You’ve heard the song a hundred times by now. You’ve seen the behind-the-scenes snapchats and preview pics. But what you don’t know is that just out of the range of the camera’s fogged up lens, I was standing there on the set of Rihanna’s “Work” music video featuring Drake.
In my about page, I talk about how in real life, I work as a fashion stylist. I go into more detail about that on my portfolio. Whether I’m the lead on set or I’m assisting another, more established stylist, I’ve had the pleasure of working for some pretty amazing clients like The Globe and Mail, Elite Model Management, Aldo, Joe Fresh, Toronto Fashion Week, and so many other awesome brands and businesses. However, I recently had the opportunity to add Rihanna to my list of clients and this project has gone to the top of my list of favorites.
On February 1st I received a message telling me about a casting call looking for dancers for a Rihanna and Drake music video. While I didn’t attend it, my interest was definitely piqued. Two days later I was invited to join the wardrobe team for the video and I immediately cleared my schedule. Two days later the adventure began.
On only four hours of sleep, and not much more the days before, on February 5th at 7:00am I met with the style team working on Rihanna and Drake’s “Work” video consisting of the lead stylist from the UK, Anna Trevelyan, her two NYC Based assistants, another Toronto assistant and I.
Racks and racks of gorgeous, brightly-colored clothing lined their suite. I estimate there must have been about two full wardrobe racks of Rihanna’s wardrobe alone which we packed carefully. We gathered up everything and headed to a secret location called Basecamp around 9am when the shoot began.
Then it was all about getting settled, unpacking, and transforming 60 dancers into skin out gyals and dancehall kings. Neon, fishnets, camo, and rasta color schemes galore. When the dancers were dressed they began shooting their dance scenes at a location that now the whole city of Toronto recognizes as a restaurant called The Real Jerk at 842 Gerrard Street East. Even the police and security couldn’t keep news media from the not so secret location for long.
I was the only wardrobe stylist on set during this time as the rest of the team worked on prepping Rihanna and other tasks. It was so exhilarating and such an honor to be the only one there working with Director X, his assistants, and the rest of the large production crew to make sure the dancers looked great in their scenes.
Not long after shooting began I already started to hear whispers about keeping the press from finding out what was going on. It was early in the day and local news media was already gathering around The Real Jerk, hiding in alleyways and other hidden corners, hoping to get a closer look.
On the inside I watched the choreographer as she gave directions to the dancers. Dressed in black overalls with a black leather crop top underneath she reminded me of Laurieann Gibson the way she called out to them over the booming bass. “Third! First! Second!” she called to them, referring to the previously rehearsed dance sequences that she wanted them to perform until they did it just right.
After lots of shooting we broke for lunch around 4:00p. Everyone was still buzzing about when Rihanna and Drake would appear. After much anticipation they both finally emerged separately sometime between 8:30pm and 9:00pm. I had heard Rih was there but didn’t see her in person until around 10:00p. I recall seeing Drake in person first. He mixed in with the crowd, chatting with friends and the crew and watching Rihanna shoot.
Drake was friendly and if he saw someone looking at him he’d be sure to make eye contact back with them. Rihanna seemed more reserved on set but from what a dancer said she was pretty friendly with them while shooting scenes.As the night wore on the smell of weed smoke filled the air all over set. In true Rih fashion, she was lighting up to get in the party mood and others were joining her too.
It was fun to see candid moments like Rihanna touching up her own makeup or playing with her friend and assistant Jen Rosales and the rest of her girl crew. She’d be whining on Drake and catch herself slipping in her gold high heels. It all made her very human. It was nice to see her so down-to-earth considering her otherworldly beauty. Yes, she is just as stunning in person and looks exactly like her photos.
Around 11:00pm model Winnie Harlow came to set to show support and would later end up making a cameo in one of the last scenes of the shoot. It was just before midnight when we took another break before heading back to shoot again.
I could tell around this time that people were getting tired but still pushing themselves to work hard for a great end result. I was most impressed by the work ethic of the dancers who continued to physically give their all take after take. Even during breaks, I’d still catch them dancing and I couldn’t imagine how they had the energy.
The shoot officially wrapped a bit after 6:00am February 6th. We had started packing up the wardrobe sooner so that at 7:00am we were able to leave. 24 straight hours of work.
This was the first music video I’ve been on set for and I have never experienced anything like that in my life. It was a pleasure working with the makeup artists, production assistants, and dancers who were a lot of fun to be around the whole time. By the end it felt like we had gone from strangers to a little family.
After having been awake for 26 hours straight I made it home just as my body was shutting down on me. Happy to have had the experience, learned new things, and made some new connections with people I hope to see again.If you haven’t seen the video yet, please check out the video below and experience it as I did that day. And when you’re watching it, know that just out of frame, just on the other side of the bar, just behind the speakers, I was there.