At 22, Karena Evans has made a name for herself as one of the most sought-after music video directors in the game. Before leading the visuals behind SZA’s ethereal single, “Garden (Say It Like That)” Evans made waves for directing Drake’s cinematic videos for “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What.“
A former intern to music video videogrpaher Director X, Evans’ hard work is paying off. She’s the first woman to receive the Lipsett Award for her work on “God’s Plan” and one of the youngest music video directors to create back to back music videos accumulating 600 million views on YouTube.
Her wins take us back to the golden days of music videos where women have always shined in the art of mini-storytelling. From cultural love letters like Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” (Sophia Muller) and the raw grit of Jadakiss’ “Why” (Sanaa Hamri), female music video directors have helped created some of the most memorable music videos of all time.
With many moving on to directing award-winning TV shows and films, check out some of the most legendary directors and other women on the rise below.
9. Laurieann Gibson
While known to many for her career in choreography, Gibson tried her hand at directing several of Lady Gaga’s visuals. The most famous of which, is Gaga’s “Yoü and I.” For this, Gibson incorporated her proficiency in several ways to craft one of the singer’s most legendary videos. Outside of music, her status as a prestigious dancer served as the basis for the movie Honey with director and writer Bille Woodruff.
8. Claudia Matè
The Spanish-born, London-based artist is just starting out as far as creating music videos go. Matè is a new media artist that rose up out of the “net-art renaissance,” specializing in 3D graphics, virtual reality and GIF animation. She’s worked with networks and brands like Adult Swim, MTV and Gucci. Her most recent work with Kelala’s “Frontline” is by far the most unique in the music video arena.
7. Sophie Muller
Muller is still one of the go-to music director for anyone with a hot pop song looking to bring it to new heights. She’s been in the business since 1989 and has worked with Annie Lennox, No Doubt, Rihanna, Shakira, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Beyonce, Ellie Goulding and One Direction. Muller’s visuals can be hard to stylize because each video is specific to the artist. Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” stands out above the rest.
6. Lacey Duke
As a youth, this Toronto-native found an affinity for visual storytelling. A passion which made directing music videos Duke’s most natural occupational option. As a result, Duke has created visuals for acts like D.R.A.M., The Internet and most recently, Janelle Monae’s “I Like That.” Duke has also flashed a preview of her cinematic potential as she has written, directed, and screened several short films at BET and festivals across the globe. Along with music videos and short films, Duke was behind Covergirl’s #GirlsCan campaign feature Monae among other advertisements.
5. Floria Sigismondi
Most recognized for her writing and directing the 2010 film, The Runaways, Sigismondi first gained notoriety as a music director. Throughout her tenure she has orchestrated visuals for everyone from Rihanna to Marilyn Manson. Yet, it was her work on Christina Aguilera’s 2004 ballad, “Fighter,” that gained her the most praise. In addition to movies and videos, Sigismondi has also directed commercials for powerhouse companies like Samsung and Gucci.
4. Hannah Lux-Davis
This VMA award winning music director is best known for her clean music videos that capture the bubbly feeling of the pop artists she usually works with. And although she stays mainstream (Ciara’s “I Bet,” Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side” featuring Nicki Minaj, Halsey’s “Alone”), our favorite from Lux-Davis has to be Lil Wayne’s “Love Me” featuring. Future and Drake. Outside music visuals, the Bellevue, WA native has also been contracted by Apple/Beats and Viacom for spins on her music videos.
3. Diane Martel
Martel got her start in the early ‘90s with Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.” In her lengthy career, Martel has worked with (deep breath) Christina Aguilera, Method Man, Eve, Jennifer Lopez, Omarion, Beyonce, Ciara and Miley Cyrus. The creative’s video style is minimal allowing the focus to be on the artist. Her most known and controversial work is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” in which she drew inspiration from Benny Hill and 1960s variety shows. She recently worked with Miley Cyrus for her newest project Younger Now.
2. Sanaa Hamri
One word comes to mind when watching Sanna Hamri’s videos: vibrant. She attributes her vivid imagery to her photographic memory of colors and Italian cinema and art from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Visuals for Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, Prince, Common and Jadakiss, show the Moroccan-born director is all about pops of color and visuals with a message. Most illustrative of Hamri’s style is Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,” full of icy blue ice sculptures, neon pink, and black light dances with eye-candy men.
Hamri moved to the United States to go to college, initially pursuing a career in theater. When things weren’t panning out, she decided to work as an assistant for cinematographer and producer Malik Hassan Sayeed. While working for him she taught herself the editing software Avid and began cutting videos for Sayeed, Hype Williams and Brett Ratner, leading up to her big break– Carey’s remix video to “Thank God I Found You” featuring Joe and Nas.
Since then she’s excelled in the music video business, using videos to tell stories that resonate with her. Hamri told Vulture she started to feel confined to the three minutes of a music video and longed to “tell bigger stories.” She now directs FOX’s hit show Empire.
1. Melina Matsoukas
Matsoukas’ cinematography portfolio is stacked with the biggest names in the music industry like Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Solange. Her video’s modus operandi flirt with video elements from decades past or pull from hip-hop’s extravagance, almost always capturing women as dynamic badasses in every frame. That explains why, creatively, Matsoukas and Beyonce go together like Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, “Formation” being the creative’s standout video. It has amassed over 100 million views since it hit YouTube in December 2016.
Matsoukas is a creative gift, using her talents not only for music but for TV as well. She’s one of the key directors of Issa Rae’s Insecure and directed a handful of episodes of Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None.
READ: SZA Finds Love With Donald Glover In Mystical “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” Video