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I had the pleasure of meeting the adorable model-slash-blogger Taylor Warren at a shoot a couple of months ago, and was immediately drawn in by her big blue eyes and infectious giggle. So, you can imagine my surprise when I noticed her appearance as a beheaded model-slash-vampire killer in Kanye West's newest video for "Monster," which also features Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj. The clip, which features the rap stars chillin' with dead models, has faced a bit of controversy for its sexualization of corpses in lingerie.
I immediately contacted Taylor, who insists that not only is Kanye NOT a necropheliac, he's incredibly respectful, and the video shoot was an entirely positive - and at times humorous - experience. Read on for all of the dirty details about the "Monster" video - including the fashion inspiration behind it, and how Taylor got decapitated.
How did you get the gig?
I had been called in for an audition for a Kodak commercial with Rihanna, which was being shot by a famous music video director. I didn't end up getting that, but he referred me. I didn't go on a specific casting call, the Monster director just trusted his judgment.
Did the crew give you any idea of the story behind the video?
I got really excited when I first saw the storyboard - there were references to Guy Bourdin and Steven Klein so I knew that the director wanted it to be fashion-y. The finished product was supposed to be like a moving editorial. I was a little worried about what part I would be playing in a hip-hop music video, but it made total sense once I saw the storyboard.
How many models were on set with you?
On the first day there were five girls, and we were all really different looking. We were also kind of confused - none of us looked like we'd been in a rap video before!
So what happened when you arrived on set?
We got to this huge empty house in Yonkers and the director, Jake Nava, lined us up against the wall like a firing squad. He did Beyoncé's video for Single Ladies, so I knew I was in good hands - and I was totally willing to put myself out there for a choreographed dance number! He came up to me and said, "you'll be the headless woman," and the next girl, "you'll be a cadaver." It was pretty awesome.
How did they style you for the shoot?
I was very lucky that the stylist and the director took a liking to me, and they gave me a very stylish outfit - I look sexy and not terrifying, which is obviously how I want to see myself! I had on a long, sassy black dress. In the house there was a huge indoor pool that was ten feet deep, so I had to drag a poor, shirtless guy down the length of the pool. I was playing a vampire killer, and I had to stab the guy in his heart with my shoe - totally normal . I was pleasantly surprised by the wardrobe, it was lot of vintage and lingerie, nothing vulgar or weird. It was really pretty.
What kind of makeup did they use to make you look dead?
We had a traditional makeup artist and a studio effects artist on set. The traditional makeup artist used white foundation and powder on me, but since I'm so pale, with the right lighting I'd probably look dead already! For the scene where I am decapitated, the studio effects makeup artist used this gross latex stuff around my neck. When I first heard that I was going to be "beheaded" I got a little offended, like, "what am I even doing here if no one is going to see my head?!" Then I learned they meant it would be just my head.
How did you and the other models feel about your looks?
Everybody thought everyone else looked awesome, but nobody was really into how they looked. We didn't feel very sexy. It was really creepy and I didn't like my look at first - I had this huge, ugly gash on my neck. But now I understand why they did what they did.
Did the shoot differ from your expectations?
It was just like any other job for us: Nobody was popping bottles of champagne, there was no booty dancing! There was a lot of waiting and it was really cold, but the crew was amazing and it was a very positive experience. It was an easy breezy way to spend two days, and everyone was having a really good time. The director knew we're not actors, and he saw the humor in everything we were doing. Very respectful.
Do you think that all of the girls had as positive of an experience as you?
I honestly think it depends on what they had to do. So the girls in lingerie or hanging from the ceiling might not have been as happy. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to do the scene in the bed with Kanye in just my underwear.
I shot with Kanye when he held my decapitated head, and that was really amazing! I was super stoked to be a part of it. We met before we shot the scene and he said, "hey, how's it going," and then I had to kneel down and he was holding me by the hair - I couldn't move or talk because it would ruin the shot! Between takes, he still had my hair and would talk to the director or on his phone while I was chilling three feet below him, but I couldn't help but think, 'this is so surreal and amazing.'"
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