You’ve probably seen Melina Matsoukas’ work, well, we’re sure you have. She’s the director behind Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” and Ludacris and Pharrell’s “Money Maker.”
In a recent profile for The New Yorker, Matsoukas sheds light on Beyoncé’s Lemonade, creating videos for some of the biggest names in pop, and directing for television.
Here are five things we learned.
1. Lemonade‘s deeper meaning was about black love and slavery. Matsoukas met with Beyoncé at her Los Angeles home, where she explained the concept of the new album to the director. “She wanted to show the historical impact of slavery on black love, and what it has done to the black family and black men and women—how we’re almost socialized not to be together.”
2. Mama Tina was a bit hestiant about that sinking cop car shot. Beyoncé wore a wetsuit underneath her Gucci outfit and seemed unbothered during shooting, but Mama Tina was a bit worried about her daughter’s health. “And Miss Tina is calling me, like, ‘You’re going to give her pneumonia, and she has to perform at the Super Bowl.’”
3. Matsoukas has a geniune friendship with the Knowles family. She spoke at Solange’s 2014 wedding, even dedicating a poignant Instagram post to the singer on her 30th birthday.
Dear Solange, 21. we met on a conference call and I thought you were high but later realized you were just a slow ass talker 22. We ate mad sushi and became sisters 23. I drove the getaway car for Keisha crazy. 24. Julez became my heart. 25 You threatened to leave LA. 26 you broke my heart and actually left LA. also we made one of the best pieces of art I've ever made in South Africa, so that made up for the move. 27 introduced me to the beauty of Nola and I caught 2 cocunuts at Zulu. 28 you married your soul mate and literally threw the best celebration of history. 29 we danced through those Havana streets as people threw buckets of cleansing water on us from their windows on New Years. But really it was just tap water… 30 you made it! And I no longer have to hear your insane theories about dying in your twenties. I don't like those at all… All that to say thank you for coming into my life and sharing this past decade with me. I love you from that treehouse in Sweden to the White Sands of New Mexico. You are my soul sister, my sanity, the other pea in this pod. Happy mothafuckin birthday Solo!!! I can't wait to spend the next decade talking revolutions, throwing shade, and leaving footprints round the world!!!
4. She’s successfully transitioned into directing for television with HBO hit Insecure. The show, starring creator Issa Rae, is Matsoukas’ television debut and sometimes Rae and the director butt heads over what the world of Insecure looks like. Rae told the publication, “Her taste is more elevated than mine. A lot of our biggest battles come from me wanting this to be grounded, and we end up meeting halfway. She comes from a more heightened world, and I’m self-proclaimed basic.”
5. Rihanna’s ”We Found Love” was controversial, but the pop star was willing to go there. For Rihanna’s hit song “We Found Love,” Matsoukas created a story inspired by Romeo and Juilet and Requiem for a Dream. The video, about a couple’s violent relationship, drew tons of controversy, since for many, it reminded them too much of the singer’s volatile relationship with ex Chris Brown. Matsoukas says, “She [Rihanna] was open to taking it there and with being honest and showing what life really is.” The set, however, was much more light-hearted. During the scene where Rihanna and video costar Dudley O’Shaughnessy argue in a car, Matsoukas reveals, “They were saying the most nonsensical things, like ‘Your pants are too tight!’”