Aliya Janell is starting a dance empire after being discovered on Instagram
A few minutes before I was scheduled to talk to Aliya Janell, a professional dancer, and owner of Queens Nâ€™ Lettos, I made sure to put on a cute onesie, cutoff shorts, and heels.
It was a busy Monday evening spent catching up on computer work. I wanted to get in the mood and sort of step into the shoes of a woman who is self-made. Little did I know Aliya confessed over the phone that she was wearing quite the opposite of what I was wearing on her day off from teaching class.
â€œMy hair is in a high bun,” she said. “I have on sunnies, baggy sweats, and a t-shirt. Itâ€™s one of those days I just donâ€™t want to be seen.”
The 22-year-old Los Angeles based bombshell choreographs the dopest dance moves in heels. Her talents have landed her front and center roles in multiple music videos, including Chris Brownâ€™s “Questions” video, released just last month. She was cast due to her seductively cheeky Instagram videos and told to show up at 4 p.m. and just dance.
When sheâ€™s not dancing for celebrities, Aliya is running a successful business called Queens Nâ€™ Lettos that she started just five months ago. To say, sheâ€™s got grit and ambition is an understatement. Sheâ€™s busy and booked.
Every week the Dancer In Charge attracts thousands of viewers on her Instagram Live stories and dozens of non-dancers to attend her classes in Los Angele,s which feature sexy floor routines to the hottest songs on the digital charts right now.
In her first interview, Aliya Janell chats about her mottos, her clients and reaching her dream the moment she started to be herself. Go inside our conversation.
What was your first official gig as a professional dancer?
My first ever job was with rapper K. Michelle of “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.” A few years ago, K. Michelle was invited to perform at the BET Awards, and the choreographer who was scouting for the performance knew about me. So she went ahead and booked me, and that was the first time on an official tour. From then on,Â I was on the road for two months. I was living on a bus.
Then I started doing spot dates with K. Michelle & Yaz the Greatest which is what I like best. (Spot dates are just pre- scheduled bookings for a day at a time and donâ€™t require the talent to be away from weeks.)Â Touring is a whole mental experience as well as a physical one on your body.
At what age did you start dancing?
Iâ€™ve been dancing ever since I remember. I started maybe around 5 or 7. It came naturally for me. Professionally, Iâ€™ve only been dancing for like three years.
You have an unusual technique and style. How did you learn your technique?
Technique is non-existent in my book. There are different paths in dance. Growing up, I was just put straight into hip hop classes. I went to Millennium Dance Complex,Â which is like the IT dance class in Hollywood.
Â How did Queens Nâ€™ Lettoâ€™s Start?
Queens Nâ€™ Lettos is like my freakin baby. I knew it was met to have something else on my own after dancing and being behind someone and in someoneâ€™s shadow for two years. It was the first day of 2017 when something just clicked. I needed to have my class.
At that point, I taught classes before, so I knew what I needed: the space and a body of choreography. So I rented a studio space, and then I put it on blast on my social media and whoever comes, comes and whoever doesnâ€™t think so what. Let me just unleash my passion. We have three times a week, and at least 40 to 50 girls show up.
What did you learn from this risk?
I realized that people like me for me. For my first class, I had a great turnout of 20 people, and they kept coming back even though the class is held in different spaces around Los Angeles. I didnâ€™t have a plan. If youâ€™re passionate about it, it will be. As I post these videos on social media, my following gets bigger and bigger each week and that means so much to me.
What is your teaching style?
Sound effects are a must. Itâ€™s the way I connect with the movement. Thatâ€™s where technique comes into play. I didnâ€™t thrive off of 8-counts. I just couldnâ€™t feel anything.
What business skills have you gained from this process?
Iâ€™ve always been a people person. I feel like I needed to relate to other people to get other people to my class. Queens Nâ€™ Lettos attracts non-dancers more than traditional dancers. Relating to my clients is my number one business skill. I also feel like I have learned how to make smarter decisions. Like,Â how will I reel new people in and keep them coming back again and again? I am going to open up a dance studio. Thatâ€™s the next step! I will be teaching a class in New York City later this month too! Iâ€™ve never been to New York City! I am so excited!
What is your favorite brand of heels to wear while dancing?
Thereâ€™s no particular designer. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ll be the first! Iâ€™ll freaking go to Aldo or Steve Madden. I tell my clients just to start trying on shoes. If you feel secure in them, then youâ€™re Gucci. I wear booties. You just need your toes to be secure like with a peep toe heel and something that will surround your ankles!
Thereâ€™s a stripper store that everyone goes to in LA. Iâ€™m not talking about buying eight-inch heels to wear dancing, but they have heels that are three to five inches that are great because those types of dancers have to be able to move in heels too!
What shoes should we stay away from if weâ€™re talking a class via Live Stories?
Do not dance wearing wedges. Donâ€™t wear heels that youâ€™d wear to the club. You have to have a separate heel. No strappy heels or shoes with trinkets because they are not a dance heel. You donâ€™t want it to be too fancy because weâ€™re all over the floor.
Is this career rewarding?
Yes. Absolutely. The fact that someone can come into a professional dance class and kill it is awesome. The fact that I have more substance in my career and that my class speaks to more people outside of the dance world than industry people means a lot. The fact that it can reach out to many circles is the most rewarding part. This girl who took my class because she just got out of a six-year relationship and my class was therapy for her.
What are your mottos?
What keeps me going is my Queens Nâ€™ Lettos is the followers that have been supporting me since day 1. I started my class out of nothing because I wanted to teach one day and these queens kept coming back. They make me not want to slack off.
What is your favorite move?
The pussy pop.
How do you prepare people for your class? Especially those who donâ€™t do this style of dance on the regular?
I apologize so well in advance. The way that I teach I try to make it as personable as possible. I always asked questions like, â€œHow would you do this if your man was watching you?â€ [laughs] I try to put my clients in a different environment. Iâ€™ll explain sex. Iâ€™ll cuss my life away, so you donâ€™t have to be scared to squeeze your boobs. I want the people who come to my class to feel comfortable.
Sooo much travelling to different cities and countries. I want a dance studio more than dancing on stage with Beyonce. I also have a TV show coming soon.