Celebrity News

Parris Goebel tells all

The Kiwi dance sensation reveals her next move

She’s a girl from South Auckland who wanted to conquer the world. And at just 24, dance phenomenon Parris Goebel has done exactly that. The hip-hop queen has choreographed for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Janet Jackson, and considers these musical icons her close mates.

She’s appeared in and worked on two feature films, Hollywood sequel Step Up: All In and the Kiwi box-office sensation Born to Dance. And she’s a two-time winner of the World of Dance Female Choreographer of the Year title.

The influence of the urban “Polyswagg” dance style she has created is seen everywhere from the American Music Awards to Cirque du Soleil. It seems everything she touches turns to gold.

But while it may have looked like Parris hit a pinnacle in 2015, she’s not done yet.

This year is set to be just as thrilling and exciting, with the star reinventing herself and venturing into new territory – Parris reveals to Woman’s Day that she’s launching herself as a rap artist and has been working with P-Money on her own music.

“This is part of my evolution, changing things up,” says Parris, who has been working on her music for the last year and hopes to release an EP in June. “It’s about creating a legacy. In the dancing world, I’m at the top, but as a musical artist, I’ll be starting at the bottom again and trying to work my way up.”

Hard work is something Parris is used to. She was only 15 years old when she invented her signature style and started the all-female dance crew ReQuest, which won back-to-back gold medals at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships.

Parris choreographed J.Lo’s opening number at the American Music Awards.

In hit Kiwi flick Born to Dance.

At just 17, Parris started her own dance studio, The Palace, based in an industrial area of Auckland suburb Penrose. From there, her empire quickly expanded and another award-winning dance crew, The Royal Family, emerged. Since then, the group’s dancers have been constantly rubbing shoulders with global superstars, performing with Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, and starring in Justin Bieber’s latest videos, all directed and choreographed by Parris herself.

“One of the reasons why I worked so hard to make these international connections is so that I could open doors for all the dancers here in New Zealand,” she says. “Now that lots of them are doing well, it makes me feel so proud.”

We meet Parris at her second home, The Palace. She’s been overseas for most of the past 12 months, and it’s a tight squeeze fitting in an interview and photo shoot. The studio is full of action when we arrive, with loud music blasting through the speakers for a children’s holiday programme.

Parris is known for her tardiness and, true to form, she arrives 20 minutes late. “Sorry for making you wait for, like, 10 years,” she laughs, her charm instantly brushing away any irritation.

Parris admits she’s a bit sad today because the studio where it all started will be moving. The Palace is in such hot demand, the current premises are too small to fit all of her dancers and she’s been forced to move somewhere bigger.

With Justin on the set

“There have been so many memories here,” she says. “It’s like moving out of your childhood home.”

But the new digs will be bigger and brighter, a testament to what Parris has achieved at such a young age. “I have a young spirit and an old soul,” she explains. “Getting into a leadership role at such a young age made me mature very quickly. The way I think about things is not like your average 24-year-old.”

While you’d imagine her success would be very lucrative, believe it or not, Parris insists she has no idea how much she has earned over the years. Her father Brett, who is also her manager, deals with all the finances and gives Parris a modest monthly allowance.

“As long as I have enough money to eat, to put petrol in my car and to buy shoes, then I’m happy,” she grins. “I feel safe that I can do what I do and know that I have people around me that I trust. It’s great to not have to worry about money.”

Secret struggle

Looking back at her rise to stardom, Parris admits the journey to the top has had brought her many challenges. “Everyone knows me now and everyone knows my name. But seven years ago, I was just your everyday Kiwi girl with a dream. No-one knew who I was. No-one had seen my work. I had no resumé and no background in dance. I’d never, ever had a job. I went from absolute nothing to all of this.”

For the last three years, her life has been a whirlwind ride. Jetting around the world can be extremely lonely and Parris admits she finds it hard to cope at times. “This year, I was home for about three months all up – the rest of the time was travelling and working. I’m travelling all by myself and working really hard on such huge projects, with no rest. Your wellbeing and your soul take a hit, and it’s hard to fulfil your job when you’re not feeling well on the inside.”

When times are tough, Parris calls home and gets a pep talk from her mother LeeAnn to keep her going. “I tell her that I don’t feel good and that I don’t want to be here. She tells me to lift my head up high. That’s all I need to hear – for her to acknowledge how I’m feeling. I’m either going to let it affect me or bounce back. Those are really two options in life.”

Parris has been so focused on her career that it’s only recently that she’s been able to relax and enjoy her success.

“I didn’t really start having fun, having a social life, until I knew I was at a place I could. Until then, I wouldn’t go out. I wouldn’t party. I always say to the young ones, ‘Keep your eye on the prize and stay focused.’” The youngest of four siblings, Parris says fun for her is quality time with her whanau, and spoiling her niece and nine nephews.

“It’s a real and special love you receive from your family,” she smiles. “In this business, people always want something from me, to be friends with me to get somewhere. When I’m with my family, I feel at my highest because I feel loved and appreciated for who I am, not what I do.”

Although Parris has been single for three years, she is open to having that special someone in her life. She says, “When I care about someone, I give it my all. I’m not someone who has walls. I don’t think I’m meeting the right men. I feel they only want to talk to me for my status.

“They couldn’t care less about my personality and my heart. When they approach me or try and get to know me, it’s not for a long-term thing. It’s going to take a special person to really sweep me off my feet.”

Speaking of special people, when it comes to the galaxy of big-name stars she’s been working with, Parris reveals, “It’s really intense when you’re around these types of celebrities because they have so much power. When I’m around them, I’m always observing and trying to find out what makes them special.”

Since starring in, directing and choreographing Justin’s internet-breaking ‘Sorry’ music video – which has had over 450 million views on YouTube – Parris is recognised everywhere she goes. She now wears a cap to hide her face, but it doesn’t stop people from staring. During our photo shoot outside her studios, a group of local labourers, wearing hi-vis vests, gathers to stare. “I love you, Parris!” shouts an onlooker. Smiling at her fans, our star assures them she will sign autographs after we’re finished.

Turning back to us, Parris continues to chat excitedly about her burgeoning rap career. She certainly has friends in high places to help her – and there are other celebrities she’d like to work with. Collaborating with Beyoncé and Rihanna would complete her dreams.

“Dancing is my passion,” Parris admits. “It makes me feel alive. In life, you’ve got to find something that sets you on fire. I want to create things that last forever, so even when I die, people will still look me up. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave.”

WATCH: ‘Sorry’ video clip

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Justin Bieber

“He’s super-chilled. He doesn’t have a care in the world.”

Nicki Minaj

“She’s really funny, bubbly, energetic and confident. She knows what she wants.”

Janet Jackson

“She’s really shy and softly spoken. She keeps to herself.”

Jennifer Lopez

“She’s a phenomenal woman. I care about her. She’s got such a motherly energy.”

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