Charm La’Donna is a well-respected choreographer and creative director from Compton, California. La’Donna has worked with notable artists such as Madonna, Kendrick Lamar, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, and many more big pop culture names. This work has allowed La’Donna to expand into other creative endeavors that she is now ready to share with the world as she takes the mic and center stage as a solo artist.
In 2020, La’Donna signed to Epic Records and released two singles, “So & So” and “Westside,” under the label. As she sits on Zoom with me wearing a solid black t-shift, gold bamboo earrings, chains, and a nameplate necklace that reads “Charm,” she breaks down what these tracks mean to her and how they came to be.
“‘So & So’ was the record I wrote because I was definitely feeling some type of way about the dudes and people in my life at the time, trying me.” La’Donna laughs and continues, “it was my confidence booster, and literally every line in ‘So & So’ is accurate; nothing is made up.” The song’s authenticity and how “effortlessly and fast” she recorded are what she notes why it was the first single release.
As for the inspiration behind “Westside,” she says, “[it’s] definitely an ode to my city, to where I’m from; being a Cali native.” The lyrics are also reaffirming her self worth like “So & So.” She adds, “it’s my story; both songs are versions of me and music. You have to give yourself that confidence and power because people try to take your power away from you.”
La’Donna’s writing process varies. Sometimes it’s based on the beat, and other times she writes Acappella and finds the best track to compliment the message she wants to share with the world.
One thing that is important to understand about La’Donna is that she can’t be boxed in creatively.
“I always say that you can’t put me in a box. I feel like that’s like my mantra ... because I am multi-hyphenated. I take pride in being that,” said La’Donna
She understands that no one’s path is the same as the next person. And what has worked for La’Donna is, “dance opened up the door for me to do choreography, which opened up the door for me to be a creative director, which opened up another door for me to do music, which will open up probably another door and me being in acting.”
“Sometimes people will say, ‘you need to focus on one thing, and execute that one thing,’ but it doesn’t take away that I have passion in all of the arts,” said La’Donna.
She noticed her affinity for the arts early on in life, “as young as three years old,” when she started taking dance classes. La’Donna was drawn to music a few years later.
“I was about eight or nine [when I was] introduced to the studio with my brother. I recorded my first song, [Ain’t Little Mama Pretty], when I was like, 10,” said La’Donna. During her formative years up until about 15, she was writing, recording, and at a certain point was in a girl group with her cousins and a close friend. But at age 17, she had the opportunity to tour with Madonna as a dancer. From there, she dove deep into choreography, juggling classes at UCLA, taking 28 units at one point, and learning the ropes of the business. But for La’Donna, she doesn’t consider her dance-filled chapters of life as leaving music. “I never really left music. But considering myself as an artist and putting music out, came back into my life probably like three years ago,” said La’Donna.
It’s all connected for La’Donna. When she’s writing and recording, she sees visuals. “I incorporate, of course, the dance element that comes in with even sometimes how I pick tracks to write to,” said La’Donna. She is very hands-on with her music, using her multi-hyphenated talents such as choreography and creative direction. La’Donna adds, “Even with my song ‘Westside’ that’s out right now, I co-directed and co-choreographed. I was hands-on with [the] styling. I’m hands-on with everything.”
Charm La’Donna knows who she is as an artist and has been developing her sound for some time now. She knows what she wants to represent, what feels good to her, and hopes it will resonate with others. When it comes to defining her sound, La’Donna wants it to be clear she is not a singer. “I’m definitely not calling myself a singer, like Whitney Houston and Beyoncé, are singers, and I just have my tone,” said La’Donna. A tone that’s melodic but allows her to have a hybrid flow of R&B and hip-hop. The first two singles lean into that melodic flow, but she reassures that other times she’s just “spitting and going in,” and we haven’t heard it yet, but it’s coming. She discovered her cadence and flow by “just playing around on the mic.” La’Donna sees it all as a forever growing process.
When asked what producers and artists she would like to work with, she hopes to work with each of the musicians she’s worked with as a choreographer and creative director in the studio. But there are two specific names in music she wants to create with, “[for] artists I’ll always say Kendrick Lamar [and] producers probably, Pharrell.”
La’Donna’s style and fashion sense take center stage with her music. She’s all about being comfortable no matter the occasion. “I’m a cozy girl, and the next moment I want to be cozy in a heel. It really goes off how I feel, what my eye is drawn to naturally. I like what I like; you can’t put me in a box,” said La’Donna.
But she understands no matter how much she doesn’t like being placed in a box, people will still try. For some time, La’Donna didn’t know what was next for her music until being signed to Epic Records.
“I didn’t think I was going to get signed, to be honest, or people would accept me in that light because I’m so highly sought out in this [dance] side of the [industry],” said La’Donna. Ultimately it was a sign for her to keep going and that pursuing a music career was still possible. “I understand that I’m a new artist. So, I still have to go from the ground up [to build] myself in a different career,” said La’Donna.
As far as what’s next on this new musical journey for Charm La’Donna, she just released an animated lyric video for her second single, “Westside.” When asked for more details on what fans can expect from her in 2021, she said:
“Definitely more music from me. Definitely more visuals. There’s some visuals coming that I was fortunate to finish that I’m super excited about. But you’ll see, I’ll give you some insight when it’s closer, but I’m not going to give you everything right now. We’ll have another conversation and follow up,” said La’Donna.