Pin It
Normani "Wild Side" BTS
Photography Elizabeth Miranda

Normani breaks down her gravity-defying ‘Wild Side’ video shoot

The singer talks her Pinterest obsession, doing the splits in leather, and filming at a high school in the viral visual, for Dazed’s AUDIOVISUAL column

AUDIOVISUAL is a new series that celebrates and unpacks the history and context behind the best visuals in the world of music, from the brief to the outfits, the process, and more.

If there’s one thing Normani knows how to do, it’s break the internet (and dance, and sing, and generally serve looks). Since the launch of her solo career, she’s consistently set the bar for pop visuals with elaborate choreography, trendsetting fashion and infectious hooks that stop people in their tracks. The release of her latest single “Wild Side”, featuring Cardi B, was no different.

Directed by Tanu Muino (who also directed Cardi B’s “Up”), the accompanying video for the sensual earworm single has been yet another statement of global intent from the Fifth Harmony star, with her sights being firmly set on world domination. Channelling the future and the past in equal measure, this whirlwind visual sees Normani own her sexuality in all its expressions with assurance and innovation, backed up by her own league of dancers. Clad in head-to-toe leopard print, full leather garb, and crimson crushed velvet, it’s the perfect blend of art, cinema, and pop culture for the Atlanta-born singer.

And with thousands flocking to social media to share their own takes on the choreography, styling, and signature face beats, it’s fair to say that Normani has successfully achieved the “cultural reset” she proudly admits to aiming for. Below, she walks us through some of the scenes and stories that made one of the biggest and best videos of 2021.


Normani: The initial treatment just felt like it was working against the grain. It felt different than anything I’d seen recently which is something I always strive for. I don’t really like to play by the rules. I love to make a shift and focus on how it’s going to impact. I’ve always been inspired by the late 90s and early 2000s so I’m sure you can see some of those influences in there.

But even beyond that, I just wanted something really edgy and that felt fairly different from “Motivation”. I don’t think that anybody would have expected me to put out this sort of record and that’s just an opportunity I think. For everyone to get to know another layer of who Normani really is because it’s always been a part of me but it’s just the first time you guys are able to tap into it. I’ve never created a record that I felt like was more me, you know?


Normani: Because I come from a dance background, I just ride for dancers so hard. Any performance I have I’m like, ‘Get me 20 dancers!’ I love everything looking big and they make the process fun for me. Working with Sean (Bankhead), he has probably known me the longest of everybody that I’m working with currently. Even choreography and visuals aside, in some of my lowest moments in my personal life, he’s been there. We always just had a magical connection so being on this journey with him and him seeing my growth, us being able to push each other, has been amazing. 

We always get into the studio before even creating the choreography, set our intentions and bounce ideas off each other. He’s someone I can trust wholeheartedly. With the choreography in particular, I wanted to challenge myself because I knew I’d been gone a long time and hadn’t danced in over a year. I was humbled real quick (laughs), but I proved to myself that I still had it. I definitely went home with a lot of back aches and my knees hurting but that’s what I wanted, I wanted to be pushed.


Normani: For me this is a rebirth. I think more spiritual than anything, even outside of the music. I have just always been such a perfectionist. I’ve always been very critical of myself. And in moments like sometimes I stop before even really giving myself the full opportunity and chance. Not because I’m not capable but because I just envision myself in a certain position and anything that falls short of that, I’m very hard on myself.

So tapping outside of me wanting things to be so perfect, it’s also like my second chance in a way and I get to do things myself. I get to be free of myself and unapologetic and just believe in who I am. I always say, ‘God, allow me to see myself through your eyes and not my own’. I know he knows the truth and that’s how I want to be able to see myself for what I truly am, not what the world has put on me or what I put on myself.


Normani: I call this the boy’s section. That was a challenge because we’re doing splits in leather material that doesn’t really stretch. But we always figure out a way, even in the fittings I’m dancing, doing the choreography full out so that if it rips, it’s gonna rip there and we’ll find an alternative. So yeah I have to say it’s not as simple as just going out there and doing the choreography, doing that while looking good really is a challenge and sometimes it’s like do we have to compromise a little bit on the look for the integrity of the choreography or is this a moment that I can breathe and focus on the fashion. It’s a give and take. 

For this scene, we really wanted something that felt like it wasn’t here in the States and we almost shot the whole video in the Ukraine but that didn’t end up working but we still wanted that vibe. And we ended up finding the perfect location which was actually at a high school!


Normani: The great thing about working with creative people is that we all bounce ideas off each other. For this scene, the baby hair idea was Yusef (Williams) who did hair, Priscilla (Ono – Fenty Beauty’s Global Makeup Artist) with make-up. The helicopter was Tanu’s idea but styling-wise that was all Kollin (Carter). It all came together really quickly, actually. The outfit was supposed to be shipped from Indonesia like two days before we were supposed to shoot and something happened where it wouldn’t be able to get here on time, it would have made it after we were supposed to shoot. And so we had to get the material and have it completely reworked from scratch in like a day. I was s t r e s s e d.


Normani: For The Red Room I actually pulled up a reference that I had saved in my board on Pinterest. I have it all categorised, interior design, make-up references, hair references, everything across the board that you could think of. So I just remember looking at this reference in particular and it just gave me the 90s vibe. It had the edge that I wanted, it was also elevated the way that I wanted it to be. The (Night Window)  team did such an amazing job creating these set designs, it was exactly the way that I had envisioned. I really love this red colour. It’s bold, it’s fierce, it’s sexy, and it feels unapologetic.


Normani: That was my first time taking on that style of choreography. I wanted something totally different to what I feel like I’ve been able to put in my music videos before and I love contemporary dance and ballet and jazz, that’s me at the core. Joya in this scene is one of my closest friends, we actually met when Khalid was on tour back when “Love Lies” came out and she was dancing for him.

We’ve been close ever since, she’s been on the Ariana tour with me, festivals, she’s in all my music videos. So it was really cool to showcase that with her, we were just laughing the whole time. As complicated as it looked, it actually was that complicated. We really had to work together and dance together. And we had to learn both sides which was like the ultimate mind fuck.


Normani: I wanted to feel like I was defying gravity. I’ve noticed in my visuals that I always like an element of it not feeling like reality. And I have the best team, honestly, because we were going back and forth for weeks and weeks just trying to figure out how wthe hell we were going to make (the sliding scene) happen. I knew that I wanted to wear a mini dress and that’s what I kept saying every time. I wanted it to feel like a freakum dress, I wanted my butt to be hugged, I wanted to look fierce and sexy because that was really the whole point – how does she look this fab but sliding across the floor? So we had to figure out, how do we do this but also hide it.

It felt kind of nostalgic, like early 2000s. But yeah, I was really sliding on my knees! Everybody was like, ‘Was it movie magic, it’s all camera work, how did you do it?’, but the only thing the camera did in that scene was spin. I was definitely putting in work.


Normani: Honestly, the response has just been crazy. It has blown my mind. You really never know, especially with me going away for such a long time, it’s just reassuring and it feels good. At the end of the day, I want to be happy with any art that I create because I want it to be something that I’m proud of in the next 50 years or so. I want my work to outlive me. But of course, every now and then everybody loves a pat on the back too. So just seeing all the challenges and people getting up and moving, even people not in the dance community. To me, that’s absolutely everything. 

We’ve been in lockdown for a long time now and as much as I missed dancing, I wanted it to just be fun and interactive. I want it to be a moment we can remember and that this is the record that made them do it. Movement is a form of expression and if I can help people tap into that in any way, it’s rewarding for me. I love laying in my bed at 1am just watching all the dance videos.