MTV, TikTok and Pepsi are looking for the next pop star, and this renowned choreographer is up for the challenge of helping find them, literally!
Sean Bankhead is the choreographer behind some of the culture’s hottest hits which include Nomani’s “Wild Side” and Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby.” He has danced alongside the best of the best like Beyoncé and one of his personal icons, Missy Elliott, so he knows a thing or two about not only busting a move, but also helping others to find their rhythm too!
While the 33-year-old is typically behind the camera, helping others to bring their vision to life, this time he will be in front of the camera for MTV’s Becoming A Popstar, which he says “is like no other singing competition you’ve ever seen.”
“I’ve worked with MTV, I’ve worked with Pepsi, I’ve worked with TikTok and I’ve worked with Jesse Collins whose company is producing the show. So when I got the call asking to come judge a television show, I didn’t know what that meant,” said Bankhead to Shadow and Act Unscripted in a recent interview.
”I thought it was going to be a TikTok segment or something like that," he told us. "But when I got the details about how they wanted me to judge alongside Joe Jonas and Becky G, I kind of had a panic attack.”
Judging a competition show has never been on his bucket list of things to do, but no challenge is too big for the celebrity choreographer who creates moves “for everybody and they mama.”
“I was extremely excited to be able to join the judges, not just as a choreographer on the show, but as one of the actual judges,” he continued. “In fact, I’m not doing choreography on the show. I’m actually getting to work with the contestants, judging and critiquing and it’s been an incredible opportunity. It’s awesome to see the contestants come from TikTok and go through these weekly challenges that myself and the other judges are giving them and then watching them take our advice to grow and learn. As the weeks progress the talent get better and better.”
Bankhead is also clear on one thing – being a pop star does not mean a person is strictly a pop artist.
He shared, “This show has so many different genres of music, it’s not just about pop music and it’s great to showcase so many different styles of music and so many different genre-less artists.”
“For me, a pop star just has that ‘it’ factor when they walk into the room," Bankhead explained.
“They make people go, ‘who is that? What’s their talent? Do they have the eye of the tiger when they’re there? Do we feel something?’ There’s a lot of factors that go into being a pop star and ultimately it’s really about how hard they work behind the scenes,” emphasized the “Up” choreographer. “Every pop star, hip-hop star or R&B singer that I’ve ever worked with who really climbed the ranks and has stardom are the ones that work the hardest, the ones that no one’s asking them to do anything, they’re still finding something that they can work on.”
As a completely self-taught dancer, Bankhead once thought it was a setback, but now he realizes that it is what makes him stand out and helps him to encourage others to do the same.
“I always thought it was kind of a crutch that I didn’t have any kind of formal training and didn’t really go to ballet, jazz, or tap classes when I was younger. I learned to dance from watching music videos and going to parties and dancing in the club and dancing in the streets,” he recalled. “But I realized as I got older that this kind of raw, unfiltered kind of formal-trained essence that I’ve created is the reason why everybody and their mama can relate to some of the moves that I do. Because I don’t have the formal training that a lot of the rest of the world has, but I have some grungy steps that feel good to the soul so when you’re watching it, you’re’ like ‘oh, that’s funky, I think I can do that.”
What makes 'Becoming A Popstar' so unique to him is the fact that it is bringing back the importance of being a well-rounded artist.
Challenges range from producing and writing music to shooting and creating concepts for music videos– and, of course, choreography.
As his career continues to evolve and grow to new levels, Bankhead admits that he’s barely even touched the surface when it comes to some of the things he aspires to do.
“First of all, dreams and manifestations are real because I mean, I’ve worked with so many people that I’ve admired for my whole life,” he added. “I’m still waiting for a Janet [Jackson] moment, I mean because I will come in and clean her shoes if she wants me to. I don’t even care. I can dance, I can do a two-step in the back, whatever she wants me to do. I would also love to do something with Rihanna, but outside of dance and choreography, I think this next step in my career is being able to be a judge or a host, getting on stages and showing my face some more. I definitely also have some companies that I’m going to open to give back to the dance community in places like Atlanta and L.A. so that we can kind of get back to the dance thing because the pandemic hit us pretty hard.”
Watch Sean Bankhead take on a new role in front of the camera as a judge on MTV’s Becoming A Popstar premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.