Lil Buck is an extraordinary performer who has led the Memphis jookin scene for years and he sat down with HL to reveal how Madonna got to be ‘like a sister’ to him!
Lil Buck was catapulted into stardom after a video of him performing “The Swan” went viral back in 2011. Since then, Lil Buck – whose real name is Charles Riley – has toured with Madonna and performed alongside her during her Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in 2012. He also co-choreographed and performed in Janelle Monáe’s 2010 “Tightrope”, and has worked with a slew of celebrities over the years including Kendall Jenner, Spike Lee, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
HollywoodLife sat down with Lil Buck who EXCLUSIVELY dished on what it’s been like working with Madonna and how despite initially “bumping heads” with the “Vogue” singer, she’s grown to become “one of his best friends.” The famed dancer and choreographer was discovered by Madonna after she held a competition called the Dance for Madonna Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Competition. “This company called Dance On reached out to me about a pop star. They couldn’t get into who it was and I had to sign in confidentiality. I eventually found out it was Madonna, it was a whole competition to be on her tour,” he explained.
“As soon as I heard it was a female pop star I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this because I know how that goes,’” he revealed. “You know, you look back at the past and you look at any of Madonna‘s old tour videos or tapes or any pop star. If they’re a rebel, especially if they have a strong way of presenting their art in their own way they just take their art to the next level. Madonna is really one of those people who challenges stigmas in a lot of different things. I know how it is when she makes guys wear brassieres, like crazy things. If you look at it from my perspective, I’m at the head of a real life street dance, you know what I’m saying? Like, I’m from the hood, hood. You know what I mean?”
“You have this huge responsibility of carrying this street dance in the best way, especially not being from Memphis on top of that,” the Chicago native said. “So I’m trying to navigate the best way to put this street dance out there that I’ve been introduced to since I wasn’t born in Memphis originally and there’s a huge responsibility being at the head of that and trying to do it the right way. I didn’t want kids to see me wearing certain things and then they feel like they wouldn’t want to do that. A lot of kids give up easier in my neighborhood just because there’s no platform for us to do what we do artistically. So if there’s no way out for you or if you feel that there’s a way out but you’re not comfortable doing that then it could be demotivating in a sense where they don’t even want to go for it. So I thought about it that deep.”
“Especially with what I’m trying to do with Memphis jookin now, I didn’t know if that was the right move for me. So me and Madonna we’re kind of bumping heads for a little bit at the beginning but then eventually we learn to respect each other’s views on art and what’s important. Just like how the streets were important to me there’s a lot of topics and subjects that she touches upon that the whole world needs to open their eyes to, even the people from my neighborhood. Eventually we grew to love each other and she’s become one of my best friends.”
Lil Buck was introduced to the Memphis jookin scene at the age of 11, but has been dancing all his life and got into street dance after growing up watching Michael Jackson‘s music videos. The talented star, who is also classically trained in ballet, eventually spent several years as a choreographer and dancer for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: One show in Las Vegas.
Check out Lil Buck’s full interview above!