Beyond This Point with DaniLeigh: Pivoting, the impact of social media, and practicing digital citizenship
It’s the Summer of 2018. Drake’s “In My Feelings” is charting. And a viral dance challenge (#InMyFeelingsChallenge #dotheshiggy) for the song lasts weeks on end, becoming one of the most trending video content to exist. One of them, particularly, was so memorable it became a launch point for a music career. In the video, DaniLeigh is sitting in her car listening to the song. As the chorus begins, she opens the car door and does the dance line-by-line…while the car is still in drive. Almost 10 million views on Instagram for the stunt and with comments still being made today, DaniLeigh is still known for this challenge. But more than a year later, she’s catapulted her dance virality into a growing music career — a journey and growth you can all follow on her Instagram.
It’s important to mention that as an audience, we only see the highlights. We’re only exposed to the stream of content chosen and curated by our heroes, brands, and influencers on social media. What we fail to see is that every path is different. Everyone’s timeline fits according to the experiences they’re ready for. Every person’s First 10% is uniquely designed by someone’s background, upbringing, and personal pursuit of their strengths and dedication towards their passion. The beautiful roadmap between connecting a career that matches your lifestyle to where that takes you can be described as either two points: your big break and the breaking point. Both may have the word “break,” but when these breaks happen you have to learn how to pivot.
For DaniLeigh, her pivot was an acceleration driven by the digital age. She’s used social media along to bask in her love for performance. A natural entertainer, she started dancing at the age of 12 years old and releasing YouTube covers at 14 years old. While social media could never capture it, the entertainment life accelerates the pace and growth of a child star. School becomes a roadblock instead of a resource for growth. Dani finished her GED when she was 16 years old so she can be legally be considered as an adult and a chance for more opportunities. And she’s used dance as a channel of preparation for what’s to come. And so when the chance came, she didn’t hesitate for a chance to step into being a music artist. Her pivot was a straight dive into her career. Social media became a vehicle to this next step, and she’s used it ever since to fuel her drive and document every step of the process. How would you use social media if you found yourself famous overnight?
Charlie Kane of FYG: When you got signed [by Def Jam], you were about to go on tour for dancing. What made you decide to leave one part behind and move forward with singing?
Dani: Okay, so at the time I was literally about to go on tour. I started randomly getting reached out to by labels. So to me, I always look at things as signs from God. So I was like, “Alright, this must mean something. I’m really trying to put my music out there.” I was putting out singles and I was putting out videos, but it really wasn’t doing what I wanted. So I was like “Yo, no one’s taking me seriously as an artist. I need to just focus on that. Focus on one thing.” And I was like, I got this opportunity on the table — Def Jam wants to sign me, so I can’t go on tour Meghan Trainor.
FYG: Were you always trying to become a music artist, or were you using dancing as a platform?
Dani: No, I always wanted to sing. I didn’t know I could turn it into a career and really make money. I wasn’t really thinking about it — I just love to sing. I love to do music. And I love to dance. I was making money [dancing], so it was more so about finding my path — it eventually led to me becoming a musician.
FYG: How do you feel like you found your path?
Dani: Just by the alignment. Just by the moves that happened and the blessings that came towards my way, you know? I would say, signing to Def Jam was a blessing for me and that’s what really helped me to sit down and be like, “Alright. ALL music. Let’s get it.”
FYG: Can I ask if you ever took college or any type of education that helped you in your career?
Dani: Man… no. [Laughs]. It’s funny, I actually went to high school until the 9th grade. Moved to L.A. when I was sixteen. Tried homeschooling, then I was almost a Fly Girl in Living Color when they were bringing it back. But I was sixteen and they were like, “You’re too young.” So I was like, “I’m going to go get my GED and become legal 18.” I got my GED, and they ended up not picking up the show. And I was like, “I’m just gonna focus on music.” And then yea, forgot about school.
FYG: For what you want to do, do you feel like lessons in voice or business education are more important or is networking more important?
Dani: Yea, I would say so. I mean it’s definitely smart to be smart with your business. You know what I’m saying? Because that’s where you can get really messed over on. So being knowledgeable about that as an artist is important. But perfecting your craft is definitely important, too. I do take singing lessons, here and there. It’s all about training — whatever you want to excel at. And if you want to be a business-woman, make sure you know your business.
FYG: You got really big and viral through your dances. Can you talk about digital citizenship these days? How do you encourage kids to promote their content and talent, but also be conscious and respectful of one another?
Dani: I mean, it’s definitely important nowadays. Everything is social, I would say. Everything is social media. Everybody’s on their phone everyday looking at Instagram, you know? So it’s definitely a way of breaking through. I would say the Kiki Challenge made me go up all the way. And it gave me the opportunity for the world to see me. That was my chance and that’s when I dropped “Lil Bebe,” so I was smart with it. As long as you’re smart with it and kind, you know what I’m saying? I think everything should be done with love, nowadays. I don’t see people hating and winning. It’s just a negative space. Why would you want to be in a negative space?
FYG: Do you have tips for people who are undergoing any trolling?
Dani: Don’t pay attention. But, at least people are trolling on you. At least you got people looking at you. At the least, be grateful for that. So always look at the positive when something’s the negative. Reframe it — like, “Hey, I got people trolling on me, which means I got people looking at me.” That’s how I see it.
FYG: Since you were so young entering the industry and still up and coming, what are your tips for someone who is under 18 and starting to take off? What are your tips for just knowing the business aspect?
Dani: Being young, make sure you just got people you know and trust around because this game can really take advantage of a young person not knowing because they’re gullible and excite. you know what I’m saying? So definitely take your time when it comes to contracts or anything like that. At least you’ll be under the age of 18, so it doesn’t count that much and you can get out of it. But definitely take your time and just have people you trust around you.