We first discovered LA-based hip hop artist Chanel West Coast by accident. I had searched “Karl Lagerfeld” on Getty, expecting to find photos of Karl Lagerfeld, but instead I found photos of a tiny blond girl taken on the set of a music video. A little research unearthed this video of her at Coachella performing her first single, then titled “Karl Lagerfeld.”
Chanel, whose real name is Chelsea Chanel Dudley, got her start, like so many celebrities these days, on MySpace. You may know her from MTV–she’s had roles on both of Rob Dyrdek’s shows: Fantasy Factory and Ridiculousness. She’s been musical her whole life–her dad is a DJ in New York–and now she’s focusing on her rap career. But we’re pretty sure she’ll be more than just a flash in the pan: at 24, she recently signed with Lil Wayne’s Young Money record label and will be going on tour with him and other Young Money artists later this year.
And with a name like Chanel West Coast and a song about Karl Lagerfeld, rest assured that she’ll be working a fashion-y angle into her image.
As huge fans of Karl, we had to know more about the song and the petite white female rapper behind it. Cut to about a month later, and we’re sitting at The Smile with the pint-sized and absolutely delightful Chanel, who was looking California laid back sans extensions in a loose-fitting tank, shorts and Giuseppe Zannotti wedge sneakers. We chatted about everything from how her song came about (and why she had to change the name) to stylists, Kreayshawn comparisons, eye insecurity, and, of course, launching a clothing line.
So how did you land at hip hop to pursue as a genre?
My mom is actually a heavy metal rock chick–I grew up listening to a lot of rock music, and my dad is a DJ from here in New York. I would come out here every summer and winter and visit my dad. Usually, we didn’t have babysitters, so I would go to the club with my dad. He’s like, ‘Just hide in the booth,’ and it was really seeing my dad DJ that really got me more into hip hop. I’ve always loved poetry and poetry is a big part of rap, so it kind of just came naturally to me.
How did the name Chanel West Coast come about?
Well Chanel’s my middle name. It’s funny, my mom, when she got pregnant with me, she lived in New York, so my first name is Chelsea after where she lived–she lived in Chelsea–and my middle name is Chanel because that was her favorite perfume. Then West Coast, that added on kind of by accident. I was making my MySpace music page and every single Chanel was taken, so I was like, okay well I’m a West Coast artist, so I’ll just make it Chanel West Coast and people started calling me that, so it was just by accident.
How would you describe your style? Do you work with a stylist?
I work with stylists here and there for shoots or red carpet events. My day-to-day style is a little bit more casual, but whenever I’m on the red carpet or doing photo shoots, or music videos, I like to be a lot more glamorous. I like to mix up cheap and vintage stuff with high-end stuff, like today I’m wearing a Forever 21 shirt with Giuseppe sneakers. Some days I’ll feel like dressing like a skater girl; some days I’ll be more chic and dolled up and girly girl, so it’s really how I’m feeling when I wake up that day.
I love Giuseppe, Jimmy Choo; I love Chanel obviously; I love Balmain, Givenchy, all of the dope brands.
How about the song Karl Lagerfeld? Why Karl?
It’s actually, we’re calling it ‘Karl’ now in case he doesn’t happen to like it and wants to sue me or something, but really that song came about because I love fashion and it’s kind of like the opposite of what Kreayshawn did with ‘Gucci Gucci,’ which is kind of like dissing brands, but in this it’s paying homage to all of the big brands and to Karl and to fashion.
What do you feel like Karl represents in the song?
I feel like it represents fashion in general, really just looking fly. In the song, I say, ‘looking so fly I’m tied with the sky,’ so the song is about looking your best, looking fly and it’s not really only about the big brand names, it’s about being a fashionable, in style girl.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
I feel like growing up bicoastal, every time I would come to New York when I was little, that’s when I got more into it. You’re walking trough the city and passing so many boutiques and brands.
As an artist, do you want to be known for being fashionable or into fashion?
Definitely. I want to be known obviously for my music first and foremost, but as an artist I definitely want people to know that I’m into fashion and get a sense of my style so that way once I do move up as an artist, I can start my own line, and people will already know, this is what she’s like, so the line is going to be like this.
What do you have in mind for your clothing line?
Not super super high end, because I want it to be something affordable that almost everybody can get. It will probably be in like boutiques, kind of like Rihanna’s line.
Do you and Wayne ever talk about fashion?
He’s like more into skater fashion, which is one of the styles I’m into too. I grew up with skater kids, I skateboard myself, so he’s more into the skater fashion and that laid-back style, so I don’t really see him talking about fashion very much, but I definitely know that he respects it.
What’s next? Anything exciting in the works?
I’m working on my mix tape that’s out this month and the first single’s going to be ‘Karl,’ then I’m going on tour with Lil Wayne, T.I. and 2 Chainz, like Wayne brings out all the Young Money artists in his set, so I’m going to go on that tour with him, which I’m really excited about and from there, I don’t know what’s next, hopefully a lot of big exciting things!
Are you planning your wardrobe for the tour yet?
The girl who designed all of my clothing for my ‘Karl’ video–she’s my go-to girl now. She’s an amazing seamstress; she designs everything herself. Especially being a small petite girl, it’s hard to find stuff that fits, so it’s great having her because she’s going to be custom designing everything for me. I like that, too, because then I can be different and not just wearing what everybody else is wearing.
I noticed you’re almost always wearing sunglasses in interviews and videos…
I know! I love sunglasses. Part of the reason is–I’ll just be honest–I get a little bit insecure about my eyes. I feel like when I smile my eyes get really small; I don’t know why I hate it. A lot of the time I’m just wearing sunglasses because I don’t want people to think that I’m always high or something. I just naturally have really small eyes.
Well Karl Lagerfeld always wears sunglasses, too.
Actually in the video [for 'Karl'], I dress up like Karl, and I literally look like Karl Lagerfeld. I have a white wig, but I remember feeling the most in my element in the Karl scene with the sunglasses on because I love sunglasses.
For a taste of Chanel West Coast, watch her first video for “I Love Money” below.