Photo by Jasper Rischen
Photo by Jasper Rischen

Quinn Wilson came to MCAD to study painting. Now, she’s the powerhouse creative director behind Lizzo’s most talked about work, and she’s not stopping there. We chatted with her in anticipation of the “Because I Love You Too Tour” landing in Minneapolis. 

You watched it live, or you watched the video, and you definitely texted it to your friends with the peach emoji. When Lizzo appeared at the VMAs with a giant inflatable butt on stage, everyone was talking about it. 

The performance was a highlight for creative director Quinn Wilson, who attended MCAD before rising to fame alongside Lizzo. “I’m proud of that. I pulled that together in a way I don’t think I had experience doing before. In terms of producing it, coming up with the creative concept mostly myself, and executing in a way I hadn’t before. I feel that gave me a lot of confidence in knowing I can support an idea that large.” 

The execution paid off. In an article titled “Why It Took an Inflatable Butt for Lizzo to Finally Score Her First No. 1,” Slate reports that after the performance, “Truth Hurts” (a song released in 2017) saw a twenty-one percent increase in streams and a 102 percent boost in digital sales, sending it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. At the time of publication, it’s still at number one, six weeks later. 

However, Wilson isn’t sitting back to soak up the praise. “I think it’s really exciting and I should show more excitement when people compliment that performance or my work in general. But I’m on the other side of it. I know all the work and every single thing–whether it was positive or trying–that went into making that piece. So when people compliment me I’m not just thinking of the video and how cool it looked. I’m thinking about every single part of me that went into that. It’s hard to separate myself and have the same excitement. I have it when I’m making it. When I’m done it’s like, “cool what’s the next thing?” 

“I didn’t have a goal of being a creative director”

How did an oil painter and aspiring makeup artist become the creative director behind one of the biggest come-ups in music? Well, “it’s a long story.” Wilson met Lizzo and Sophia Eris right off Hennepin Avenue when she was a first year student at MCAD. She started doing their makeup (Lizzo and Eris were performing in the Chalice at the time), but didn’t know it would lead to where she is now. 

“I don’t think I ever knew that I was going to get here. I always knew Lizzo would be where she’s at right now, without a doubt. And I guess that led me here? [...] I never really thought about what exactly I was doing, I just kept making s***. I didn’t have a goal of being a creative director. I just had a goal of, by project basis, being successful.” 

As a kid, Wilson dreamed of being a makeup artist, and she came to MCAD to pursue a BFA in painting. When she wasn’t finding the social support she needed in the BFA program, she switched to entrepreneurial studies (ES), where she learned to balance business and the creative world. “Which is basically what I’m doing now. It’s art and business.”

“Honestly I learned so much from the ES program. I learned how to take this creative work into a professional setting. And I think when I first started off with Lizzo, with her being on a label, I learned how to do all of that from MCAD.” 

“Cool, what’s the next thing?”

The next thing, Wilson shared, is expanding her portfolio with the support of Good Company. After ten years, her partnership with Lizzo is “really an intuitive process” that has resulted in hit videos for Juice, Truth Hurts, and Boys, not to mention the Because I Love You Too Tour that immediately sold out two nights in Minneapolis.  

In the past couple years, the process has grown to include a larger team, “which has been really incredible, to have other voices inform the creative. Where it started with just me and Lizzo and Sophia, it’s now expanded to our whole team. Which for me makes for a better performance.”  

When things slow down a bit, Wilson plans to build new partnerships. “I get really excited to work with other people. I think I’ve realized that what I have is really special, with Lizzo. And with others it can be a little bit more–not in a bad way–but it can be more challenging because I don’t have the intuition that I have with her. But because of that I become really excited to work with other people, to be challenged in that way. This year, after things slow down a little bit, and into next year, I’d like to focus on expanding my portfolio of who I work with.”

Signing with Good Company will help facilitate that growth, and also provide support. “In order to be productive and to continue doing this, I realized I need to reach out to people and have support. We can’t do it all on our own. I feel fortunate enough to have a production company that offers me that.”  

“All my projects give me energy”

When asked to identify a specific project that energized her, Wilson answered in a way that sums up her career: “I feel like all my projects give me energy, or else I wouldn’t do them.” 

The path from oil painter to makeup artist to creative director might not seem exactly linear, but it’s the product of focusing on success at individual projects and pursuing things that energize. Looking forward, Wilson hopes to continue this type of prioritization.  

“I’m happy, I’m really happy doing this work. This is really fulfilling for me, and as long as I can keep it that way then I’ll be happy. I plan on making that a goal for this next year, for sure.” 

 Find out where Wilson draws inspiration from and which professors made her experience at MCAD in her Q&A