Dalia Dias: The Power House Behind Cardi B's Twerk
Working at LAPP HQ has its many privileges, but nothing compares to the opportunity to interview talented women of colour like Dalia Dias. Born to Nigerian and Egyptian parents and raised in North London, Dias has made huge waves in the creative industry internationally, working with the likes of Quavo and Tyga. In an exclusive interview for LAPP, I sit down with the 24-year-old powerhouse to discuss her latest collaboration with Cardi B and City Girls for the “controversial” video Twerk, feminism and her goals for the future…
Tskenya-Sarah Frazer: Thanks for joining us Dalia. There are so many things for us to discuss, but before we get on, could you share what “feminism” means to you?
Dalia Dias: Feminism to me means to be female and for everything that comes with being female, to be accepted. It means to shine and succeed regardless of our gender or appearance. It means to not be judged or have to act a certain way just to fit in spaces that we “stereotypically” are “not supposed” to be in – sports, media production, music for example.
Feminism to me is creating a strong message and letting the world know that to be woman, is to be golden and our strength should not be underestimated at any point. My long term goal is to create opportunities for more women to achieve and reach heights in their desired areas of interest within the creative industry.
As women, we need to stick together and join forces and push as a unit! Collaboration is the greatest gift and the key to achieving anything ultimately.
TSF: That is beautiful, personal and thoughtful definition. So, how does feminism guide your creativity and direction on set?
DD: Being very focused on female representation I constantly think about this when working. I allow it to guide my direction and decisions to the tiniest of details. When a client has a brief, I always find a way to incorporate their wants and needs with my values – making sure I’m giving them what they asked for but also not losing myself or what I believe, in the process of doing so.
TSF: The Twerk video currently stands at just over 20 million views, which is just wild! What inspired you when putting the direction for the video together?
DD: The Twerk video was a challenge – but all challenges are great because this is where you grow as an artist and a creative. I honestly was afraid to do a video where the client specifically wanted so many butt cheeks on camera – but my way of flipping this on it’s head was to push for a “No Boys Allowed” narrative and it worked. We gave them Jay-Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ vibes, however without the men and without the pimping. I made the video a Girls Only Zone and that was my driving force for the entire Creative Direction. Knowing that this video is about femininity, women coming together and having a good time, celebrating, dancing, embracing the culture and just having fun! That is what makes it different to any other twerk video and puts it on a whole new level.
No preying eyes, no exploitation, no degrading. The Twerk video is pretty much a visual representation of a girls trip and probably what most girls do at home whilst getting ready in the mirror…. Just on steroids perhaps! I mean, I know if a City Girls or Cardi B song comes on when I’m doing my make up, I’m for sure twerking. It’s like the warm up before you step out.
But we had to go hard, it was either that or for me to fly back home for 10 hours from Miami, which I wasn’t about to do. I got “flewed out” so I had to go hard – #PERIOD, as Yung Miami would say.
TSF: I think it is refreshing that the video is free from the male gaze, which is so important considering the ways in which Black women are so heavily over-sexualised and often degraded in the process. Was it a conscious decision to only include Black women in the video?
DD: It was a real life competition and that’s how we came about the contestants – who are the girls in the video. Each of the girls submitted their entry to the City Girls $25k Twerk Challenge and the ones that made it to Miami were the strongest candidates. They worked for it!
With that being said, I didn’t deal with the casting on this occasion but I usually do push for women of colour because I am a WOC myself. Black is beautiful and we need to see more of it. I’m all for changing the narrative and stigma around WOC in the video world and that’s why I fight for it, ensuring that where possible we are represented as well as being represented in the right way and creating something groundbreaking.
People may disagree and say “how is twerking being represented in the right way?” but there’s levels to this – These women are athletes! And if twerking was a sport they would all be in the finals! At this stage, they are showing us something that requires a skill, just like any other form of dance and it’s not to be underestimated. Furthermore, to my previous point – we created a Girls Only Zone, to be free and have fun amongst ourselves! This is for us, women!
TSF: And that is what I appreciate the video most, as it is lead and made for fierce women . Did you always know you wanted to get into Creative direction?
DD: I always knew I wanted to work in film and photography. So I pursued it from young. Starting out as a music video director and later on moving into photography and creative direction as I progressed throughout my career, I managed to build and grow my skill set and earn the several hats that I wear. I got into it by studying design and photography at university in London and working my socks off! Reading and researching endlessly and finding opportunities as well as networking and getting gigs of my own.
TSF: Is creative direction a difficult space to navigate as a Woman of Colour?
DD: Of course it’s been hard at times to navigate as a WOC but I never see this as a burden or a crutch! As a matter of fact it’s my power, it’s what makes me stand out because being a woman in a male dominated industry makes you stand out, you now add being black on top of that and there you have a niche that is special and comes with a unique perspective to the game. But there are more and more of us emerging today and that’s what makes me excited and happy. I love walking on to set and people assuming I’m a model or the make up artist and I’m like, actually I’m the Director/Creative Director! That cracks me up every single time because instantly the dynamics change – it’s “yes boss” straight away. And at that point, being a WOC goes out the window. We are all here to work, you have to listen to the director if you want to get the job done. As simple as that!
TSF: You have worked with the likes of Quavo, Tyga and now Cardi B, what is next for you? What are your plans for the future?
DD: I have big plans and big dreams. With Twerk being the first video I’ve done this year I’m very excited for what’s to come. The tone has been set now, all I can say is watch this space! I won’t mention who I would like to work with from the UK because that would be telling! Lol, but keep your eyes peeled.
TSF: Any artists from the US that you have in mind?
DD: From the US, I would love to work with a J Cole or a Kendrick Lamar, just because I feel like I’d be able to offer them something different and out of the box. On the female front, Queen B of course! And her sister too, Solange – they are very versatile and dynamic… I reckon we will be able to create something out of this world!
I might be reaching, but if you aim for the stars then at worst you’ll land amongst the clouds and that’s not a bad place for a 24-year-old, I’m only getting started in my eyes.
TSF: Genuinely, we cannot wait to see where else you go at LAPP. Finally, what advice would you give to other young women wanting to get into the creative industry?
DD: Collaboration is your best tool – use it. Network, build trustworthy contacts and teams, meet and work with people that share your vision. Save your money and travel the world, seek inspiration from various sources. Learn and master your craft, study and grow your knowledge base. Research is everything. Most importantly, be humble!
We are all students of life.
TSF: Thank you, Dalia.
Written by Tskenya-Sarah Frazer