DaniLeigh: A Star on the Rise

Whether she’s singing a catchy tune, choreographing a cool new dance, or entertaining a live crowd, DaniLeigh’s star quality is undeniable. She’s known from an early age that she wanted to be a household name in the music industry, and from collaborating with some of music’s greatest, to releasing a sensational album of her own, she’s not slowing down anytime soon. I recently sat down to get to know Dani, and within a few minutes, I came to realize just how powerful a force she is—and I’m excited to watch her take the industry by storm!

To start the interview, I wanted to learn more about DaniLeigh’s early life. The multi-talented artist has fond memories of her childhood, and particularly enjoys spending time with loved ones. “They are always so energetic, so its always a party,” she says of her family life.

I also learned that Dani’s early idols in the music industry were big names like Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, and Missy Elliott. “Watching artists like Drake and Rihanna really influenced me,” she says, when asked what inspired her to become a part of the entertainment world. “When I was 18,” she continues, “I knew I wanted to become a household name.”

DaniLeigh grew up like a lot of us, listening to “a wide range of Hip Hop and R&B music,” dreaming of making it big in an industry that can appear oh-so-intimidating from the outside. The only difference? She made it—and she made it big!

As I browsed her Instagram profile, over the weekend, I found a clip where the famed DJ Khaled brings Dani on stage, embraces her, and tells a crowd full of onlookers that she “has something special.”

Clearly, many of her peers in the music business share the sentiment. “I love the fact that they respect me as an artist,” Dani says about her experience working with hit-makers like G-Eazy and Chris Brown. “That was one of my concerns, coming into the game after being a dancer.”

Indeed, DaniLeigh’s foray into the music world was through dancing, and I’m sure the transition from dancer to recording artist has been an interesting one. So that’s where we shift the conversation towards next—the art that began it all for her: dance.

“I started dancing at 10 [years old]. My mom put me in an Indian dance class—that’s where I first learned choreography,” Dani recalls. Her favorite dance trend at the moment is the “Futsal Shuffle,” and when asked her favorite style of dance, she immediately lets “Hip Hop” roll off the tongue.

I then ask Dani about the art of choreographing a scene, and what goes through her mind—to which she replies: “I love to just tell the story of the song being played with my movement.” This sort of artistic storytelling, taking the basic meaning behind the lyrics of a song and expressing them through physical movement, is one of the skills that speaks most to Dani’s love of dance.

And of course, we all have that one person who encourages us to be our very best. For DaniLeigh, it is her choreographer, “Coach Cherry” who pushes her the most as a dancer.

Naturally, my next topic with Dani has to be her music. We’re all eagerly awaiting the release of her album, and she certainly isn’t shy in dropping hints as to its theme and vibe. “This album speaks to my first toxic relationship,” Dani shares, when asked to spill some secrets about the new project. Indeed, a topic that a number of her fans, I’m sure, can relate to. And let’s face it—nothing makes a listener pause and turn the volume up like when the first lyric speaks to them on a deeper level.

“Going through life inspires my music. I tend to talk about what I’m dealing with at the moment,” Dani reveals about her songwriting process. The transparency in her music lends itself to an open dialogue with fans, which is yet another reason she’s so good at what she does.

I thought it was fitting, at this point, to ask her about her early career, what it was like working closely with the legendary Prince, and how he helped shape her into who she is as an artist. In 2013, after making her mark on the industry by directing Prince’s “Breakfast Can Wait” music video, DaniLeigh adopted the icon as her mentor. “Working with Prince was so surreal,” Dani says. “He’s such a visionary—it’s hard to describe his genius. You have to experience it.” And what an experience it must have been, to be able to pick the mind of one of music’s greatest!

When asked about some of her more recent experiences, Dani cites the “Easy” music video set as one of her favorites. “Easy was the most fun, because working with Chris [Brown] was a huge goal I had and the vibe was incredible.” In the video, she and Brown show off their hottest dance moves, in what appears to be a warehouse/studio. The platinum-certified track is also Dani’s career-first Billboard Hot 100 charting single.

One quick scroll through DaniLeigh’s social media, and you start to rack up the number of talented stars she’s worked with. In addition to Chris Brown, Dani lists influential artists, such as “Da Baby and Ty Dolla Sign” as some of her favorite musical collaborations, so far. And with so much talent constantly surrounding her, killing the game was pretty much inevitable. Dani attributes her success in the music industry, to date, to “[her]self, [her] team, and those who have supported [her] on this journey.”

From here, we transition to a more casual tone, as I ask for some “fun facts” about Dani’s style and social media preferences. In 2018, she wen’t viral on social media for her uniquely bubbly take on Drake’s #InMyFeelings challenge—and there’s absolutely no way she could’ve guessed that her video would blow up on Instagram the way it did (all you have to do is search the hashtag to see that her entry has millions of views).

DaniLeigh’s such a huge online influence now, it only makes sense to be curious about her app usage. “I think Tik Tok is super fun,” she says. “I actually used to post on there all the time.”

When I ask how she fits her online world into her life healthily, she replies: “I honestly love to be an influencer because I have a platform to share my personality and creativity. It fits in my life in a healthy way, because I don’t associate it with my personal [life].” As someone with a lot of social media accounts myself, I really appreciated her description. An online life can be used to promote a healthy love for art and self-expression, without interfering with personal affairs. Indeed, it’s important for an artist to have this level of separation, so that they can lead a fulfilling personal life, while still succeeding in their professional career.

I wrapped my social media curiosity up by asking Dani her favorite and least favorite aspects of the social media-heavy world we live in. “I hate how serious people take it,” she says. “I love how it can connect us all in a unique way.”

As an entertainer and influencer, style plays a huge role in your career. I took a moment in this section of our interview to ask DaniLeigh about her personal style, what it means to her, and how she uses it to express herself. In the entertainment industry, a signature look is everything, and Dani says that hers is her “curly blonde hair,” which, I must say, is killer! She described her style in three words: “fly, different, and comfy”—true to her laid-back nature and on-the-go schedule.

When asked what drives her to get up every day and do what she does, Dani replies: “The idea of taking care of my family and finishing my mission.”

I wrapped up our time together by asking DaniLeigh where she sees herself in five years, and how she’s going to get there. Her immediate response is that she “sees [her]self going up and up in success, and that she’ll get there through hard work and dedication.”

Her advice to any young musicians reading this, who want to make it in the industry? “Work hard, create a plan, execute [your] vision, and be a good person.”

That last line is key in getting to know DaniLeigh. You don’t get this far by being selfish—her continued success shows that if you’re a dedicated, hard-working, good person, you can make it as far as your dreams will take you.

DANI’S FAVORITES:
Favorite shoe to dance in: Puma shoes are very comfy. They have been my favorite lately.
Favorite dancewear to rock on the dancefloor: Puma Sweats.
The one accessory you can’t leave her house without: My Rolex.
Favorite current beauty trend: Eyelash extensions and my lip liner.
Favorite way to wind down after a long day: Listen to music and sit in stillness.
Favorite color(s): Black and purple.
Current favorite song: Every song on my album.
Favorite smell: YSL fragrance

Be sure to follow DaniLeigh on Instagram: @iamdanileigh.


PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS:
Photographer: Drake Hackney
Talent: DaniLeigh
Fashion Stylist: Saulú Santana
Makeup Artist: Carly Fisher
Hair Stylist: Jay Nixon


Check out DaniLeigh’s full cover feature in The 8th Anniversary Issue of MOD Magazine.

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