Look closely at upcoming rapper Cousin Stizz’s music video for “Headlock,” and you’ll see three snapshots of Lena Rhie ’20 performing some Kung Fu moves.
Released in late June, the 3-minute video features Cousin Stizz and Offset—a member of the award-winning hip-hop group, Migos—rapping about fights, parties, and life in Los Angeles. The video has since garnered nearly one million views on YouTube.
Filming for the music video began in late May after the director, Walu, wrote a storyline to correspond with the rap lyrics, Lena said.
“[He] wanted to create the feel of an underground ‘female Kung Fu fight club,’” she said. “[The feel of the video] was eerie, but kind of cool.”
When searching for people to fill the roles of female martial arts fighters, Walu turned to Joshua Grant, his friend, who instructs Lena at the Boston Kung Fu Tai Chi institute, where she has trained for the past eight years. Mr. Grant nominated Lena and three other young women from the institute—Sophia Sijie, Angjie Liu, and Bea Edmonds, current undergraduates at MIT, Harvard, and Smith, respectively—as strong students who could manage the job, Lena said.
“I never thought I’d be in a music video with Offset,” she said. “It was surreal.”
At first, the video producers were hesitant to use her because she is underage and they would be filming at a nightclub, Lena reported, but when Mr. Grant expressed strong feelings that she was the best fit, the group worked out a compromise.
“My mom had to hang out at the club while we were filming to supervise,” Lena said.
Lena skipped school for the afternoon of Monday, May 22—two days after she was approved for the role—so that she could film her portion of the video at the Bijou Night Club in Boston.
In a half hour, producers filmed clips of Lena flinging a chain whip—a weapon consisting of nine metal links with flags on either end—around her shoulder and performing a collection of Kung Fu kicks and punches.
Lena said she was surprised about the intensity of the workspace.
“I didn’t expect how important each aspect [of filming] was,” she said. “It wasn’t just the singers, but everyone had a role in the music video, and everything had to fit together.”
She said working with Cousin Stizz and Offset was the highlight of being in the video.
“I was really nervous at first because they were all in the room, and they’re all very passionate about their work,” she said. “I knew that it was a big responsibility to be a part of their job, but I knew that I could give them what they wanted.”
Sara Bauman ’20, who saw the music video in the summer, said she enjoyed seeing her friend in the spotlight.
“My mind was blown,” she said. “I saw Lena perform [in a competition] one time before, and she was insanely good. I definitely think she deserved this opportunity.”
Lena has performed Kung Fu since she was 6 years old.
“I got involved with Kung Fu because I loved watching the Power Rangers on TV,” she said. “I enjoyed watching them fight the bad guy and hoped that I could save the world just like them.”
Lena has attended Kung Fu national championships in Orlando and Las Vegas and is currently preparing for another one in Boston this October.