With over 20 different set-ups shot over the course of two days, it’s clear that creating Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman” music video was a demanding process for everyone involved. But there’s one shot that’s more hypnotizing than the rest, which is probably why it comes right in the beginning. We’re talking about the scene with Grande swirling around in a tub of purple paint that looks an awful lot like a vulva.
The design makes us think of iconic painter Georgia O’Keeffe — and the yonic vibes couldn’t be more apt given the song’s message — so we were left with some big questions. Namely, how did this scene come together? And better yet, who created it?! We asked the painter behind it all, Alexa Meade, for all the details — and she told us everything.
Most famous for her unique technique and style of turning real people into two-dimensional paintings, Meade has worked with a variety of brands and celebs before meeting Grande. But her experience on the set of “God Is A Woman” is one she won’t likely forget anytime soon. “It was a dream,” she tells us. And how couldn’t it be? Being asked by director Dave Meyers to create an avant garde image for Grande’s most-anticipated single off her upcoming album, Sweetener, is nothing short of huge. Of course, she nailed it — so much so, there’s likely going to be a Lush bath bomb created to replicate the moment.
We asked Meade exactly how she covered Grande in purple paint without it looking like a hot mess in water, her inspiration behind the femme-powered imagery, and how damn long the whole thing took to complete. Her answers, below.
Alexa Meade: “Dave saw a collaboration I did with Sheila Vand in 2012 where I painted her in a bathtub of milk. He was interested and asked how to incorporate my work into this music video. It ended up fitting because of all the rich imagery, so having Ariana lying in a bath that feels like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting made sense.”
So, it was inspired by O’Keeffe?
“The inspiration came from different paintings, but the one Ariana quickly responded to was from 1923 called Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow. She really liked the subtle purple, periwinkle shades. I think that’s what her new hair was kind of inspired by.”
Exactly how did you paint the water she’s in?
“That is a tough question. We initially came up with the idea of creating this giant stencil that would lay down on the surface of the water then sink to the bottom, allowing the paint to float up and out, coming off the stencil. For the first take, that worked. But for the second take, we realized, it would involve another 20 minutes of time to re-create the stencil again. It was essentially this giant wire, metal-frame apparatus that we covered in absorbent material, soaked in paint. It took four people to carry it. We had to dip it around Ariana’s body, hold it for a moment, then let it submerge so the paint would create those lines. So, me, Sheila, and my three assistants ended up running laps around the pool squirting paint onto the water instead.”
Behind the scenes of my collab with @arianagrande in her new video, “God is a woman”, inspired by my work with @dontworryitssheila. The video, directed by @dave_meyers, comes out in an hour! ? by @alfredoflores #staytuned #arianagrande #giaw @sweetener #linkinbio
A post shared by Alexa Meade (@alexameadeart) on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:18am PDT
That sounds like… a lot.
“It was enormous. It was a really large pool…”
As big as it looks on camera?
“I think they extended the edges to beyond the 16×9 ratio, but yeah.”
“I was told about the music video about two weeks in advance. My assistants, Sheila, and I were working about 15-hour days leading up to the shoot because there were so many problems to solve, like how to get her hair to look good in this water. The problem with hair in water is that some will sink, some will float. It’s unbecoming. So, I talked to her hairstylist Josh Liu and I braided a rope that would attach to her hair and painted it to match the water. Then, it took about 20 to 30 minutes to shoot the whole thing.”
A post shared by Ashley K Holm (@ash_kholm) on Jul 15, 2018 at 1:06pm PDT
What was the body painting process like?
“It was about 40 minutes to paint her entire body with the waterproof paint. I knew I wanted the colors to be purples and dark blues, so they wouldn’t exactly match the paint in the pool. I wanted them to be similar, but not exact. I mostly worked with colors that were going to contrast well against her skin tone since some parts of her skin would be showing.”
A post shared by Ariana Grande (@arianagrande) on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:25pm PDT
Then you painted her face?
“I did her full body then when I went to paint her face, I told her makeup artist Ashley [Holm] because she was responsible for the more traditional face makeup, like her eyeliner. Ariana actually painted her own lips. It was her idea to paint them baby blue with hints of pink for some depth. She was a pro with a paint brush and palette.”
A post shared by Alexa Meade (@alexameadeart) on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:10am PDT
Would you say this was one of the most challenging projects you’ve ever had?
“Yeah, being able to pull off a large painting on a liquid surface fast… you have no choice but to make it work. But it was a dream working with Dave, who really gets artists and knows how to bring musicians and people together to create this vision.”
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