Karena Evans Is Changing the Game

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At just 24-years-old, Karena Evans is in high demand and taking the world by storm. One of the most booked and busy directors, Evans has had her hands full with both her acting and directing projects. While Evans' big break came two years ago, the multi-talented Canadian first began gaining traction in 2018. However, like most successful individuals, Evans had a humble start.

Evans first began dabbling in directing a few years ago as an intern for Director X (the Canadian director known for collaborating with artists such as Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Kanye West). Evans was so impressive in her internship, that Director X hired her to work for his company Popprok. From there, Evans began slowly building her resume, and it wasn’t long before her work was noticed across the industry. Evans also began to be recognized for her versatility, when she directed a “Black Lives Matter” commercial for Nike.

As Evans continued to rise through the ranks, she captured the attention of fellow Toronto native, Drake. In 2018, Drake enlisted the then 22-year-old to direct the music video for his hit single God’s Plan.” The video was a huge success going viral on YouTube and Instagram. Sometimes the video for a song plays a part in propelling the single to more success and that is exactly what happened with “God’s Plan.” The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video itself has received 1.1 billion views, making it one of the most-liked videos on YouTube.

The God’s Plan” music video won ‘Video of the Year’ at the BET Awards, and was also nominated for ‘Video of the Year’ at both the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards. It’s safe to say that Karena Evans played a role in the success of the video and “God’s Plan” propelled Evans into stardom, gaining Evans praise from the music industry. 

That same year (2018), Evans starred in the indie film titled Firecrackers. The film saw Evans starring alongside actress Michaela Kurimsky, as two teenage girls trying to escape from their hometown. Firecrackers premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival to positive reviews. It currently has an overall rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

With a growing career as both an actress and a director, Evans continued building on her success directing SZA’s video for her song “Garden (Say it Like That).” The music video also starred Donald Glover and has received 17 million views to date.

The success of “Garden” and “God’s Plan” lead to Evans signing with William Morris Entertainment. Later that year, Evans teamed up with Drake again to direct the music videos for “I’m Upset” and “In My Feelings.” The latter featured appearances by Lala Anthony, Phylicia Rashad, and The City Girls. The video sparked the “In My Feelings Challenge,” and has received 214 million views to date. 

For her work, Evans won ‘Best Director’ at the 2018 iHeartRadio MMVA’s. The young director was also awarded the Prism Prizes Lipset Award for music video direction, making her the first woman in history to ever win that award. 

2019 saw Evans continuing the success that she achieved in 2018. The rising star won the ‘Video Director of the Year’ award at the BET Awards and directed season one of Tinder’s Swipe Night. The show is centered around Tinder users experiencing crazy and borderline apocalyptic adventures. The participants are matched with fellow Tinder users based on the choices made during those adventures. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Evans described why she chose to direct the Swipe Night series.

"I think Tinder has tapped into something really special. They created a scripted show that, above all else, allows its audience to start deeper conversations with who they have matched with. And that’s brilliant."

The show drew in millions of viewers and was effective in increasing matches by nearly 30  percent. After the success of season one, Evans was signed on to direct season two of Swipe Night. In an interview with TechCrunch, Evans called the experience rewarding.

Working on Swipe Night was such a fulfilling experience for me. I got to do something that had never been done before and innovate with storytelling to bring a generation of people together. I’m in search of projects that impact, shift, or curate a culture and couldn’t be more excited to return for more.

- Karena Evans

While 2020 has seen some delay in productions due to the unexpected Coronavirus pandemic, Evans has still been able to enjoy some pretty big success this year. Earlier this year, Evans directed the pilot episode of the extremely popular STARZ series P-Valley. The episode was her directorial television debut. In an interview with Backstage, Evans called her television introduction a “blessing.”

“It was a blessing to be able to have that sort of control as a pilot director, to envision what the world looks like and create that sandbox for the directors who follow to play within. I think it would have been a different sort of challenge for me, in my first time in television, to come in as an episodic director and understand that dynamic. Coming from music videos, where you really do have control from beginning to end, I had to adapt to the world of TV and understand the bigger players that I serve.”

As mentioned earlier in this article, Karena Evans is only 24 years-old. It’s rare to have a resume that extensive at such a young age. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t all that long ago that Evans was interning for Director X. In terms of music videos, Evans is on the same trajectory both age and accomplishment wise as Melina Matsoukas and Hype Williams, both of whom are inspirations to the young director. On the television and movie side, directing P-Valley was a huge deal considering the pilot episode has set the tone for the whole series, and of course, Evans as an actress as well.

While future projects are still being kept under wraps, it’s clear that Karena Evans will be a force to reckon with for years to come.

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