Shaking Up Her Life
After a medical diagnosis, Charlene Dipaola launched an online dance studio.
- Written byNancy Sokoler Steiner
- Photographed byLauren Pressey
Life’s path took a detour for Charlene Dipaola when she and her husband decided to start a family. The Manhattan Beach couple grew perplexed when pregnancy failed to materialize.
Charlene, then 34, saw her doctor and discovered she has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that can cause body changes and interfere with pregnancy. Around that same time, she was laid off from her hard-charging digital analytics job.
Charlene had been wanting to start her own venture, and this seemed like the right time. But what would she pursue?
She had a background in dance, having taken ballet starting at the age of 7. “I always associated dance with something fun and something that makes me happy,” says Charlene.
She loved dance workouts—from hip-hop to bar classes to yoga booty ballet. But she found it difficult to fit the sessions into her schedule and budget. She looked for online options and didn’t find ones offering different kinds of dance.
“That’s when the light bulb went off,” says Charlene. “I realized there might be an opportunity.” She created the concept of Hip Shake Fitness, an online platform that would offer “movement-based, fun and feminine workouts.”
Charlene launched a KickStarter campaign in April 2016 and inaugurated Hip Shake Fitness in August of that year. The subscription-based service offers hundreds of workouts for a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from such categories as Bollywood Abs Workout, Flirty HipHop and Tone N Twerk—each led by professional instructors accompanied by “real people” including Charlene.
“Women are often intimidated by other participants in class. They don’t want to be the person in the back who doesn’t know the moves,” says Charlene. “At home, no one’s watching. It removes that barrier.”
She adds: “Dancers can be judged by their bodies and how they move. In our community, we really try to be inclusive. It’s not about how you look. It’s just about moving your body and being confident in yourself.”
Charlene has received positive feedback from subscribers, many of whom are women in their 30s and older. Hip Shake Fitness has about 700 online subscribers—including some in other countries—as well as more than 2 million views of their YouTube videos.
“I’m so grateful that women are being healthier and that they love our product,” she says.
Born in the Philippines, Charlene grew up in a close-knit extended family where relatives lived in six houses on the same street. Always fascinated with American culture, she moved in with an aunt living in Glendale in 2002 and soon landed a job in Orange County.
“In the Philippines, you stay with your parents until you get married,” says Charlene. “It was a big transition to live alone.”
She struggled for the first two years but eventually settled in—making friends and working in online sales, search optimization and managerial positions. After getting engaged, Charlene moved from Culver City to her fiancé’s Manhattan Beach home.
Running a business keeps Charlene busy, but she makes time for civic engagement. She serves as president of the South Bay Bike Coalition, which works to make biking, walking and driving safer in the South Bay.
After receiving the PCOS diagnosis, Charlene focused on her health. She works out regularly and still treks to Culver City for class in Capoeira—a combination of martial arts and dance. She maintains a keto (high-protein, low-carb) diet. PCOS increases sugar levels, and her lifestyle changes have helped bring her levels down.
Charlene wants to increase awareness of PCOS, which she had not heard of before being diagnosed. “It’s more common than I realized, but most women only learn they have it when they’re wanting to start a family. Women who are struggling should know they’re not alone.”
Charlene’s Year in Health
Charlene does Hip Shake Fitness cardio routines three to four times a week and toning routines two or three times a week. Once a month she works out with a trainer, focusing on strength and positioning. She and her husband often take evening walks along The Strand.
Bacon and eggs or yogurt with fruit and nuts for breakfast. A salad with protein (usually chicken or meat) for lunch. For dinner she and her husband cook a meal from Green Chef, which has a keto plan. She avoids added sugars.
Charlene keeps a gratitude journal. Upon waking up, she’ll write three things she is grateful for from the previous day.
To have Michelle Obama dance in a Hip Shake Fitness video. “She brought a focus on health to our country. I love what she does, and I love that she was a First Lady who could do push-ups.”