5 Black Women Music Video Storytellers You Need To Know
“One of the special things about our friendship is, nine times out of ten we are on the same wavelength,” Solange told the New Yorker when asked about working with music video director, Melina Matsoukas. “Her being a black woman being able to tell those stories in such a bold, unique way is really rare.” Black women, like Matsoukas, are outnumbered, often overlooked, and frequently pigeonholed in the music industry. This is particularly true for the world of music video direction and storytelling, where roles available to Black women often reinforce stereotypes and typecast them as video vixens or background characters in stories that don’t reflect their experience.
However, when the person behind the direction, story, or camera of a music video is in fact a Black woman, the ability to tell more nuanced and multifaceted stories, or reach the same “wavelength” of Black artists that Solange described, is more readily available. From Beyoncé’s “Formation” to Drake’s “God’s Plan,” the following five women have proven the necessity of Black direction in Black storytelling. Through their creative direction, skill, and unique perspective, they have not only told the authentic and artistic stories of artists through the music video format but made space for the Black female directors and creatives to come up behind them.
Director and artist child. grew up surrounded by music in Shreveport, Louisiana, thanks to her churchgoing family and mother who child. shares “used to color and listen to gospel music while I was in her womb.” That foundation of art and spirituality never left her, pushing her into a career as a photographer and creative director. Leaning into her upbringing, and bringing dreamlike imagery to her work in videos she’s directed for Big Sean, Janelle Monáe, Nas, and H.E.R., child. draws inspiration from the Black experience, biblical stories, and even artists like Jean Michel Basquiat. Though her work pays homage to her past, child. has her eyes set on the future, sharing, “I plan to impact the art world like nothing they’ve ever seen before. I see myself going beyond the stars.”
Growing up in Toronto, Lacey Duke knew she wanted to be a music video director. She conquered her dream step by step, attending film school, then interning at a production company in London, and eventually moving to New York where she worked with smaller artists. But then, hard work crossed paths with opportunity when she met Janelle Monáe after a show. Eventually, Monáe asked her to direct her music video for her track “I Like That,” launching Duke into a career where she’s brought authentic portrayals of Black womanhood onto the small screen. Since then she’s directed award-winning videos for SZA, Bryson Tiller, and H.E.R. Speaking to Complex about her work with Black women, she shared, “I have a responsibility in a sense, and I don’t feel pigeonholed by it at all. I think there’s something beautiful about my subjects just being black women, that’s not some little shit.”
Known for her cinematic, authentic, and narrative-heavy visuals, music video director Karena Evans got her start at a Toronto-based film school but eventually dropped out after getting frustrated by the curriculum’s slow pace. So, she took matters into her own hands, shooting a cold text to Canadian filmmaker Director X and landing an internship at his production company. That longshot paid off, and now she’s known for directing several of Drake’s music videos, including the altruistic “God’s Plan,” the fun-centric “I’m Upset,” and the star-studded “Nice for What.” Evans also understands what her work means to up-and-coming Black female directors and the importance of making space for those creators. She told Teen Vogue, “I think the first thing to realize is that there are in fact a lot of female directors. There are a lot of women of color who are here and present. The unfortunate part is that we were not always given a place. It took the Melina Matsoukas, the Ava DuVernays, and others who have paved the way for me, and the next generation of young Black female filmmakers, to help us understand that we do have a place, and to also break down those barriers so we can be heard.”
Melina Matsoukas’ resume speaks for itself, she’s responsible for creating some of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning music videos of the past decade. She’s brought her blueprint to Rihanna’s MTV Best Music Award-winning video for “We Found Love,” (she was the first female director to receive this honor) Solange’s “Losing You,” and even nabbed a Grammy for her direction of Beyoncé’s “Formation.” She’s also known for highlighting the Black experience through her film work, including her debut Queen & Slim. Matsoukas is credited for executive producing and directing Issa Rae’s successful HBO series Insecure, which notably gives an authentic, positive, and culturally resonate portrayal of Black women. In speaking on her career thus far, Matsoukas told Rolling Stone, “I am who I am because of Black women,” adding, “We’re beginning to redefine our community — and hopefully our version of Hollywood.”
Laurieann Gibson may be known for her choreographing dance numbers for legends like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé, but her focus on creative direction has also allowed her to become a successful music video director. Her direction credits include Lady Gaga’s “Judas” and “You and I,” and Keri Hilson’s “The Way You Love Me.” Gibson, who has appeared on multiple reality shows providing straight-forward dance direction, is cognizant of how her experience has differed from her white counterparts. She spoke to The Grio, about how her intensity as a Black woman is often seen as intimidating, sharing, “I absolutely have endured the lack of fairness as a young Black woman and as a professional woman. There is a difference. When we react or we are dramatic or intense then we’re intimidating.” She added, ”It is really difficult and I have had to find a way to evolve the conversation. Yes I’m intense because I’m passionate.“