Charli D’Amelio wows Dancing with the Stars judges with TikTok-inspired debut

Charli D'Amelio attends Michael Rubin's MLBPA x Fanatics party at City Market Social House.

Charli D’Amelio kicked off the 31st season of Dancing with the Stars with a TikTok-inspired bang.

The social media influencer wowed judges with her dancefloor debut on Monday (19 September) while dancing the cha-cha with expert choreographer Mark Ballas.

There couldn’t have been a better selection for her first dance track than Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage, which she used as an opportunity to pay homage to a dance trend that brought her fame.

The moment didn’t go unnoticed, with judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, and Derek Hough absolutely living for it.

“Charli, in the package, you said that there might have been an expectation because, you know, you’ve danced before,” Hough said during his deliberation. “But listen, you know what, you met that expectation and then exceeded that expectation with that dance.

“The precision, the sharpness, the attack on that cha-cha was… fantastic!”

Thanks to a little bit of TikTok magic, the dancing pair are now the frontrunners in the competition, having scored a 32 out of 40.

Meanwhile, other strong competitors included Wayne Brady and Witney Carson who scored a 29 dancing the cha-cha to She’s a Bad Mama Jama by Carl Carlton, and Selma Blair, who left judges and fans in tears with her The Time of My Life routine.

But the night couldn’t have been spectacular for all, with Sex and the City actor Jason Lewis and partner Peta Murgatroyd being the first eliminated couple of the season with a score of 18 out of 40 for their cha-cha to Get Lucky by Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, and Nile Rodgers.

They are the first to be eliminated from the first week of a DWTS season in several years, likely due to the number of competitors.

“They haven’t done a first-week elimination for so long, but we have a lot of couples this season,” Murgatroyd told US Weekly. “I think they kind of had to start chipping away at the block, you know?”

This season has also made history for being the first to be live-streamed from the premium media platform Disney+ while also being available on the US-based broadcasting channel ABC.

Whether future episodes will see D’Amelio and Ballas pull out more TikTok trends to tantalise the audience remains yet to be seen. One thing is clear – it’s fair to say the couple has set a standard for competitors this year.

But D’Amelio’s participation in this year’s DWTS season is problematic to those who believe that she and several other TikTok influencers are profiteering from Black TikTok stars.

TikTokers have claimed on multiple occasions that the star hasn’t acknowledged the Black creators who made her and so many others famous, including influencer Keara Wilson, who has since copyrighted her own moves.

Wilson originally created the Savage dance in March 2020. The trend immediately blew up as millions of TikTokers tried out the moves for themselves, including celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Megan Thee Stallion herself.

Among those to try out the dance was D’Amelio herself, who gained millions of followers and professional success from it. Critics have said that shows in which the dance is used have not properly credited creators like Wilson.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Wilson said it took her just an hour to create the dance, but it has affected her entire life.

“I was just bored one day,” Wilson said in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “Megan had just released her new album, so I picked what I felt was the best track. It had a catchy beat and it’s really bouncy and fun. So one day, I made a dance and it clicked.”

Upon finding out how successful it became, she said: “I cried. For a while, I was just shocked. I was in disbelief. it amazes me that everyone loves something of mine. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m beyond blessed.”