Four months ago, Johnniqua Charles was homeless, dealing with an addiction, and estranged from her family when she had a run-in with a security officer.
Now, because of a video of that incident that's gone viral in recent days, Charles’ life is beginning to turn around.
“I’m just overwhelmed, and I’m such a humble person [that] to see that, it’s just amazing to me,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I’m just glad that it’s something so positive.”
A 27-year-old from Dillon, South Carolina, Charles is the woman in the viral video that’s come to be known as “Lose Yo Job.” In the video, she questions a security guard as to why he is detaining her, then turns her protests into an ad-libbed song and dance.
“Why are you detaining me? You about to lose yo job,” Charles says in the video. She then begins singing and dancing. “You about to lose yo job. You about to lose yo job. Get this dance! You about to lose yo job ‘cause you are detaining me for nothing.”
She and her sister, Andrea, don’t know why the video is suddenly everywhere, but it’s exploded in popularity in just a few days.
With people in every US state and around the world protesting police brutality against the Black community, Charles’ song became a viral hit at the perfect moment. The catchy and timely tune has provided some laughter during a difficult time, and it has even been sung and displayed on signs at protests.
The video has spread even further after several DJs created remixes that went viral. The most popular one is by DJ Suede the Remix God and iMarkkeyz, who also remixed Cardi B’s coronavirus video in March.
Amidst all the chaos, craziness and crying, Black people have always been able to find a way to inject humor - and music - into the situation. It's probably what has kept us sane through all these years. #YouAboutToLoseYoJob https://t.co/oc1qf2JBwL— KC_in_NYC (@KC_in_NYC) June 5, 2020
The video was first posted on Facebook by the guard, Julius Locklear, on Feb. 5. “Okay IM NOT POSTING THIS TO BE FUNNY TOWARDS THIS SUBJECT!!!!” Locklear wrote in his Facebook post. “I’m posting it cause that rap was lit like I wish I could put a beat to it lol.”
Locklear, whose day job is in bail enforcement, told BuzzFeed News the incident happened at Diamonds Gentlemen’s Club in Dillon on Feb. 5. Locklear's colleague filmed the incident because his body camera wasn't working. He said he detained Charles for trespassing after he twice asked her to leave the club. Charles said she had been trying to get into the club after it closed because she accidentally left her purse inside.
“I guess he thought I was going back in just to go back inside the club, but he wouldn’t allow me, and that’s how the argument between me and him started,” Charles said. “I told him to suck my dick, and that is the moment he basically put the handcuffs on me and tussled with me a little bit.”
"I just let her vent," said Locklear, "and exercise her freedom of speech."
"The situation had nothing to do with race or discrimination," he said. "You can see me handling it professionally and trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn't."
Locklear called sheriff's deputies to the scene, but Charles was ultimately not arrested and was told she was free to go.
“He didn’t have a reason. He didn’t have anything to charge me with,” she said. “Because what would be the charge?”
Locklear, for the record, said he did not lose his job.
Charles said she first found out the video had gone viral last week when a former classmate sent it to her on Facebook. She isn’t very active on social media, she said, so she didn’t realize how popular it had become until her sister reached out to her.
Charles said she had been homeless, dealing with a drug addiction, and doing sex work to survive until very recently. She hadn’t spoken to her family since around November, and they were caring for her 3-year-old son, Juju.
“I’d been on the streets, and they’d been looking for me,” Charles said. “And I guess they seen that this video could basically change my life, and they put out a whole search party to find me.”
Charles and her family reconnected on Saturday, and she’s now living with them and trying to rebuild her life.
Both sisters agreed that the video going viral is what helped make this happen.
“At first I didn’t think much of [the video], but then I got on Instagram and I saw even more people saying, ‘Who is this woman?’” said Andrea. “So I was like, OK, this is an opportunity for my sister to be known. If the world wants to know who she is, why not let the world know who she is?”
“The only reason that the GoFundMe and those platforms were created were people were begging to donate to her,” Andrea said. “Once I made her Instagram, people were flooding in, saying, ‘How can I bless her? She just blessed my day so much. She just made my day.’ So the only reason it was created was so people could bless her life.”
The money will go toward Charles and her son, Andrea said, “and also to better herself with whatever resources she needs to keep her on the right track, just to keep her here.”
Charles said this moment has been the “breakthrough” that she desperately needed.
“Other people keep telling me I helped them so much, but they don’t understand — nobody understands — how much this video going viral like this is helping me, because it’s giving me the breakthrough I so badly needed for so long,” she said.
Since she’s not very active on social media, Charles said, she still doesn’t totally understand quite how viral the video is. But she’s not letting her viral fame go to her head. “I just want to keep being normal,” she said. “I don’t want to consider myself quote-unquote famous or a celebrity. I can’t do that.”
For now, Charles said, she’s focusing on getting healthy and making up for lost time with her family and her son. “It’s a lot of tears from everybody. They just want to be reassured,” Charles said. “Because it’s been ongoing with me battling this addiction — this has been, like, six years — and they just want to be reassured that this is no more, that they don’t have to stress about where I may be. They never want me to be in the streets ever again and live that lifestyle.”
Andrea said she’s just grateful that this video has reunited their family and given Charles a better chance at a happier life.
“I just feel like this was all from God,” Andrea said. “These people have been blessing her and doing that out of the kindness of their heart. I just feel like that’s all God.”