This is a guest editorial by Charm La’Donna, a veteran creative director and choreographer extraordinaire who recently signed a recording contract with Epic Records. Charm opens up about her path to becoming a solo artist.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been a student of the arts. There have been so many valuable lessons I have learned on my journey as a creative director and choreographer over the years. My experience has introduced me to all facets of performance, from staging to lighting to production components, etc.
Beyond the technical side, I’ve learned to adapt to unpredictable circumstances and move through situations gracefully, without compromising a quality outcome. I’m a constant observer. I recognize the resilience it takes to be successful as I watch these artists run from studios to interviews to photo sessions and end the day with long hours of rehearsal with me. I believe I’m better prepared for this next phase of my career as a solo artist because I have experienced the rewards and challenges of the entertainment industry from every angle.
I have been fortunate to have been able to work with some of the most influential entertainers of this generation, like Kendrick Lamar, Britney Spears, Meghan Trainor, Selena Gomez, ROSALÍA, Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, The Weeknd, and 6LACK. Working with artists that have different sounds and styles has exercised and strengthened the versatility in my work. I try to reflect this versatility in my own music.
Making music is about so much more than what people hear on the radio. The finished product is what so many people emphasize and focus on, but I have always been more interested in the journey and understanding the “why” behind it all. Making music takes both courage and vulnerability, and that is what I respect most about all my artists with whom I work.
Being open about relationships and my personal experiences is new to me, and it has taken me a long time to be okay with being openly vulnerable. But finally releasing my music exposes a more intimate side of me, which I am now ready to share, and I feel good about it. Being surrounded by artists who have opened themselves up to the world and allowed strangers into their hearts and minds is inspiring.
One of my favorite performances was Kendrick Lamar’s 2018 GRAMMY performance. I was responsible for choreographing 50 dancers and contributing creatively to an impactful performance. To top it off, Kendrick insisted I join him on stage. That moment pulled me out of my comfort zone and showed me I could do the behind-the-scenes work and still perform. I realized I was putting myself in a box and creating my limits because I thought it would be too much or too complicated. I now accept that there are no boundaries for myself.
This performance was meaningful not only because of the powerful message Kendrick was sharing with the world but also because it affirmed a powerful message to me: I can be myself, all of myself, at once.
Music is the core of my entire career. It fuels my soul and inspires my daily work and creativity. I pull from the love and the pain of life to create my music, the same way I do to create movement for my choreography. Only now, with my lyrics, I’m presenting myself in a language more people can better interpret. From love, relationships, and self-acceptance, to the hardships and glories of growing up in Compton, to being a college student while juggling a flourishing career in entertainment, I’ve had all kinds of experiences in my life. The highs and lows made me feel like no one could understand me at times. That’s why music is so important. It’s a universal language that allows people to connect. When I share my story, I know so many people will be able to relate in one way or another.
One of my favorite aspects of my career thus far has been the personal connections that have come from working so closely with all of my artists. I am fortunate that the artists I collaborate with are as equally amazing people as they are entertainers. While they are learning the art of performance from me, I am learning persistence and patience from them simultaneously. I have a front-row seat to the life of an artist, and each stage of development teaches a valuable lesson.
No one can define the process, and no two processes are the same. So I won’t set expectations on what my process will look like. To me, that is where the magic lies and why the relationships are so special. The connection is more profound than just an exchange of choreography. The support we have maintained for one another over the years is undeniable, so it means the world to me to receive their support on this new journey of mine. Despite the effects of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, my artist friends have supported me by contributing self-tapes for my lyric video, reposting my debut single, and expressing constant encouragement and excitement for my music.
Over the years, working with so many different camps, I have learned the importance of a team. Surrounding yourself with good people is probably the most important thing you can do in this industry. For years, I did most of the work by myself. It’s fun for me to build my team now with people who I love and respect. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together. The only thing I can hope for is to make everyone who loves and supports me proud.
I am excited about this new journey because I am always searching for new ways to grow and improve. This industry moves quickly, and you have to stay at least three steps ahead to make a real impact. I will never stop being a student and using the knowledge I acquire to push boundaries. I’m excited to finally be able to apply my creativity and strengths to my vision and performance career. I’ve learned the importance of hard work and believing in yourself, and that what is meant for you will always find you if you trust yourself and your journey.
To the outside world, it may look like this career shift “came out of nowhere,” but I worked tirelessly for many years to get to where I am today. When I look back on my journey, I realize each experience is adding up. As quiet as it’s been kept, I’ve been writing and recording music for years.
I’ve been making music since I was a kid, but I always kept it between myself and my closest friends. I’ve been diligent and patient. Greatness doesn’t happen overnight, and this drive inside me is the force behind all of my work. As things are unfolding, I am deeply appreciative because I know what it took to get here—I know all the artists I work with can relate. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to share this other part of my life publicly. This is the ultimate dream come true. I hope my journey can inspire people into believing they, too, can make their dreams into a reality.