Before he took the stage at this year’s Grammys, Kendrick Lamar warned that his set would be controversial. He didn’t let fans down with his fiery performance that night and, while much of the symbolism of the medley was blunt, there were some subtleties that fans may have missed live. Enter Dianne Garcia, Kendrick’s stylist who helped organize and style the performance for the big night.
Garcia chatted with Billboard and let it be known Kendrick had a hand in every aspect of the performance that she calls her “proudest styling moment.”
He was involved in the sense that he knew exactly what he wanted. He showed me a photo of the prisoners and was like “This is my inspiration”. There were these guys walking in a chain gang and he said ‘I want them to look like this’. And I knew that he wanted the African guys to glow in the dark because they were going to go into a sequence where everything was going to be dark and they were going be lit with UV lights. So [Kendrick] showed me a photo of that, and then afterwards he went back to focus on the music and the performance itself. Then it was my job to pull up the references on what he wanted and go back to him and get his approval on all of the inspirations
From there, they discussed a few other aspects of the performance and even tracked down the exact photographs K. Dot used as inspiration. When asked if there was any symbolism that may have been lost on viewers at home, Garcia mentioned how one specific African tribe was represented on stage powerfully, even if it was lost amid the chaos of the entire performance.
You can’t really see it onstage but the girls, the dancers, they have red paint painted all over their body and that’s inspired specifically by the Himba tribe in Northern Namibia. They wear this red paint that’s supposed to represent the color of the earth and the blood. And we picked the Himba tribe basically because [they are] really strong women who do all the labor work while taking care of their own homes and all this stuff while the men are out herding cattle and doing politics.
She went into further detail discussing the performance, including the hidden text on the performer’s backs, the disastrous initial results of the UV light paint, the sly reference to Nat Turner and more. Check out the entire interview now at Billboard.