We partnered up with Toyota Camry to ask VIAA — an R&B Songstress on the come up — and Hollywood — a legendary dancer/choreographer — for their takes on how city that never seems to go out of style inspires and drives their passions.
The narrative of the young person traveling from the Midwest to Los Angeles with hopes of being discovered isn’t a new one. In 1937, it was enough for Lana Turner to sit demurely on a stool at a soda fountain sipping a frothy beverage through a straw. Nowadays, people have to make things pop, but they don’t have to do it alone. The very city they live in buoys hopeful artists with camaraderie and empowers them with the resilience they need to succeed. For choreographer Hollywood and singer Viaa, Los Angeles is not only a place to achieve their goals, it’s a force driving them.
Hollywood started dancing professionally in his 20s, when he entered the intern program at Broadway Dance Center in New York. He needed the break on class prices in order to get the dance instruction he wanted, so he did whatever was asked of him — even if it meant cleaning the bathrooms. The training he received paid off when Lil Mama hired him first as a dancer and then as the director of the video for her song “G-Slide.” That was the only confirmation of his talent Hollywood needed to prompt a move to Los Angeles in 2009.
“I didn’t have a plan B. I went for it. I just let everything go,” Hollywood narrates. “I knew the second that I couldn’t breathe without it, the second that I knew it was my therapy, that I was going to do anything in my power to keep dancing.”
Once he started building a career in L.A., the city began to shape him — offering opportunity after opportunity. At this point, Hollywood has been featured in Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” video and helped choreograph her “Last Girl on Earth” tour. Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj utilized his talents. And, he contributed to both the Teen Choice and American Music Awards. But, it isn’t just the jobs that the city provides or even the connections. There is the motivation.
“I would describe this city as hot, iconic and motivating,” Hollywood says. “And, the motivating part really describes me because I’ve been very motivated to tackle my dreams and my goals to get to the next level in life. Of course, being in Hollywood makes you want to become iconic in your field. L.A. is iconic when it comes to turning people into stars.”
Viaa has found herself similarly driven by the city. The child of parents in the Air Force, she was lucky to have avoided constant relocation, though she did grow up in both Germany and Ohio. She never felt any sense of community in these places, instead experiencing a sense of isolation. It made her insecure and eager to please, which held her back in her singing and her life in general. Los Angeles gave her the community she needed to galvanize her creative dreams.
“I needed to start standing up for myself,” Viaa declares. “I needed to have a voice and use it. I felt empowered by being here and being surrounded by people that encouraged me to do it and that I also saw were doing it and I was like, ‘I want to be like that.’”
She drew from those around her and developed a motivation and courage to succeed. Viaa moved organically into the music scene and began back-up singing before she met influential producers and musicians, who she now works with on independent pop R&B projects.
Viaa’s goal as a musician isn’t to make the next big hit simply because she needs the approval of a fanbase. She records songs that she is driven to release from her soul and hopes that people who listen find it relatable.
“The encouragement and the drive around me was the part that helped shape me moving forward with my career and everyone being on board with that,” Viaa relates. “Everybody in L.A. has been really supportive, which is nice.”
In addition to the opportunities and the community, both artists take encouragement from the very environment of L.A. The 284 days of sun a year, the proximity to rolling waves of blue Pacific ocean water, and the tall trees that sway in the gentle breezes of the afternoon. It’s all a bit of a cliche at this point, but it’s absolutely what the landscape looks like, and it’s fantastic.
“I get inspiration in L.A. from anywhere where my soul responds,” Hollywood explains. “It could be, literally, walking down by Hollywood Boulevard or me going to the Santa Monica Pier to people watch. I get inspiration from energy.”
Viaa is a bit more literal in her reaction to the landscape. She thrives on exploring nature in the sun. “The inspiration I pull from L.A. is the weather, obviously. That vitamin D really helps you out the days that you need it.”
Both artists are succeeding in Los Angeles in part because of what Los Angeles is giving them. Hollywood explains it beautifully: “L.A. has given me a lot of opportunities and it has made me grow as a person and it has motivated me to go ten times harder knowing that this is the city that allows a lot of people’s goals to be accomplished, due to their hard work and determination. So, I know that if we focus on our dreams and we put our best foot forward, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. The world is ours.”