Super Bowl Halftime performances, music videos and lingerie fashion shows can feel like relics from our turn-of-the-century past. It takes a true talent to remind us that such spectacles are not just emblems of 90s/early aughts pop culture, but vehicles for artistry. Here, we look no further than Parris Goebel.
You may have seen her work in Justin Bieber’s 2015 music video for “Sorry” or perhaps you’ve been glued to the TV for each installment of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show. Maybe you don’t care at all about the career growth of former teen pop stars, but you surely saw at least a snippet of Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl extravaganza. All this— and so much more— is in thanks to the New Zealand choreographer.
And with the release of Savage X Fenty Vol. 3, Goebel drops a whole new body of work.
“Each year, the show gets better and better,” Goebel tells Modern Luxury. “It’s amazing working with Rih because she pushes me in so many different ways, not only as a creative, but as a woman and a storyteller.”
Even though Rihanna is ultimately the captain of the Savage X Fenty ship, Goebel explains that the beauty mogul gives her ample space to create. What’s more, their collaboration is “effortless” given they have the same end goal to push the envelope and inspire fashion insiders and onlookers.
“It’s a dream come true for me to be able to create for someone on such a high caliber,” she says.
“I see myself as a painter,” Goebel continues, elaborating on the creative process for a grand-scale fashion show that coalesces dance, music, art and fashion. It all takes about two months of work.
“I just walk through the space and...I just kind of let my imagination go and see what comes natural and where my imagination naturally takes me,” she explains. “And then I start thinking about music, what worlds we want to create. Music is so powerful because it can transport you to different places and different emotions.”
For Goebel, developing a show all rests on one consideration: what does she want people to feel? She believes the answer is found through dance.
“Dance can move people, dance can heal people, dance can inspire people. I’m always very aware of the power that dance has,” she says.
When Vol. 2 dropped last year, Rihanna’s magical, sexy visual event provided viewers reprieve from the enduring pandemic. Almost one year on, Vol. 3 comes into a different pandemic-affected world, albeit one where the dancers still trained with masks on.
“Having dancers train every single day at such high intensity with masks on is always such a big challenge,” Goebel reflects. “I think it’s something to really be proud of because it’s not easy.”
She even admits creating choreography with a mask on can present a challenge, but knowing her role as team leader helps her push on. It speaks to the fact that Goebel isn’t just a choreographer, but an artist-in-command.
“I always have such a deep understanding and a deep passion for the responsibility that I have to make people feel like they can be the best that they can be, to push people, to always make sure that there's a positive energy in the room and that everyone has the same common goal,” she says. “That is a part of my purpose just in life. So I take it very seriously and I always have an understanding that no matter what I'm going through or the challenges I'm facing that I always have to put that aside and make sure that everyone in the room feels empowered so that we can collectively change the world.”
The gravity of Goebel’s work is seen in how Savage X Fenty has transformed the world of lingerie. Once the industry pinnacle, Victoria’s Secret— characterized by its glorification of thin, white bodies— has crashed and burned. As body positivity has proliferated our world, the Savage X Fenty Show, along with its namesake brand, has risen to make space for all bodies.
“It’s time to undo all the programming that was done [to] us as little girls,” Goebel says. “A lot of us were bullied because of what society was telling us and [we] also bullied ourselves internally and formed insecurities— that take years to get rid of that. For us to be able to do these shows that literally represent everyone and anyone… and revolve around self-love and self-appreciation I think is a game changer.”
Goebel is a self-professed workaholic who fully immerses herself in whatever project she has on deck. She admits to working on how to relax during jobs, but knows the importance of recharging before taking on something new. With the Savage X Fenty Vol. 3 ready to go, she hit Joshua Tree for a few days to disconnect, reflect and recenter. But with that behind her, Goebel is hitting the ground running to make her stake in film and television. She’s currently getting ready to make her feature directorial debut with Murder on the Dancefloor, an adaptation of her dance-based production. It’ll be exciting to watch Goebel translate her artistry to the big screen, but there is no doubt her Emmy-nominated choreography will continue to shine as a career highlight.
“The Savage show is always very fulfilling for me because I get to express myself as an artist authentically and freely,” Goebel says. “It’s no longer work for me, it’s not a job. It’s creating a legacy that will last for longer than my life.”
Photography by: Jerritt Clark/ Getty Images; Courtesy Amazon Studios