As a high-school drop-out hailing from Manurewa, New Zealand, becoming a wildly successful choreographer for mainstream music’s biggest names didn’t top the list of likely career paths for 15-year-old Parris Goebel. Yet despite the dearth of dance schools, geographical limitations, and her lack of formal training, Goebel was able to carve out an unconventional path to dance stardom, becoming a fully-fledged, self-taught dancer and choreographer while still in her teens. The founding member and head choreographer of award winning hip-hop dance crew The Royal Family, the 26-year-olds’ impact on the dance community and popular culture at large cannot be underestimated, and you don’t have to look far to see how influential her distinctive brand of dance, now a mainstay of music videos, has become. Never one to rest on her laurels, in the last few years she’s collaborated with everyone from Rihanna to Janet Jackson, released her own EP Vicious, directed, produced, choreographed and starred in every music video for Justin Bieber’s 2015 album Purpose, and recently released her autobiography Young Queen. Now based in LA, we caught up with Parris to hear what she’s been up to lately, how she works to empower women through her work, and why you should always back yourself the hardest.
Hi Parris! Where in the world are you at the moment, and what have you been up to lately?
I am currently in New Zealand and have recently been directing some video clips for some amazing artists.
You’re famously a self-taught dancer and choreographer, and I’ve read that growing up in New Zealand you taught yourself by watching music videos and doing what you were instinctually drawn to. Do you think that being so removed from the world of entertainment helped mould your unique style as a choreographer and dancer?
Yes, I do. I think it gave me the freedom to create my own style and my own definition of cool. It pushed me to be more creative and independent as an artist.
Music and dance have a very symbiotic relationship, so I’m curious what happens when you hear a song for the first time – do you consider dance and choreography straight away or does that come after listening to a song a few times and getting more of a feel for what would work with it dance wise?
It’s different every time I hear music but for the most part I see it. I immediately close my eyes and let my imagination wander. I’m a very visual person so if I can see it, I can do it.
Earlier this year you released your autobiography, Young Queen. 26 is fairly young to pen a book about your life, what made you want to write it?
After travelling the world and meeting so many amazing fans, I realised that so many people are inspired by my story. I wanted to share my challenges and triumphs in my own words. Instead of having followers google information about me, I thought it would be a lot more special to read something written by me in the hope that it inspires them.
What have you been listening to/reading/watching lately, and how is it shaping and influencing your current work?
I just try and stay in tune with the entertainment world in general, but even more in tune with myself, so I know what is hot and how I can push the boundaries and take risks.
I know that supporting and empowering others, particularly women, is hugely important to you. Where do you see yourself taking this desire in the future?
I try to represent and inspire women everyday whether it’s through my work or simply just by being myself. I think it is something I work towards every day, trying to be a better me and encouraging other women to chase their dreams.
You’ve become well known for possessing a fierce sense of self belief, which can be a difficult thing to cultivate. How did you learn to back yourself so relentlessly, even when the odds were seemingly stacked against you?
It’s not always easy but I refuse to give up and give in to my challenges, so there is no other option for me, I will always stand up for myself and what I believe in. At the end of the day it comes down to what I think of my own work, so when the odds are against me I take a look in the mirror and I look at everything I have done, and that is enough for me to keep on going.
Being in the public eye and working with high profile celebrities must come with a lot of pressure and expectation. How do you ensure you always stay true to your own unique style and vision as a creative?
I try and remember that they are human just like me. I’m always honest if I’m asked for my opinion and I think the artists really appreciate that.
You’ve worked with a seriously impressive selection of iconic female artists – Janet Jackson, J.Lo and Rihanna come to mind. Has there been any one female artist that you really connected with creatively, and if so who?
I have truly connected with all the female artists I have worked with. They’re all so different but each one has taught me so much. I am honoured to have not only worked with them but also connected with them. They just get me.
What’s on the cards for you for the rest of 2018?
A lot of it is secret, but I can tell you that there’s more film & television work and maybe some more music.
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