Yo Gotti and Nicki Minaj’s paper-chasing anthem “Rake It Up” is one of summer ’17’s hottest smashes. Before the frequent collaborators dropped the video (complete with pink rakes and a street race between Minaj and close pal, Blac Chyna), 23-year-old dancer Charli Smith dominated social media (including her sweat.’s very own Twitter) with a show-stealing routine to the hip-hop hit.
Many viewers took to their timelines to shout out Smith and her two companions in the videos, applauding her seemingly confident demeanor, badass moves and voluptuous curves. her sweat. had to track down Smith via e-mail and get the tea on the San Jose, Calif. native’s dancing career and how she rakes up her self-esteem.
How did you get your start in dancing? At what point did you consider making it a career?
I started dancing when I was four years old with Nena Dean Dancers [School of Dance] and we performed all over the Bay Area at malls, theme parks and rec centers. It was so much fun! Shortly after that, I went into pageants. I did pageants for about 10 years and I sang and danced at that time, too. When I was eight years old, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue the performing arts, specifically acting. To be honest, I hated dancing when I was younger. I was a super shy kid and never wanted my mother to leave my side! She literally would walk on stage with me while I performed during pageants.
I didn’t take dance seriously until I entered high school when I made the Varsity dance team the end of my freshman year. When I graduated high school, I went to a small private college in Arizona and completely stopped dancing. I lost motivation and was really out of shape. A year passed and I ended up moving back home in Los Angeles and got back on track. Another year had gone by and I found myself unhappy with the way my dance career was taking me, so I decided to take up teaching more full time. To say the least, I fell in love with it.
I still book dance gigs on the side but majority of my time is spent teaching and training the younger generation. I currently teach multiple class at Elite Dance and Performing Arts Center and I’m on their competition staff. I am also the head Hip Hop coach for Calabasas High School.
Who is the ultimate dancing queen to you?
My mentors are Chloe and Maud Arnold. They are the directors of Syncopated Ladies, an all-female tap group. They’re totally awesome, beautiful and inspiring. They’re like my older sisters.
Describe where you were when you did the “Rake It Up” dance. A lot of dance videos have been pumping out of that studio on social media.
I was taking choreographer Brooklyn Jai’s class at Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles. That actually was my first dance class back since March. Slowly, I’m starting to take a few classes a week so that is exciting for me!
*EXPLICIT* Glad to be back in @thebrooklynjai class again 😏 “Rake it up” @nickiminaj @yogottikom Choreo : @thebrooklynjai @chalayymichele @cassidygempler To the right @domonique._zen_ to the left 👑👑#prettybrowndancers #plussizedancer #rakeitupchallenge #rakeitup #dancer #nickiminaj #hiphop
A post shared by Charli Smith 👑♒️ (@chalayymichele) on
How does the song “Rake It Up” make you feel? Has Yo Gotti or Nicki Minaj shouted you out?
I LOVE “Rake It Up.” I feel like it’s my summer anthem! Every time I go out dancing with my best friend, Laylee, we always turn up to that song. I hope Nicki Minaj notices the video. I’d die! Fingers crossed.
What is the quickest way you give yourself a confidence boost?
The quickest way I give myself a confidence boost is by talking to my students. I love hearing my students tell me they love taking my classes or when they post videos of them doing my choreography. It makes me feel like all the work I’m putting in is for something. And it pushes me to never stop because I know that I have my dance kids watching what I do. I strive to do my absolute best for them.
Women may be shy to flaunt their moves on the dance floor but you had no problem showing out! Do you credit that to your self-esteem too?
Hands down, I give my self esteem credit to my mom. She, for sure, has built my thick skin and constantly reminds my sister Na’Kia and I to keep our heads up and let the haters hate!
What are your current goals?
My current goal right now is to teach and travel! I recently was asked to teach a couple master classes across the States, so I started a GoFundMe in hopes of covering some of my costs. I also hope to be able to start my own program to teach dance to students with special needs in the future. I am currently certified to teach special education in pre-school and kindergarten, so I’m hoping to apply it with dance.
Charliene Michele teaches hip-hop dance classes for all levels, ages 7-16 and a beginning adult hip-hop class at The Elite Dance and Performing Arts Center in Woodland Hills. You can find any pop-up classes will on her Instagram @chalayymichele or Facebook page, Charli Michelé Choreographer.