Within hours of the early August drop of “WAP” by rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, YouTube choreographer Brian Esperon posted a fast-paced and joyful routine to the female empowerment anthem with not-safe-for-work lyrics.
By the next day, he watched as a TikTok segment streaked toward viral status. Among his work’s admirers: Cardi B herself.
The artist tweeted a clip of Esperon, 28, of Guam, dancing to the song, followed by an Instagram Live of her trying to learn his routine while retweeting others who had attempted Esperon’s moves.
“When she learned it on her Instagram Live is when I completely lost it,” Esperon told NBC News. “The fact that it made it so big that it got to Cardi B herself is super insane.”
A month later, his world is still spinning.
“Me coming from a small island on Guam … and Cardi seeing it — I’m still trying to process it,” he said.
And lot of people are trying to process his steps. The TikTok hashtag “WAP Challenge” has more than 1.5 billion views. Famous TikTok users like Nia Sioux from Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” and viral sensation Charli D’Amelio have posted versions of themselves doing Esperon’s moves.
“I don’t know what video or what exact moment made it viral, but every day a new celebrity or TikTok influencer was doing it,” Esperon said.
Esperon’s Instagram page, where he also has catalogued his choreography to Lady Gaga’s “Rain On Me” and the K-Pop group Blackpink’s “How You Like That,” has become a tribute to those who are taking on his dance moves and giving them new flair -- from heavily pregnant women to people pumping gas. The “WAP” challenge is inescapable, it seems, on select corners of the internet.
Even though he has been recognized by stars of the music industry, in the world of TikTok, Esperon said, he’s had to fight for recognition. Among the millions of people doing his dance, he is rarely credited, he said, which he fears could lead to missed opportunities.
Esperson has been dancing since childhood and choreographing since high school. He’s currently an instructor for the studio Skip Entertainment Co. Although other stars of the music world like Nicki Minaj have recognized his moves in the past, his “WAP” work is his first to reach this level of viral fame.
Although Cardi B sharing it to her 14 million Twitter followers was most likely the launching point, Esperon said he thinks his timing was a key factor.
“There weren't any other people who had dances yet. I was really early to the game … the fact that I was so early, I didn’t have any competition,” Esperon said.
Esperon hopes that his viral success will take his career to new heights, and eventually help him reach his dream: choreographing for his idol Beyoncé.
“I don’t want to be pigeonholed to the “WAP” dance,” he said. “I do love this dance, and I do love where it’s taking me and how much it’s helping me in my career, but I don’t want this to be the last dance you ever see from me.”