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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.

And when did you know it was a film?

Kwasi Fordjour: I have to give that to Beyonce for sure because we started making the videos and as she started seeing things come together she then said, "This is actually bigger than this. I want this to be a film." And that's when we brought on Blitz and we had already shot a lot of content. So we had him glance at it and come up with a story that could blend it and pull it all together. And I think it was the mid-mark, we had already shot a majority of the videos, and we were sitting on mountains of content. We had Blitz come in, he started looking at things and then he started working on story. And had a vision of the type of story that she wanted to tell. And we knew the core of it was Lion King. So that was our road map. But it was like, "How are we gonna do it?" But when we realized this was actually coming together to be a film, after Blitz wrote the story we approved it and then after shooting and pulling everything together we went through a ton of edits. There were tons. I would give you a number but at this point I can't even keep up. And it was maybe two or three months ago where we looked at it and we were like, "Oh, this feels good, this is a film."

This celebration of Black men and Black boys — anchored by celebration of Black women and girls — what does it mean for you for this to come out during a time where we’re seeing continued police brutality and state violence against Black men and women?

Kwasi Fordjour: For me, it meant the world. It was really powerful, because we didn’t plan this. We started this a year ago. It became a year because of the process and because of constant need to perfect the story and get the core of the project intact. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were planning to go back to South Africa to shoot some other takes and some more of the story because we felt like we didn’t have enough. Then we realized the border was shut down; we couldn’t travel. We had to look at everything and almost reattack it. As things started to transpire, and as we started to continue to build this story of this young king, everything around us started to happen. For me being able to create — something that is just so necessary — is probably the most powerful thing I will do in my life.