With His Stylish New Music Video ‘Worth a Million,’ Jeremy Pope Makes His Mark

Most music videos are all about escapism and fantasy, but when Jeremy Pope began to brainstorm his latest, “Worth a Million,” his vision was firmly rooted in the personal. The first song off his forthcoming album, the track explores identity and self-love, two things Pope found himself reflecting on during the past year. “I spent a lot of time going inward and facing my insecurities,” he says on the phone from Mississippi, where he’s filming Elegance Bratton’s autobiographical Marine Corps drama, The Inspection. “I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t sure how to love myself. What does it even mean to love all versions of yourself?” The process of channeling such introspective questions into music may be difficult, but Pope transformed his feelings into lyrics after an intense therapy session. “It’s a piece about being heard. I was struggling and trying to find a resolution, so it was an interesting but vulnerable place to be in,” he says. “[Afterwards] I started to piece everything together; for me, the song isn’t complete until there is a visual.” 

The resulting video, directed by C Prinz, distills Pope’s vision into an expressive clip that brims with style as he reveals new layers of himself while singing, dancing, and commanding the screen with swagger. Though he’s used to taking on new personas for work—his performances as ambitious screenwriter Archie Coleman in Ryan Murphy’s mini-series Hollywood and elite prep school student Pharus in Broadway’s Choir Boy earned him an Emmy and Tony nomination, respectively—working on the song allowed him the chance to present himself to the world anew. “As an actor, you’re presented with characters to play, and you connect with things to portray them,” says Pope. “But it’s through music that I’ve been able to explore who I am as a person.”

Onscreen, Pope has explored queer Black identity throughout several of his roles. Still, it took time for him to feel comfortable enough to share his own journey and break from the expectations he felt imposed upon him. “As an openly queer Black man there are ideas that society puts on you, limitations about what you can and cannot do,” he says. “I’ve had to learn to love both the masculine and feminine sides of myself. [Writing and making music] has provided so much healing.” It’s this sense of vulnerability that lends the song a special resonance. Even without the background info, its themes of heartache, confusion, and love are universal. “That first line, ‘Why do we overcomplicate things?’ You can say that to someone, or you could be saying it to yourself,” says Pope. “It was me trying to get back to the core of who I am.”

Within the video, that progression is represented through clothing. Stylist Juliann McCandless utilized a variety of runway looks that keep with the sleekness of the visuals while reflecting a luxurious sensibility that flouts traditional gender constructs. Pope looks equally at home in a pair of black puffer trousers as he does in the ivory ruffles of Mikhael Kale’s floor-length gown. “I knew that fashion would be an important element of our story,” says Pope. Every piece in the video is also imbued with its own unique meaning. “There is a shot at the top of the video where I’m wearing this beautiful armor, but you only see the back of me, you’re not looking at my eyes. Our masculinity is our armor, it’s what has kept us safe for so many years, but when you finally get to look in my eyes and see who I truly am, I’m wearing a layered white dress,” says Pope. “[The styling] is playing with the idea that once you truly see someone, you understand there’s so much more to people than what they’re wearing.” 

The Kale-designed look was among the last McCandless and Pope tried out during fittings, but its impact was immediately felt. “Juliann had 30-plus looks all chosen with intention; she killed it. With the dress, I think she wanted to make sure that I was comfortable and that she wasn’t offending me by suggesting it,” says Pope. “If anything, I felt empowered, seeing my body in a tight dress—one that was actually worn by Kendall Jenner on the cover of a magazine not too long ago. I’m so glad that we tried it because the dress became the video’s thesis statement, a visual representation of what I wanted the song to represent.” 

Pope isn’t the only one dressed to the nines, either. The video showcases a diverse cast of talents, from modeling star Adut Akech and collaborators like Pope’s choreographer Parris Goebel, with each representing a different discipline. Still, they were united by their commitment to artistry. “It’s been such a blessing to be able to work during these challenging times. We have all been trying to figure out how we can still use our gifts and be of service,” says Pope. “While I was writing ‘Worth a Million,’ I was meeting with different people over Zoom just talking about what we can do. Often, there wasn’t a goal in mind. It was more like: ‘Hey, I respect you, I see you and think what you’re doing is great. It was really about giving people their flowers.”

It’s rare for Zoom conversations to blossom into a full-scale creative endeavor, but it speaks to Pope’s talent and project’s appeal. “As an independent artist, there is no roadmap, and this was so special because the song started with me alone in an apartment in New York during the pandemic, just writing and exploring. It was such an intimate piece, one where I invested in myself and had to trust my instincts,” says Pope. “So the fact that these people believed in me, wanted to lift me up and be there for me in this vulnerable place of sharing art that isn’t a character someone has told me to play was incredible and something I’m so grateful for.”