Olivia "Chachi" Gonzales

Olivia’s family nicknamed her “Chachi” when she was young. It’s short for “muchachita,” which means “little girl” in Spanish (she’s the youngest in her family). (Shauna Hundeby)

Olivia “Chachi” Gonzales is the perfect mix of sweetness and spice. Whether her hip-hop moves are hard-hitting or smooth, you can tell the 16-year-old beauty isn’t trying to look “cool.” She’s just being herself. “Hip hop is how I feel like me,” she says. “It’s who I am.”

Chachi first lit up the hip-hop scene as the youngest member of the crew I.aM.mE, winners of “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 6 last year. But surprisingly, her first love was ballet. Growing up in Houston, TX, Chachi started

ballet at 6, before discovering hip hop at 9 and falling hard for its freedom. At her performing arts school, she took several dance classes during the school day. Then she spent all evening honing her hip-hop technique at Marvelous Motion’s studios. At home, she experimented with her own hip-hop choreography, which she’s taught since she was 12. Though she’s changed her focus to hip hop, she continues to train in all styles of dance, including ballet. “Ballet helps a lot with my hip-hop technique,” she says. “And it’s good to have in your back pocket. You never know what you’ll be asked to do at an audition or on a job.”

When Chachi’s Houston-based hip-hop crew was selected to compete on “ABDC” in 2011, she transferred to an online school. Each day, she and the other students would wake up early for “school” hours on set, before joining their older crew members to train until the early hours of the morning. Her work paid off: I.aM.mE gained international recognition, and Chachi suddenly had a devoted fan base. After “ABDC,” she and her family moved to L.A., and invitations poured in for her to travel and teach all over the world—from New Jersey to the Philippines.

Chachi with I.aM.mE on “America’s Best Dance Crew” (Sthanlee B. Mirador/PRPP)

Chachi recently performed in the Britney Spears tribute at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, on Disney’s “Shake It Up” and in an episode of The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers’ (LXD) web series. She also teaches and judges with World of Dance urban dance competitions (she’s their 2012 Teen Choreographer of the Year!). But busy as she is, Chachi is taking her newfound fame one step at a time. “I’m 16—I still have a lot to learn,” she says. “I think nobody, not even older dancers, can ever learn enough.”

FAST FACTS:

Birthday: January 23, 1996

Dance idol: Michael Jackson

Favorite food: “I’m a meat girl. I have to have it in every meal.”

Most-played on her iPod: “I could go from Lil Wayne to Michael Bublé to Justin Bieber to Beyoncé.”

Favorite thing to do on a day off: Swim

How she winds down: Ice cream and movies. “It’s always good to relax, let your guard down and just have fun.”

Her dance style in three words: “A unique swag.”

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