Okay, Ladies (and Gents), Let’s Get In Formation.
I spent 61,787 minutes listening to music on Spotify in 2014. More than 2/3 of that time carried me through shower karaoke, car ride sessions to work, and walks along the streets of San Francisco with an undeniable air of happiness, confidence, and poise. Usually shying away from the pop genre as frequent, every day listening, Beyoncé relentlessly made her way into my heart.
Don’t get me wrong. My first ever concert was actually seeing Beyoncé’s solo debut at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. But, I was far from reciting the “all hail Queen Bey” mantra before August 2014. That is until a fellow “Beyhive” friend snagged last minute tickets for the “On The Run” tour. This was a significant tipping point to mark my enlightenment era, otherwise known as the Bey era.
In no time, I was caught in the middle of a strong riptide. Within seconds of coming home from the concert, I bought the album on iTunes and snapped multiple “I woke up like this” selfies.
Next up, I signed up for the Beyoncé-inspired dance series offered by Carol Johnstone, founder of Bay Area Flashmob and Pop Star Booty Camp. Carol had the privilege of managing Les Twins before their rise to fame with no other than Beyoncé. She was quick to recognize the abundant potential in offering these classes to her future “Pop Stars,” where dancers of all abilities could tap into the very qualities they admired most about Beyoncé: her fierce attitude, powerful stance, and palpable independence. Pop Stars engaged in learning one single routine across a span of 6–8 weeks, which gave us plenty of time to make that slow and steady transformation into an idolized pop star.
The wider Bay Area started taking notes on the cultural phenomenon that Carol launched and accelerated. In 2014, she was featured on a segment for KVUE 11 Morning News, with everyone wanting the scoop on the buzz, draw, and appeal of her classes. Since her first interview, she has also been featured and praised in various publications, such as KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, and 7×7.
I decided to do a Q&A and learn about her road to success firsthand. What you’ll find in our interview is that she exudes true realness, passion, and emotion, and this allows her to inspire others. Learn more about how she turned her popstar-like dream into reality!
What was your motivation and inspiration for starting Popstar Booty Camp and keeping it alive?
Carol Johnstone: I used to run a flash mob group in SF, and we had a HUGELY successful Beyonce flash mob turnout in 2013. It was so fun that it got me thinking, “gee, folks really seem to like Queen Bey!” and an idea was born. In 2014, I was trying to help out a dance teacher friend of mine, and I asked him if he’d be down to teach a Beyonce dance class — his response, “Sure!” I sent out a press release hoping to fill a 30 person class, and lo and behold, 900 people (!) wanted to take the class. I was floored. And it’s been like that ever since. People have such a visceral connection to Beyonce — she’s one of the greats. Beyond that, I know that people have an “inner ham” in them, and we all love the idea of dancing to our favorite popstar music video dances. I love the idea of re-creating these iconic moves and then getting a chance to dress up and perform. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who loved it — we’re all just eager teenagers at heart!
Did you ever think it’d ever amount to this widespread Bay Area phenomenon?
Carol Johnstone: My gut told me that people would enjoy learning the dances, dressing in costume and performing. What’s not to love? I still pinch myself though — I feel so fortunate to make a living offering these classes, which honestly help people to experience a side of themselves they might not be open to showing. I mean, how many of us whip our hair around and pop our booty in our everyday lives? I want to give people that experience…and the ability to totally and completely embrace it.
What’s your vision for Popstar Booty Camp 5 years from now?
Carol Johnstone: 5 years may be too far down the road to speculate, but I sure hope that people will continue to be interested in learning and performing these dances. Sometimes I think about expanding to other cities, and occasionally I’ll get an email from someone in Chicago asking me where something like Popstar Booty Camp is in their city, but for now, I’m happy with the number of classes I’m offering (usually 5–7 different songs per week) and being SF and Oakland based.
What do you most hope sticks with the ladies and gents taking your classes?
Carol Johnstone: I hope they have FUN! I hope they feel FIERCE! Honestly, I think dancing in sync, in unison, does something to us spiritually. We may be dancing to Magic Mike’s “Pony,” but we’re dancing it TOGETHER, with an open heart and combined goal to have an exchange with the audience. We’re sharing something together that’s hard to put your finger on, and we’re sharing something with the audience that is truly magic. That’s the best part of what I do — giving the dancers permission to access a part of themselves that they may not otherwise be tuned into. Be fierce. Be sexy. Rock it.
What kind of personal impact has/does Beyonce (or any other popstars) have on you?
Carol Johnstone: I used to be a talent manager, and I managed two of Beyonce’s featured dancers: Les Twins. That was a serious roller coaster ride! I was fortunate to meet Beyonce on the “RUN THE WORLD (GIRLS)” video shoot in the middle of the Mojave Desert. She was so enamored with my clients — what a blast that day was! My takeaway that day was that Beyonce WERKS. She WERKS, lemme tell you! She is completely devoted to her craft, she wants the best, and she asks of her people only what she asks of herself. She inspires me. She reminds me that if you want something really badly, you have to work for it. You can do it!
What makes you rise out of bed every morning?
Carol Johnstone: I’m in a wonderful place in my life where Popstar Booty Camp is rockin’ and rollin’, and I’ve got it figured out. I love figuring out which song to dance to next — which routine will really rock everyone’s world. Beyond that, I’m helping some of my women friends start their own businesses, and I’ve formed a Women’s Entrepreneur group, so that I can better help women who have a dream realize that dream. I love helping women believe in themselves and rise above the fear and pursue that crazy dream! If someone had told me 5 years ago that I’d work with Beyonce, start a dance class business, and help inspire other women, I wouldn’t have believed them. But, here I am. So glad I quit my day job ;).
Whether you bow down to her or not, there’s no denying Queen Bey’s sustained and growing power and influence marked by her loyal fanbase. Hundreds of Beyoncé fans are flocking to learn her dance routines. So much so that Carol now offers multiple classes throughout the week at studios across San Francisco and Oakland. She has also expanded her “product” offerings to Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber choreography. Beyhivers, Beliebers, and the Bad Girl RiRi’s of the world all come together with the same intention of embodying these celebrities.
And then enters me: an aspirational dancer, robbed of any dance or choreography skills as a child. But, before my first class, I learned that running the world comes with sheer discipline. I stayed in on a Saturday night, made breakfast plans at 7:30am, just so I could make my very first Beyoncé class at 9:30. My eyes lit up as I spewed excitement about the class to my friend, and he proceeded to send me this GIF as further inspiration to work it — thrusts and all — and get my Bey on.
Don’t let the ease at which Bey does this simple thrust and flip fool you. Turns out, you need to have fairly strong neck muscles to fully hit those hair flips. One of life’s harder lessons, which hit me while I was learning the “End of Time” routine. One too many hair flips, and you’ve got yourself a neck sprain. Really though. The hair flip struggle is real.
But, while my neck couldn’t bear it then (though it’s stronger than ever now!), the classes have strengthened me in ways I can’t always put into words, and they have influenced various facets of my life — dating, career, self-confidence, and most importantly, self-worth. It spread across my life like rapid wildfire. I quit my corporate job after being chained to it for three+ years. Yeah, you know, one of those jobs that suck all the joy and soul out of you? I took a plunge with a company whose mission and vision I deeply admired and was proud to be a part of — until of course, I got a taste of their company culture and moved onto better things.
During this pivotal time when I was seeking daily inspiration to not give up, to not break down, and to keep persevering, Queen Bey aptly reigned my 2014 Summer and Autumn seasonal favorites, top artists and albums.
Fast forward to 2015 and not much changed as I was still very much on the journey to realizing my dreams, personally and professionally. The Queen couldn’t be dethroned and secured the top 5 in artists, albums, and the Winter season.
Now, we’re in 2016, and daaamn, Beyoncé is back at it again. Not only did she drop a (media-turned) controversial track the day before the SuperBowl that literally broke the internet, but she also put on a jaw-dropping performance at the SuperBowl Halftime show. Following her performance, she also casually dropped a commercial announcing her Formation Tour. You know, so casual.
She always manages to keep us at the edge of our seats. While buzz of a new album swarmed the air, she distracted us by launching her new athleisure line, Ivy Park, on April 14th. I took the opening day off — partially for my birthday and the other part of me wanting to make sure I snagged an item before they sold out. There’s no taking chances when the Bey force can break the internet! Her line is available online and in stores at Nordstom and Topshop.
On April 23rd, an unassuming Beyhive and rest of the world witnessed the release of Lemonade, accompanied by an hour-long visual album, which quickly earned 4 Emmy nominations. We were touched in so many ways. We traversed through an 11-step emotional journey of the trials and tribulations of her marriage and the greater challenges of being a Black woman in our society today. We shared in her anger, apathy, and emptiness. We rejoiced in the moments of hope, resurrection, and redemption. We celebrated this artist who has come full circle in her musical career and had the courage to divulge her very personal story, making her that much more relatable and real to her fans. Beyoncé indeed did it again.
And then, of course, there’s its personal impact on me. I rocked my first Ivy Park item during the Formation flash mob with PopStar Booty Camp on April 17th. The Missy Elliott “WTF” and Justin Bieber “Sorry” flash mobs were a sensation in February, and saying “Formation” was a hit doesn’t do it enough justice. I even recently busted out the “Formation” moves for my friend’s “talent show”-themed birthday and earned a silver medal for the win (birthday girl rightly earned gold)!
I attended her Formation Tour — an extremely cathartic and empowering performance, just like her album. Her tribute to Prince below was truly inspired and timely, shortly following his passing. What’s unfathomable is that she sings and performs at an intensity level as if it’s her only performance of the year — just don’t mind the fact that she’s doing this multiple times a week. Who needs a voice during a world tour anyway?
Does Beyoncé ever stop furthering herself and her career? Does she get the 8 hours of sleep need to run her vast empire? And if so, will she ever tell us her secret to a flawless beauty sleep?
Are you convinced yet? I really hope so because there’s only going up & up from here. It’s time to Beyoncify your life with Pop Star Booty Camp and a Bey song that’s curated for every mood and occasion. Jump on the Bey train, and begin your training with the ultimate girl power playlist and commentary for you to wake up confidently and slay the day. Listen up, go ‘head and Beyoncify your life with the songs below!
Flawless: Rise & Shine Flawlessly!
Rise and shine, flawlessly with Queen Bey! Don’t you forget it, girl; you woke up like dis — as the flawless, beautiful, fierce, strong, ambitious, and respected woman that you are. Goddamn, you are flawless. Bow down, betches.
Haters are gonna hate, so with Bey, learn to love your haters, speak your mind, stand up for female empowerment, and don’t settle for anyone less than a man who wakes up next to you every morning and can’t believe he got so lucky.
Schoolin’ Life: Get Those Deals and Rounds of Funding Closed!
Closing a major deal today? Making a pitch to investors for Series C funding? You got this — and like B, who needs a degree when you’re already schoolin’ life? Gather your smarts and wit, and mark your morning with the confidence and fierceness to carry you through the day. You can achieve anything — move mountains, part seas, rule the company or the world. You’ve got this.
Pretty somethings will come crashing. Sexy somethings can’t rely on their bodies alone. And bitter somethings can’t afford to live in regret. Stay relentless. Don’t stop running until it’s finished. It’s up to you, and the rest is unwritten.
Run the World (Girls): Ultimate Girl Power
WHO RUN THE WORLD? GIRLS! That’s right, girl power grinding. This is how they made you, so use that endless power and persuasion to build a nation. In this day and age, women bear children, run households, families, and companies. Women do it all. Men are taking notice, and disrespect us…oh uh uh, no they won’t.
Formation: ’Cause We Slay
Proud of her Black, Texas-Bama-Louisiana heritage, this Black power anthem serves to remind the world (government and law enforcement) that Black Lives Matter. It also reminds us to make that Taco Bell run, stat, to get that hot sauce in our bag, swag. C’mon, ladies, now let’s get in formation.
Freakum Dress: Girls’ Night Out
Thank freakin’ God it’s Friday night. Pull out your little black, freakum dress from the closet, kick up your heels and paint the town red with your girls tonight.
7/11: Bachelorette Party, After Party
It’s your best friend’s bachelorette party, and you are the maid of honor. Everyone has gone out on the town and just returned to the hotel, and none of y’all are ready to sleep. So, you pop on this track and let the drunken shenanigans continue.
Spin with your hands up in the air. Jump out of boxes. Imitate a phone with your foot. Twerk against the bathroom sink. And dance around in your suite, balcony, and hallway. But whatever you do, don’t you drop that alcohol!
Ego: Hey you, Fierce, Sex Kitten
This was my first Bey dance series, and I was hooked. I woke up excited on Sunday mornings, which forced me to be responsible on Saturday nights. One hour per week to emulate and channel the fierce.
Feeling like a fierce, sex kitten tonight? Turn your “Ego” on with Bey.
Crazy in Love: Love’s Got You Looking So Cray
Beyoncé made her debut declaration that she may be head over heels, crazy in love with Jay-Z.
They became Mr. and Mrs. Carter in 2008 and have become one of the most powerful couples in the world – running music empires, record labels, clothing lines, and more.
I guess it’s not so bad to be crazy after all.
End of Time: Stompin’ All Over Town
This was the infamous dance routine in January 2015 that resulted in several, expensive doctor’s office visits, painkillers, and massages. Since then, my neck is as strong as can be, and you can see me hair flipping all around town.
And say what? The Golden State Warriors made NBA history by winning the most games (73) in one season? I put on for my city, on on for my city!
Countdown: Head Sprung & Gone in the Brain
You’ve got butterflies in your stomach and are falling more and more in lust or love by the minute.
This is one of the most exciting and scariest periods of dating. You’re taking a chance with your heart. There will be ups and downs, lots to learn, but if it’s the “one,” you’ll have the love and dedication through the good times and bad.
Best Thing I Never Had: Break Up Anthem
If the love of your life turned into a cheat and is no more, then blast this empowering break-up anthem.
He almost fooled you, but you got out in the knick of time. So kick him to the curb, and be grateful you dodged that bullet. You might not always get the goodbye you seek, want or need, but good riddance and start seeing the good in goodbye because you’re the one that got away.
And remember, what goes around, comes back around. Karma’s a bitch after all.
Hold Up: Slow down, back up, step down, hold on
What’s worse? Looking jealous and crazy? Or like you’ve been walked all over lately. I’m with you, Bey. I’d rather be crazy. He’s the wicked one to treat his girl like this, so he best believe we’re coming with our Beyhive to smash his car and ego to pieces. #ImwithBey
Sorry: I ain’t sorry #boybye
I recently had my dad listen to Lemonade on repeat (and he was such a great sport about it, too) when he innocently asked me, “what is this, ‘hell naw’ that she keeps saying?” To my dad and all the dads around the world who have repeatedly told us what precious diamonds their daughters are: this is when we’ve had a “come-to-Jesus” moment, and we realize our true worth. Whether it’s in the office or in a relationship, we ain’t sorry, we chunking up the deuces and middle fingers, and we ain’t even gonna feel bad about it. Channel that Hillary and shine bright like a diamond. #BettaGoCallThatTrumpWithTheBadHair
Complete “Beyoncify Your Life” YouTube Playlist below: