According to reports, more and more millennials are turning away from organized religion. According to Ariana Grande, "God Is a Woman." And the positively stunning music video that makes Grande the literal center of the universe is enough to turn anyone into a believer. Along with a chorus of screaming gophers, the high point of the video is the lavender swirl of body paint Grande wears and swims around in. The celestial tableau is part Michelangelo, part Close Encounters, and 100 percent fabulous. It comes courtesy of Alexa Meade, who spoke to POPSUGAR about what it took to pull off the video's ambitious set design.
As a visual artist, Meade has found success painting people to resemble portraits, mixing two and three dimensions to create trippy feminist portraits. The artist is used to painting on commission, which allows her to intimately get to know her subjects before painting. For "God Is a Woman," things moved a bit more quickly. "We met on the morning of the shoot, in her dressing room," Meade said. "The body painting happened later; it was scheduled for the last shoot of the day. We were on a time crunch, working with a lot of people and moving parts, so I understood that limitation."
Despite that, Meade said the spontaneity of the shoot may have helped the pair connect. "Ariana and I sort of got to know each other through the painting," Meade said. "There was so much energy and light shining through her that it was easy to immediately see that I could create something incredible with her." All in all, the brushstrokes took just 40 minutes to apply. According to Meade, "We worked super fast and moved quickly."
Along with body painting, Meade was also responsible for creating the swirling mixture Grande lies in at the opening of the video. Despite fan's suspicions, she wasn't lounging in a pool of Lush bath bombs. "She was in an enormous bathtub filled with white fluid," Meade said. The operation was totally vegan. "Some people might think it was milk, and I have done projects like that before with the performance artist Sheila Vand," Meade explained. "But this was a special effects fluid."
"I knew Ariana would be beautiful and rock it, but I was most nervous about pulling off a painting on this huge scale"
Nailing the vision of marbled white, pink, and blue liquids sitting on top of the base periwinkle one proved challenging. "Sheila Vand flew from New York to LA to help me research and develop a way of creating a painting on the surface of a liquid," Meade said. The problem was the paint would slide to the side or hit the bottom as soon as it touched the bottom layer of liquid. "It was a huge endeavor, I was losing sleep over this shoot," Meade said. "I knew Ariana would be beautiful and rock it, but I was most nervous about pulling off a painting on this huge scale."
The duo came up with an idea: create a metal wire frame stencil that Meade calls a kind of "big rubber stamp." They loaded the stencil with paint, and rested it on the surface of the liquid to let the colors dissipate in the pattern. "It took 20 minutes and four people to set up this shot," Meade said. They nailed the first take. Meade said that when the director asked to do it again, "My assistant and I ended up running laps around the bath squirting paint into the liquid. It turned out to be a relay race to get in paint, and make the color rich and vibrant."
Clearly, the cardio paid off.