places, doing another job and someone will go, ‘Hey! I heard La’Donna and that shit’s hard!’ And I’m like, ‘What?!’ Ha ha! It’s those little moments that surprise me and just gives me the energy to keep going. 

Parlé Mag: So La’Donna is out now; is there anything else we should keep an eye out for?
Charm La’Donna: It could be a remix coming of some songs on La’Donna! Keep your eyes out for that. More visuals. New music. All of that stuff. 

Photo credit: Rolexx

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