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Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' - Behind the Visuals With DP Santiago Gonzalez

Klaudia//November 25, 2020
Beyoncé’s “Black Is King” earned nine Grammy nominations Tuesday, including song of the year and record of the year. The singer, who led the nominations, also received a nomination for Best Music Film. It was the fourth time she has been nominated in that category after winning for Netflix’s “Homecoming” and getting nominations for “Lemonade” and “Beyoncé & JAY-Z: On the Run Tour.”

“Black Is King,” now streaming on Disney Plus, was executive produced by Beyoncé as a visual companion to her 2019 release, “The Lion King: The Gift.”

Cinematographer Santiago Gonzalez talked with Variety about how the visuals for the Grammy-nominated music film came together and collaborating with Beyoncé.

What conversations did you have with Beyoncé regarding the visuals for “Black is King?”

The project evolved as we shot. Most of the conversations about the look of the different sections I shot were discussed more with each specific director. I was in a lot of prep meetings with Beyoncé but those were after she and the director had landed on a general look and feel for the section. These meetings would be logistical and world-building and at times I would present to her my ideas for the lighting so we could get more granular about what was needed for each day.

Beyoncé leads Grammy nominations with 9

Klaudia//November 24, 2020
Beyoncé is the one to beat at the 63rd Grammy Awards, snagging an eye-popping nine nominations.

The Recording Academy unveiled this year's nominees Tuesday via livestream.

The singer is up for record of the year for "Black Parade" as well as "Savage," her collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion. "Black Parade" also got a nod in the song of the year category. And "Brown Skin Girl" is a contender for best music video.

Beyoncé, who now has a lifetime 79 nominations and 24 wins, is the most-nominated female artist in Grammy history. She's tied with Paul McCartney for the second most-nominated artist of all time, trailing only her husband, Jay-Z (who received three nominations this year), and Quincy Jones – both with 80 career nominations.

If she takes home four gilded gramophones at the 2021 awards show in January, she'll become the female artist with the most Grammy wins. Eight trophies and she'll make history as the performer with the most Grammy wins of all time.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grammys are moving ahead on an in-person ceremony Jan. 31 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The event will be broadcast on CBS and hosted by Trevor Noah of "The Daily Show."

See all of Beyoncé's nominations below.

British Vogue's December 2020 Cover Story

Klaudia//November 1, 2020
Artist, businesswoman, perfectionist – the one woman powerhouse that is Beyoncé talks family, fashion and philanthropy (and bee hives) with Edward Enninful, in British Vogue’s December 2020 cover interview.


It was always going to be special. How could it not be? And yet I’m not sure I could have predicted how having Beyoncé – an icon of music, fashion and culture for more than 20 years – on British Vogue’s cover this month would finally come to pass.

As I logged on to my laptop one evening in early autumn to oversee the 12-hour shoot more than 3,000 miles away, in New York, I felt the thrill of the new. It was the culmination of months of preparation. “It takes enormous patience to rock with me,” Beyoncé Knowles-Carter wryly notes in our interview on the following pages, in a rare and rounded glimpse into her world. But let me tell you this: rocking with Beyoncé is electric.

Our creative discussions began during the early days of lockdown, and an idea quickly took shape. Social justice, a pandemic – it was clear that this was the moment for something extra. As we all know, it has been an extremely tough year for fashion, and so we wanted to create a no- holds-barred celebration. Who, after all, has the ability to elevate and excite like Queen B? And so we approached some of our favourite designers, who each made a custom piece for a 20-page extravaganza with a purpose: to uplift an industry.

Beyonce Nominated for the 2020 UK MVAs, E! PCAs & AFRIMMA

Klaudia//October 4, 2020
Beyonce has been nominated for the 2020 UK Music Video Awards in four categories and E! People's Choice Awards and All Africa Music Awards in one category. See the full list of nominations below and vote here and here.

UK Music Video Awards

Best R&B/Soul Video – International
Tiwa Savage – 49-99
Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, Major Lazer – Already
Yseult – Corps
070 Shake – Nice To Have
Gregory Porter – Revival
Marvin Gaye – What's Going On

Best Styling in a Video
Tiwa Savage – 49-99
Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, Major Lazer – Already
Raleigh Ritchie – Aristocrats
Yves Tumor – Gospel For A New Century
Michael Kiwanuka – Hero
Dua Lipa – Physical

Ibra Ake Talks Working With Beyoncé on 'Black Is King'

Klaudia//August 24, 2020
How was it collaborating with Beyoncé in terms of her imparting her vision, but then giving you the space to go and pursue yours?

It was a really great experience just to have the support from her in terms of resources and the attention it was going to be given because there's so much great work that is made out there that doesn't really get distribution. And another thing was just how respectful she was. I wish all directors and producers of culturally-sensitive material treated it with a level of seriousness that she did. There were so many conversations about what things meant. If it appeared in the shot, she wanted the meaning of what it meant, the history of it, even if it's like a mural, she wanted to know who painted it. I've never produced something and had to also be an archeologist at the same time.

There were a lot of days where I was like, "Oh yeah, I've never really thought about, even though that's part of my culture, I've never really thought about the actual history of what that means." And so, that lent itself to a lot of cool conversations and a lot of really cool moments. We were discussing cultural appropriation and I sent her clips of a Nollywood movie that is named after her. There were just like a lot of just weird conversations that were bouncing around during the project that led to certain choices being made. I really enjoyed all the questions she would ask me, because a lot of them I didn't really have an answer to. It's just some of those things where it's part of your culture, part of your life, but you're like why am I drawn to this? Why am I attracted to this? Like, what does this mean to me? Or what does this mean to other people in my life or other people with my identity, things like that. So, that was probably the most interesting part about collaborating with her, how much she wanted to know and understand. I've never really had a director or producer just be such a scholar. And even still, she was telling me that she had learned about other people and places and things making this project.

Black Is King Stylist & Co-Director on Project's Initial Concept

Klaudia//August 15, 2020
How long was production from start to finish?

Zerina Akers: My part, wardrobe, was about three months – concept to finish. But there are people who have worked on it longer. Beyoncé had the idea to do a much smaller project and it grew from there. She was like, ‘I want to start this thing.’ So I started going into fabric stores and swatching things that spoke to me as I listened to the music in my headphones. And then I had to get on the horn and call my counterpart who handles a lot of the market. I just called everyone I knew that could make things. I hired a whole new team of seven people.

When you first started going to those fabric markets, what was the brief at the time?

Zerina Akers: At that point, Beyoncé wanted to do quick bites. It was originally meant to be a few music videos. She wanted to shoot a minute of each song — a small piece to promote the album. And then it evolved and snowballed. It’s a Beyoncé project, so course we knew it would have a certain magnitude. But we had no idea at the outset that it would become what it is now. But most of all, I wanted her to feel good and empowered as she was performing. That was the most important thing for me. That she feels great.

Dancer Papi Ojo Talks Working With Beyonce On Black Is King

Klaudia//August 7, 2020
There are not many performers who can steal even an iota of the spotlight away from Beyoncé when she’s locked in. But in Black is King, her new visual album released last week on Disney+, an intriguing figure returns again and again to demand viewers’ attention. He wanders gorgeous African landscapes pensively, eyelids heavy and skin painted so blue as to appear almost translucent; he dances side by side with Beyoncé, hips jerking, tongue flailing outward.

That man is Stephen “Papi” Ojo, a self-taught 22-year-old Nigerian-born performer who has quietly played an outsize role in bringing African dance to American stages. He flanked Rihanna’s right shoulder at the 2018 Grammys as their gwara gwara dance (from South Africa) became a moment of international fascination; he taught Janet Jackson the kupe (from Ghana) for her music video “Made For Now,” a vibrant whirlwind of diasphoric triumph.

And in Black is King, Ojo is the most prominent face beyond that of its headlining star. He plays the “blue man,” who represents the subconscious of the protagonist prince and the power of African dance. It’s another unexpected moment of ascendance for a self-described “boy from Lagos” who has experienced harrowing personal tragedy and is still searching for financial stability: just a few months ago, he was packaging boxes overnight at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island.

“I have to make sure my people are properly represented,” Ojo says. “The fact that we have a legend like Beyoncé doing these moves will make people generations from now want to research them and think, ‘If Beyoncé is doing it, it must be important! It must have some kind of meaning.’”

'Black Is King' Hairstylists Made 40+ Wigs in Just 6 Days

Klaudia//August 6, 2020
Beyoncé really knows how to get a gal in her feelings. Let’s just say, I’ve have been in a perpetual state of “OMG” since watching the mega star’s latest feat of genius, Black is King. And according to the internet, my social media feed, and everyone with a Disney+ subscription—I’m not alone.

If you’re not hip to the hype yet, the 80-minute film is an odyssey through the African diaspora as told via the music and vision of arguably the most famous (and celebrated) African-American woman in the world…Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. True to form and history, Beyoncé did not come to play...she came to slayyyyy. And that she did.

Anyone would be moved by this unique take on the story of The Lion King--but as a Black woman, I’ve gotta say, it just hits different. Back culture is fully on display and as Queen Bey proudly professes in the opening scene: “Let Black be synonymous with glory.” So, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic *but* completely real, I’ve definitely been sitting taller and straightening my figurative crown over the past several days.

And speaking of crowns, let’s talk about the HAIR—all the mesmerizing hair! Trust, the fashion and beauty were prominent characters throughout the film. So, it comes as no surprise that Beyoncé tapped one of her beloved hairstylists, Neal Farinah, to lead the charge in executing the film’s iconic looks.

Farinah has spent over 15 years working with Beyoncé and created many of her most head-turning ‘dos. And again, if you’ve watched Black is King or seen any of the visuals (that are no doubt filling your IG feed) than you’ll know that the hairstyles created for this film are the most epic of his career.

'Black Is King' Co-Director Shares Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

Klaudia//August 5, 2020
It's no surprise that so many people are already calling Beyoncé's Black Is King "iconic." Ever since the singer's visual album (a companion to the music of The Lion King: The Gift) premiered on Disney+ last Friday, the Beyhive has been raving over the project, with celebrities like Kerry Washington, Adele and Keke Palmer taking to social media to praise the visuals, costumes, cinematography and more.

Now, in an exclusive new interview with ET, co-director Kwasi Fordjour is spilling all the details on how Black Is King came to be and what it was like traveling all over the world with Beyoncé.

"It started a year ago, and at the time, it wasn't a grand idea; it was a video," Fordjour tells ET's Kevin Frazier. "We had just finished 'Spirit.' That was the first visual from the album, and she wanted to release more visuals. We were discussing what we would do, what the process would be, and that's how it all started."

"For me, it's pretty exciting," he adds, of what it's like working on such a massive production. "Your adrenaline starts to rush and it becomes like, 'OK, what are we going to do, how are we going to do it, where do we start?' When you get into the space where you're so interested and enthralled with creating worlds and spaces, it becomes fun, and she makes it fun."

Fordjour tells ET that Black Is King was filmed in several locations, from South Africa to Belgium to London, and even Bey's home in Los Angeles.