Johnniqua Charles tells PEOPLE she plans on using the exposure from the video to motivate women, start a business and write a book

By Joelle Goldstein
June 16, 2020 03:06 PM
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Johnniqua Charles
| Credit: Johnniqua Charles

Editor's note: This post includes language that some may find offensive, but the editors have deemed it central to the understanding of the incident in question.

Johnniqua Charles, the woman featured singing and dancing in the now-viral "Lose Yo Job" video, has unexpectedly found fame — and she's using it to make a difference in her life and the lives of others.

Charles, 27, tells PEOPLE that just a few weeks ago, she was "in prostitution and struggling with drug addiction" while homeless in and around South Carolina.

But the mother of one has since turned her life around following the viral video of her singing the catchy tune while being detained by a security guard outside of Diamonds Gentlemen's Club.

"Life has changed tremendously," she says. "I would have never expected this to happen, but I'm glad that it did. It happened at the right time. God's timing."

The clip was originally posted to Facebook on Feb. 5 by the security guard in the video, Julius Locklear.

In it, Charles is heard asking why she's being detained by Locklear, before breaking out into an impromptu song and dance about him losing his job and handcuffing her "for nothing."

Prior to the encounter that evening, Charles says she was at the gentleman's club and had placed her purse behind the DJ booth, but forgot to take it with her before leaving.

"I was walking out of the club to leave and realized I left my purse," she recalls. "I tried to go back in to get my purse, but the officer in the video would not let me re-enter. We got into a verbal altercation and I told him to 'suck my p—,' and at that moment he put the handcuffs on me."

"I felt like he wasn’t listening to me when I was constantly asking, 'Why are you detaining me?," she adds. "So, I started to sing it and that’s how the video happened."

While Charles sang, Locklear was seen in the video holding her arm and looking away in an attempt to keep a straight face.

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Locklear said of the moment, "I just let her vent and exercise her freedom of speech. The situation had nothing to do with race or discrimination. You can see me handling it professionally and trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn't."

Sheriff's deputies eventually arrived at the scene but determined that an arrest was not required and released Charles. And despite the title of her tune, Locklear kept his job, BuzzFeed reported.

About two weeks after the video was posted, Charles says friends and family started reaching out to her, which is when she started to notice how "it was a huge deal."

"It was a complete shock and overwhelming," she recalls.

The clip has become even more relevant in recent weeks as protests over police brutality and racial injustices have taken place across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody on May 25.

Though this was filmed months earlier, Charles says she believes the video holds extra significance in current times.

"I have always supported Black Lives Matter," she explains. "My video has shed light on knowing your rights. You cannot be detained just because, and stand up for yourself."

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That wasn't the only thing to come from the video. After it started to circulate around the internet, Charles' family — with whom she had not physically seen since November and who had been caring for her 3-year-old son Juju — went searching for her and found her in Florence.

They eventually reconnected and are currently helping her get back on her feet. Her sister Andrea set up an Instagram account on Charles' behalf, as well as a GoFundMe page to help Charles get help and care for her son. It has since raised over $54,000.

"I am fully involved in my son's life, I’m no longer in the streets in prostitution, and I’m recovering from my addiction with the support of family and professionals," Charles says.

Now, as her viral fame begins to settle down, Charles wants to put her unexpected platform to good use and help others.

"I do plan to use the exposure to motivate all women, start a business, and eventually write a book," she shares. "I can’t stop now."