When Victoria's Secret model and "Celebrity Apprentice" alum Selita Ebanks first heard Kanye West's idea for his "Runaway" short film — in which he wanted the model to appear fully nude as a fantastical phoenix plunging onto Earth and falling in love with him — she had one thought: "No."
"There's no way I'm going to be naked on TV," Ebanks recalled telling West.
The hip-hop star reconsidered, eventually, but not without a bit of negotiation between two old friends, as Ebanks said when she stopped by the MTV Newsroom recently. "It was very PG. There was no tongue exiting the mouth. And whatever the costume is has to be respectful," she explained of her parameters.
Their mutually agreed-upon concept of a respectful costume was some artfully placed feathers to shield her otherwise nude body and a set of elaborate wings designed by Phillip Lim. Ebanks' phoenix, of course, is not the only winged creature to flit through Kanye's artistic vision recently. He selected a nude phoenix to grace the cover of his upcoming album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, saying the artwork is "something I would've picked or drawn as a 5-year-old."
Clearly, nudity and the metaphor of the phoenix — destruction followed by rebirth — have been on 'Ye's mind for a while. But once Ebanks put the kibosh on any nude scenes, the duo ended up working comfortably together during the Prague shoot. The finished film is set to debut Saturday, October 23, at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.
"It's extremely easy to work with him, understanding that everything with him comes from an artistic standpoint, because he is an artist and he has this vision," Ebanks said. "I honestly was just so excited and honored that he even considered me for it."
Kanye West's "Runaway" will premiere Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, MTV2 and BET, and will also stream live on MTV.com, BET.com and VH1.com, followed by a live Q&A session on MTV and MTV.com.