It’s 2018, and the cosmetics industry as a whole is finally realizing how vital it is for product ranges to reflect a full spectrum of skintones.
Rimmel’s latest Match Perfection campaign, shot by RSA UK director Leonn Ward, highlights the beautiful diversity of its cast. These are women (including celebrity spokesmodel Rita Ora) who aren’t just distinguished by how they look, but for the qualities that make them who they are. Leonn’s focus on diversity is a perfect fit for Rimmel, and the resulting spot reflects their shared values.
London-based director/photographer Leonn Ward came to the fore in the photography world at the age of 22 with her first worldwide print campaign created for Adidas Originals. Having studied at Camberwell College of Art in London, Leonn’s fine-art background is clear in her unique approach to her work. The colourful, poetic intimacy of her work has developed into something keenly sought after by established brands and publications such as Topshop, Topman, Evisu, Nowness, Vogue, i-D, Wonderland and Dazed magazines as well as top rising-star London fashion designers like Christopher Shannon.
We spoke to Leonn about consciously avoiding conventional casting choices, learning techniques from Youtube tutorials, and her admiration for Hype Williams.
What was the initial brief for this Rimmel spot? What ideas did you bring to the table that helped bring it to life?
The aim of the campaign was to highlight the release of 8 new Match Perfection Foundation shades to Rimmel’s existing line-up, to make up a total of 25 shades to match 99% of UK skin tones. This was extremely important to me as I have many friends that struggle to find their makeup shade, and it should not be like that. So my number one focus was casting. Makeup adverts are predominantly showing us white females with long luscious hair and flawless skin, I wanted it to be the complete opposite of that.
You’re a director who brings a signature style to most of your work. How did you adapt your directorial style to fit the needs of this particular client?
When you get the trust of a client, especially one as massive as Rimmel, it’s a great feeling. You have to get their trust, and work together to meet in the middle. So it’s very important to me that the client are happy and feeling excited about it, but also equally as important that I am happy myself with it and I feel like it looks and feels like mine.
What were some of the highlights of the shoot? What were some of your favorite moments of working with Rita Ora on set?
Probably the whole day I really can’t pinpoint any of it. It was my first time shooting a TV advert, I was ready to go, buzzing all day. The girls were great to shoot and making sure they were comfortable and feeling good about themselves is usually where my head is at on shoot day. Rita was great to work with. She wanted to make sure I was happy with what we were shooting, she knew I had a specific feel and look for it and she really did work with me to make sure I was happy which was very refreshing.
Did this shoot pose any particular challenges for you as a director?
It really didn’t. I just treated it like it was anything else I had shot before.
What are your favorite aspects of the final product?
The girls looking and feeling great. My split screens, that I first began working with when I began making films, seeing them in such a spotlight situation is so great, almost funny because I had to teach myself how to make them myself on YouTube tutorials!
How did you get your start as a director?
I began to make films with my camcorder in LA 3 years ago. It was the first time ever I wanted to make a film of something moving and not a still image. I just shot and shot and taught myself how to cut footage on Premiere Pro, watching YouTube tutorials on everything. I then made a film for every single photo job I was working on, and subconsciously built a reel up. It was then I got my first commission from Nowness and directed my first film for the series ‘’The Way We Dress’’.
What were some of your earliest influences? How has your aesthetic evolved over time?
I have always adored music videos and commercials from the 90’s and hip hop videos from the early 2000’s. Hype Williams is the king for me, I was completely obsessed with the richness of his colours, the obscure lenses, the costume, everything. So I think the more I’m directing, the more I’m thinking I need to push myself more and more. There is no time for holding back in my career right now.
Who are some of your favorite women in advertising and film – both those you’ve worked with and those who you admire?
I admire all the women at RSA. They are such a support and unit for me. But honestly, all women I work with. From stylists, to runners, to client, all of them have been incredible. We support one another and that’s what it’s all about.
You’ve been very prolific – it feels like we’ve seen tons of new work from you over this past year! Can you discuss some career highlights? What pieces of your work do you feel are most representative of your vision as a director?
It feels like a complete blur! Time has gone so fast and it’s been moving from one project to the next for the past year I think now! But I wouldn’t have it any other way, saying that I am dying for a holiday so maybe a week off would be lovely… But highlight would have to be this Rimmel Advert coming out. It is insane to me that I’m 27 and I’ve already done this, I am super proud of the whole team for this.
Free The Bid is committed to advocating for diverse perspectives and points of view. What do you think are some of the benefits to diverse representation on both sides of the camera lens?
It’s how it should be.
If you were to give advice to a young director getting started in 2018, what would you say?
Shoot shoot shoot. Teach yourself. If it doesn’t work try something else. Ask questions. Be nice to people. Work hard.