The creative mind behind some of your favourite artists' favourite music videos speaks to Lil Miquela about how he would spend a day with Britney and his Nutella skincare routine
Pop videographer Bardia Zeinali has been making videos since he was a child creating Britney Spears’s tributes on Windows Movie Maker. Since then, his signature mash-up style led has led to roles including Vogue’s visual content creator, where he amassed fans including Petra Collins and beauty mogul Pat McGrath, and now his current position as a commercial film director. Known for making fashion funny on Instagram, Bardia’s use of comedy, music, and sharp transitions merge pop culture with his childhood love for fashion magazines and his aspirations to be a musician.
From Troye Sivan's video for Bloom – which has been dubbed as a queer lookbook – to D.C.'s Women's March, the Met Gala to the Hadid's Beetlejuice Vogue film, Zeinali captures moments in the most aesthetically pleasing way. Lil Miquela speaks to him about pop culture, Instagram and the creative directory behind his work.
Lil Miquela: Hi Bardiaaaaa! So I have to say, so much of your work – I’m thinking of the “Party for One” and “Dance to This” videos for example – make me feel nostalgic for something I’m not even sure I’ve experienced. What are you thinking about or channelling when you come up with concepts and begin directing?
Bardia Zeinali: I’m not even sure I’ve experienced them either! That’s kind of what I’m exploring through my work, though. The experiences, feelings, and fantasies I haven’t had the chance to live out. Obviously, I apply bits of my own personal knowledge and wisdom. I’m also just generally an insanely nostalgic person and love to romanticize the past. But I think that feeling of nostalgia comes mostly from the general overall themes throughout: isolation and camaraderie in “Dance to This,” finding independence in your heartbreak in “Party For One,” and so on. We’ve all felt those things, they’re universal. But then there is always a heightened reality, too – an element or build up of fantasy that unfolds – and I think that is where the experience is pushed further from what most of us know. I believe it’s called neo-nostalgia. It’s something I’ve always leaned toward.
Lil Miquela: I’m so interested in how you take in and absorb pop culture. Do you believe in the concept of guilty pleasures? Do you have any shows or songs or online habits you consider to be those? Like, I’m not exactly feeling GUILTY when I was old episodes of The Simple Life or new Vanderpump Rules, but I could see how some people might.
Bardia Zeinali: I absolutely do not believe in “guilty” pleasures! I hate that term. If something *sparks joy* you shouldn’t feel any guilt or shame (unless of course it’s illegal or harming/threatening to yourself or another person... but that’s a completely separate issue...) I hate that society imposes this imaginary standard of what’s acceptable and the only way to justify liking something below that standard is to admit guilt. That’s trash! Even growing up in the height of hipster culture, when all my peers considered it super lowbrow to listen to pop music or top 40 radio, I had no issue admitting my love for it. I wasn’t here to pretend to care about M83 or The Shins. I was too busy experiencing the greatest album of the millennium - Britney Spears’s Blackout, obviously.
But I think we’ve moved past that elitist attitude. Do music snobs even still exist?! Respectable, intellectual types now proudly watch Real Housewives and art girls admit to loving and listening to Ariana Grande. Now it almost feels like if you’re not up to date with pop culture, you’re not on the pulse. So to sum up: no, guilty pleasures are not real to me. And I’m obsessed with the show Skin Wars right now. I also watch Shark Tank every night. And I still listen to Benny Benassi in an unironic way.
Lil Miquela: So much of your work, up to and including your (very funny, highly recommended) Instagram, A+ perfect) mixes glamour and humor with, I think it’s fair to say, a slightly menacing quality. How would you describe your aesthetic?
Bardia Zeinali: Menacing! I love it.
I don’t see my work as having a distinct visual aesthetic but an overall energy that I would hope is identifiable. The edit style and pace, the music curation and sound design, comedic relief - all are elements in creating that energy. That’s one thing that separates me from most other directors. Nine out of ten times when I’m optioned for a job, they want something that “feels” versus “looks” very me. I’m big on humor, so there is always some touch of that in what I do. It’s also nice to keep the work grounded a bit. Especially when it’s a fashion film. There’s nothing worse than a self-serious fashion film.
Lil Miquela: What Instagram accounts do you find inspiring lately?
Bardia Zeinali: @puddlespityparty and no one else. He’s a sad singing clown and I love him.
Lil Miquela: You have such a unique, strong look across your visual projects; I’m really interested to see if that plays out in your daily routine. What do you do in terms of skincare/beauty? How do you stay so beautiful, Bardia, is what I’m really asking.
Bardia Zeinali: I eat a jar of Nutella at least every other day. And I NEVER dry my face after I’ve washed it. I’m convinced that my skin absorbs the water molecules and that it’s the ultimate anti-aging hydrating treatment… don’t @ me.
Lil Miquela: Do you have a beauty/aesthetic muse?
Bardia Zeinali: My mom and sisters, of course. But besides them, Medalion Rahimi is insanely stunning. She’s an LA-based Iranian-American actress/model/artist. Its exciting to see a fellow Iranian in this industry. We’re few and far between. But I love seeing her representing Iranians in major beauty campaigns, on TV and on stage. I also had the pleasure of working with her once and she is talented beyond means.
But also, shoutout to Alton Mason for being iconic. And Parker Kit Hill for being the muse of all muses. And my sis Mette Towley for inventing beauty. Oh, and Bella Hadid because duh.
Lil Miquela: If you could spend a day with Britney Spears, what would the two of you do? And would you invite me too, please? I wouldn’t even say anything, I just want to be there and experience the radiance. Speaking as a robot, I feel Britney represents th height of the human experience. Like, have you seen her paintings?
Bardia Zeinali: Britney invented painting. But more importantly, her fashion shows: I could watch them all day. That’s how we would spend the day with Brit-Brit. I can totally picture you doing her iconic twirl down that hall.
I’m also genuinely curious to see how it all goes down. Who is the genius mastermind behind it all? I would definitely need to spend a portion of this day behind the scenes learning her techniques. Also who is her DP? Who edits? Who’s doing the music supervision (and who chose Tracy Chapman?!). I feel like there’s so much to learn…
Lil Miquela: Do you think the erosion of tabloid culture has hurt or helped celebrity? Pretend I’m, like, adjusting my pop culture critic beret as I’m asking you this.
Bardia Zeinali: The way we consume celebrity gossip has evolved. What was once printed weekly, we now receive instantly. And we are able to make direct contact with the subject and engage with others on that topic. It’s obviously more in favor of the celebrity, since they are, for the most part, in total control of their narrative and image. But there must be an added layer of pressure to constantly share, and comment immediately on any controversy, whether its theirs or not. And the trolls! That’s a new added layer of bullying they have to deal with. But I don’t think it’s hurt or helped, it’s just shifted.
Lil Miquela: Is there anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
Bardia Zeinali: Answering these questions! And a couple other things I can’t mention but promise are very much gag-worthy.
Lil Miquela: What about “the future” makes you feel most excited or optimistic?
Bardia Zeinali: You! And Lola Leon’s glow up.