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MNEK’s choreographer on his unapologetic ‘Girlfriend’ video: “I’m proud to have worked on a stereotype-shattering project like this”

What’s there not to love about MNEK? He’s super-talented, a visionary, beautiful, and unapologetically queer. He’s the pop star we wish we had growing up.

Fresh from the release of the music video for his latest single ‘Girlfriend’, we caught up with Royston, the choreographer for the video, to find out what it’s like working with someone such as MNEK and why he’s a force to be reckoned with.


British artist MNEK sent fans into a frenzy earlier this week when he dropped the video for his R&B throwback anthem, ‘Girlfriend’; breaking free from clichés, expectations and shattering societal norms, MNEK shows an unwavering determination to transform the music industry, creating a more diverse and accepting platform for flourishing performers. As his choreographer, I’ve witnessed this dedication first hand…

My name’s Royston and I’m a singer, dancer, choreographer and owner of talent agency RnD Creatives. I work with and represent some of the world’s biggest artists, including MNEK. As ‘Girlfriend’ dropped, we’ve seen the public fall in love with its music video, adoring MNEK’s honest and frank performance — something that’s long overdue. I’m proud to have worked on a stereotype-shattering project like this!

MNEK is incredibly confident and embraces all that makes him unique; it’s his originality that’s captured our hearts and his soaring popularity seems to know no bounds.

I started working with MNEK at the tail end of ‘Small Talk’ and since then I’ve been on board with all of his videos and live performances. This is how I knew ‘Girlfriend’ would be big from the offset; no matter the project, MNEK is energised and committed, eager to make every video something that people simply can’t brush under the carpet.

He regularly opens up about his sexuality and his journey identifying as a gay black man in a competitive industry and his work always reflects this… he brings honesty and raw emotion to the table, tackling important issues with this powerful music – ‘Girlfriend’ certainly isn’t any different!

Royston has worked with MNEK on a number of his music videos.
Royston has worked with MNEK on a number of his music videos.

In the video, we see MNEK become increasingly frustrated by his love interest’s commitment to keeping their love closeted. Oh, and the fact that he has a girlfriend at home… not exactly the perfect set-up. As he fiercely announces that he’s ‘the little secret nobody’s supposed to know’, it’s not hard to hear his message, it speaks for itself!

It’s important that the choreography within any video supports the artist’s message and when they’re as strong-minded as MNEK, you can’t hold back. When we’re working on a project, it’s never one-sided; he knows what he wants and we typically start by sitting down to spitball some ideas.

“MNEK gives me references and we come up with exciting concepts and ideas”

MNEK is so inspiring, he has unbelievable, unbarred insight into who he wants to be and where he wants to go, but he also allows us (his team) to be creative and really excel within ourselves. It’s always a joint creative, MNEK gives me references and we come up with exciting concepts and ideas. I do my thing choreographically and 9 times out of 10 he’s super happy. If we do change anything it’s usually little tweaks to add finesse to what’s already been created.

With ‘Girlfriend’, we wanted to keep the narrative and movement completely genuine and relatable. MNEK’s video concepts are always from his own perspective, I believe that throughout his album he really draws reference to his own experiences and those of his friends etc. This made it super easy, creatively, to put his song into a visual.

We shared experiences, stories and relationship hurdles to create something that I’m sure a surprising number of people will relate to. Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I’m so blessed to still be working with such exciting performers. When I see new artists and dancers it inspires me so much, I love seeing that fresh hunger and passion. I draw inspiration from life, music and my own evolving journey, elements that I undoubtedly brought to the table with ‘Girlfriend’.

Royston says that MNEK is always collaborative in their efforts to create something that goes beyond the expected.
Royston says that MNEK is always collaborative in their efforts to create something that goes beyond the expected.

MNEK loves high energy and always thinks big, he’s a true pop star so he has no time for holding back, I’m always so excited to work with him for this reason alone! Whatever we do will be ground-breaking.

“I have my own style with regards to choreography and that’s all I can give, but MNEK allows us to explore our own idea”

On this particular video, it wasn’t about the 5, 6, 7, 8’s, it was more about the narrative and I wanted the movements to be equally natural, so on this video we just vibed. MNEK took the lead with my full support. There was no key rehearsal, we went with what felt and looked right.

I personally love the moment in this video when he’s on the chair and it’s spinning around as it reminds me of classic 90s RnB videos, it’s on point. Plus, at the end of the 1st verse, he gives a classic body roll and I just love how he’s completely committed. I have my own style with regards to choreography and that’s all I can give, but MNEK allows us to explore our own ideas so I never need to worry about suggesting something a bit wild.

As a creative team, we also work very closely with one another, I love working with the video’s stylist, Patricia Williams, she’s a legend! I’ll say “Babe, I’ve just choreographed…” and she’s like, “I got you”. That’s why every element of ‘Girlfriend’ works so well together, you really leave understanding MNEK’s style, personality and his powerful message.

If you liked his music video, you really need to check out MNEK live. His shows are something you’ll have never seen before and you definitely won’t be forgetting them any time soon!

Follow Royston: Instagram | Twitter

You can buy tickets to MNEK’s upcoming US and Canadian tour right here.

Written by Royston

Royston is a choreographer, singer-songwriter, and performance & movement director. He has choreographed dance routines for music artists including Rita Ora, Ray BLK, and MNEK. He is also the founder of creative agency RnD Creatives.

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(Photo credit: Anette Pruszynska)

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