Alicia Keys’ “Underdog” Choir Video Shoot

This week, I had the chance to interview two ladies who received the chance to be a part of the ‘Underdog Choir.’ The underdog Choir is a 50 women choir put together to sing Alicia Keys’ song “Underdog.”

The purpose of this video shoot was to empower women as well as to represent the fact that women only represent 2% of the music industry. The final product is projected to play at the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, January 26.

Thanks to Loyola Marymount’s new choir director, an invite to be apart of the Underdog shoot was extended to the women of the LMU Choir as well as the women from the on-campus all-female acapella group, On Another Note.

Fortunately, I had the chance to interview two members from On Another Note, Rupali Sujan (‘19) and Sarah Scandalios (‘22), and ask them a couple of questions about the shoot. Here is what they had to say:

 

Q: How did you come upon this opportunity?

R: A representative from the Grammys approached Dr. TJ Harper [LMU’s new choir director] with this opportunity and the invite to participate was extended to our acapella group. 

Q: What do you think about the concept and what this video represents?

R: I really appreciated and resonated with the message of this video which is to bring awareness to the under-representation of women within the music industry.

S: I think this video is necessary and an honor to be a part of because of what it represents. Women in many industries have [fewer] opportunities and this video specifically addresses the shocking disparity of opportunities between men and women in the music and entertainment world. More than that, the video is a powerful message for everybody to appreciate themselves, their hard work, and know that they are valuable and can do anything they set their mind to.

Q: Can you describe your schedule that day? (I.e what time did you get up, what time did you get there?)

R: We had a rehearsal that we donated our time for (unpaid) from 12:00 pm-5:30 pm on Saturday, and the shoot call time was 7:00 am Sunday. I had to get up around 5:30 am, so we could get ready, meet with carpools and drive over by 7:00 am. We got paid for official shoot hours, which I think was from about 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, which was really cool.

S: The project on our side took two days - on the first day, we learned the parts, got fitted, and prepped for the production. On the second day, we worked at Studio 60 from 7:00 am to around 6:00 pm. The production consisted of brief hair and makeup, costumes, prep, and then hours of shooting!

Q: What was your favorite part of this whole experience?

R: My favorite part of this experience (and really any shoot in general) is the community you build even through one day shoots like this one. It was so cool to be in a room full of talented, like-minded musicians and get to spread such an important message together.

S: My favorite part of this whole experience was working with the amazing crew and the cast members. Throughout the process, I got close to many of the women that I sang with and learned so much from them about the music industry, acting industry, and about life in general. I made new friends of all different ages and backgrounds and they helped me feel confident and empowered in a situation that was way outside of my comfort zone. 

Q: What was it like being on set?

R: Being on set can be hectic and draining because there is a lot of waiting and repetition and following directions. But being on set is also so really fun because of all of the creative energy and love for music and like-minded individuals you get to meet and collaborate with.  

S: This was my first time on a set, and I was blown away by the positive energy. This project was very last minute and rushed, but everyone involved was energetic, excited, and passionate. Every person on this project from director to assistant was humble, inspiring, sincere, and delightful to be around. This was an experience I will never forget.

Q: Did you meet anyone cool?

R: I met the director who has done a lot of other big commercials, and there were a lot of musicians I met in the choir who have songs out on Spotify and are working, professional musicians. We also met the lady who works for the Grammys and got us the opportunity and who worked directly with Alicia keys on the concept.

S: Everyone I met was cool! I bonded with women from all different backgrounds and careers. Many have acted in movies or shows. I met a woman who was in La La Land and some Adam Sandler movies. Also, several cast members worked on How To Get Away With Murder, and one woman even wrote music for the Marvel show, Cloak and Dagger. Some women were making their own music, writing musicals, or even studying marine biology. It was a diverse group of powerful and inspiring women and I feel so grateful I was able to participate.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?

S: I was uncomfortable coming to set. I was given an outfit that I did not love on my body and for makeup, they went for a completely natural look. She told me they wanted to show our skin, freckles, and all of our scars. I would not have gone to class like this, let alone be one tv in a skin-tight skirt and with my pimples uncovered! However, by the end of the day, I felt more comfortable and confident in my own skin than ever before! I have the amazing women in the choir to thank for this transformation. They were all so beautiful and no two women looked alike. Yet each woman was confident in the most down to earth and inspiring way! The women I worked with showed me how to appreciate myself and I hope this video helps more people do the same and I hope that it shows them that they are not only good enough, but they are magnificent!