Karena Evans Doesn’t Have Time To Sleep

It Girl: Karena Evans

Photo by Alexander Shabazz

You can thank Karena Evans for the uninhibited joy unleashed in the music video for Drake’s “Nice For What.” More than that, though, you can thank her for all Drake’s music video releases in 2018, from “God’s Plan” to “In My Feelings.” And? Evans also directed the visuals for SZA’s “Garden (Say It Like Dat).” What hasn’t the 22-year-old done? (A Beyoncé video, but, hopefully, Bey will get on that soon.)

While we’re in awe of the way Evans went from zero to 100 and made 2018 her year, what really makes her an It Girl in our eyes is how much heart she puts into her work, and how carefully she curates her creativity. She’s not just taking any project that comes her way; she’s choosing ones that she believes in and, in the process, she’s become one of the most sought-after music video directors in the game.

Below, we talk with Evans about her work, her life, and who her own It Girl is.

Your 2018 has been wild—what keeps you grounded? 
The work, the stories, AND the people I'm doing it for and with. For me, it's always remembering that this journey is bigger than me—and to stay focused, but stay open and inspired.

You’ve highlighted such important stories and concepts in your directorial work. Is this something that plays a role in what projects you choose to work on? Or, is it something that happens organically once you’ve signed on with an artist? 
Personally, the projects I choose to work on, both as a director and an actor, have to inspire me. I have to believe in it, the story, the artist, and/or the message, to be able to truly stand behind it and put my heart and my mind into creating and telling it. I'm just learning that I have a voice, what that voice is, and how I'm going to use it. And so, I'm pretty cautious about what I take on as an artist, in order to protect that voice and preserve my artistic integrity.

How do you respond to people who still feel the need to categorize you as “very young,” especially in a condescending way when discussing your talent? 
I simply don't respond with words, but rather with the work. We're in a show-and-prove industry, and with all the false pretenses about how people come, I believe it's best just to prove it, rather than to say it. I mean, how will they argue then?

I will admit though, it does get to me sometimes. But I choose to keep fighting those thoughts, from others and myself, because I feel I have a responsibility to do so.

What are some of the self-care rituals you practice to keep everything balanced? 
Ha! I'm still learning what self-care rituals even are. Meditation, faith, crystals, and time for family and friends. It's hard for me to get sleep in, but I've heard it's real good for you.

Do you have a dream project/collaborator you’d like to work on/with?
I can't spill all my secrets, girl! I think my dream, in a broader sense, is to be able to have a lifetime of storytelling, in all different sorts of ways: directing, acting… film, TV… Beyoncé, Rihanna. But truly, my dream is to be able to impact humanity by telling important, inclusive, authentic stories, in a longer form, on bigger and higher levels.

Who was your It Girl when you were growing up? 
Melina Matsoukas.

And Who is your It Girl now? 
Melina Matsoukas. Always has, always will be!