In 2014, I was given a unique opportunity by John Legend’s manager Ty Stikolorous. John wanted to use the music video for his new hit single You & I (Nobody In The World) as a platform for female empowerment and to increase engagement in #OperationGirl, a non-profit crowdfunding campaign he was launching with RYOT (RYOT.org) and the Burkle Global Initiative. The campaign was to bring together the best organizations in the world focused on empowering, educating and protecting the rights of women and girls.
For my creative proposal, I chose to focus specifically on female self-reflection with a multi-platform approach. Two congruent “sister projects”, a music video and a documentary, would be created in parallel to explore the same dramatic question: “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” I directed the music video, while two veteran documentarians and close collaborators Kristelle Laroche and Ben Mullinkosson directed the documentary. We did two weeks of principal photography which took both teams to over 35 locations and introduced us to more than 60 diverse women and girls across Los Angeles.
We shot everything through a one-way-mirror, capturing close-ups of the subjects looking at the audience at the same time as they were looking at themselves. The idea was to capture women from all walks of life, with their motivations for reflection ranging everywhere from banal, comedic, or sexy, to sad, intriguing, and moving. Another goal was for each of these women to re-appropriate the entrenched conceit of the male gaze in cinema, choosing to define themselves on their own terms instead of those of others. Some prominent women included Orange Is The New Black star and prominent trans figure Laverne Cox (http://www.lavernecox.com), comedian Tig Notaro (http://tignation.com), and of course world renowned supermodel Chrissy Teigen who is also Mr. Legend’s wife.
The documentary, entitled “When I Look In The Mirror” is a behind-the-scenes exploration of each woman’s thoughts and insights into their own self-image. Laroche and Mullinkosson captured candid reactions from each of the women from the music video as they reflected on themselves and their past experiences. An interview took place with each of the women to cultivate a diverse collection of voices and perspectives. Every woman had a Polaroid photo taken of them and was asked to write, in one word, the answer to the question, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” Their various answers, written beneath their photos, are indicative of each woman’s diverse and unique sense of self.
In the end, both pieces explore female self-image, self-judgement, and ultimately, self-love.