Click Read More + Comment for additional photos. Meet 32 year old, Grammy award winning video and commercial Director, Melina Matsoukas. Directing in a male dominated industry, Matsoukas not only opens doors and knocks down barriers but stereotypes as well, proving quality is not always in a quantified budget, stating, “expensive equipment is not necessary for a quality video and one should never think that way: A good video has the right visuals, a well conceptualized story and should be exciting and elicit reaction”.

Working with heavy hitters such as Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Solange, Pharrell, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Ludacris, Lilly Allen, Lady Gaga, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg and many more, Matsoukas marches to the beat of her own drum and inspires other women to “Set your goals and go for it one step at a time. Work hard and educate yourself every step of the way. Never stop learning, listening, or seeing. I still am.” 

Stay with us as Refinery 29 shares an up close and intimate look into all things Melina Matsoukas.

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Via: Refinery 29


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Did you watch TRL and VH1 back in the day and know directing videos was your calling?

“I definitely was an MTV baby, but it wasn’t until college when I figured out I wanted to be in film and videos. I started in photography as a kid, and when I got to NYU I just thought it was a natural progression and a way for me to speak to the world. With music videos, I felt like I could be extremely experimental with my art and have fun at the same time. I just love them.”

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What are some old-school videos that have inspired you? 

Smack My Bitch Up” by the Prodigy — the first time anyone did something through a person’s point of view. It was daring and provocative and beautiful. And, I love Jonas Akerlund — he’s a legend. Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle” had a simple dance performance and was shot beautifully and intentionally — Janet was oh-so dope! Cee-Lo’s “Closet Freak” has great funk, humor, and special effects. I love Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” because of the black and white speed changes, the airstream trailers, the light, the superimpositions, and the symbolism. Lauryn Hill’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” has a cool take on one of my favorite movies: Rockers. Unkle’s “Rabbits In Your Headlights” is simple, yet powerful. True art. And, finally, Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” because of its strong, documentary-style imagery from a city I grew up in. It’s shot in this beautiful and dynamic way that had never really happened before in rap videos.”

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What was your reaction when you discovered that you were the first female director to win the award for Best Short Form Music Video at the 2013 Grammys for Rihanna’s “We Found Love”?

“It was such an honor, and of course I screamed and jumped and ran around the house like a fool for a minute. It was exciting, but I was so overwhelmed and tired that day that it really took a while to sink in. I had no idea that video would be received in such a great way, and it’s definitely an honor for it to be held in such high esteem. I didn’t think it was going to win the Grammy, since we were up against some great videos and directors, so it was definitely unexpected.

We love your ombre locks! How do you maintain the color?

“I actually don’t maintain it at all! I cut it all off about four years ago, and last year I weaved-it-up while it was growing back. One of my weaves was blonde, so I dyed the part of my hair that was left out of the weave the same blonde, which is just the rim. Anyway, the weave came out and I was too lazy to do anything with it, so I just started throwing it up in a bun. I used to have really curly hair, but it’s so damaged from straightening and coloring it. I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next with it, so I’ve just been letting it do its own thing. Hence, the ombre locks are really just a grown-out dye job.”

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In such a male-dominated industry, what is your advice to young female readers who want a career like yours?

“Set your goals and go for it one step at a time. Work hard and educate yourself every step of the way. Never stop learning, listening, or seeing. I still am.”

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You travel a ton. What’s your favorite piece you’ve brought back with you?

“Maybe my felt rocks from Hong Kong. I fell in love with that city because of its great design element. I found these felt rocks that I wanted, and I snuck them into our props for a commercial I was shooting. After the shoot, I swiped them and carried them on the plane. Going through customs was quite an experience. I must have looked like She-Ra!”

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How do you maintain such a rocking body with all that eating you do?

“I dress appropriately!”

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Where do you shop ’til you drop around town? What about on the web?

“I’m actually the worst online shopper. I don’t do it, because I need to try on clothes, and do a little stupid dance in them and see how they make me feel before I commit. I’m always at Opening Ceremony and I dabble in BergdorfsBarneysCreatures of ComfortTenOverSixAmerican RagThe Way We Wore, and a downtown vintage spot I can’t divulge.”

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How would you describe your style?

“I like to play with clothes and dress according to how I feel that particular day. I’m very much a tomboy, but I wear heels to balance that out. I actually live in heels, and I’m trying to work into a lower form of footwear at the moment. On that note, since I’m typically in a rush, I like easy things that you don’t have to think too much about, like jumpsuits. Also, I just love a good outfit, so when I find pieces that work together, I’ll wear them a few days in a row. But, I love clothes and I love getting dressed. If I’m not happy with my outfit, it’s not a good day. In general, I really just dress for me, so I feel confident and good about myself.”

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You are of Greek, Jewish, Jamaican, and Cuban descent — is there one nationality you identify with most? How do you think that blend creeps into your style?

“At the end of the day, I’m a black woman. I see race and culture as different entities and my experience is that of a black woman. I love that because of my different cultures, I’ve been exposed to so many different influences, ideas, views, foods, and experiences, and in terms of culture I wouldn’t say I…

…Want more? Checkout Refinery 29’s full interview with plenty of additional pictures on Melina Matouakas here