Parris Goebel Knows Femininity Is Strength

This year, she choreographed Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show—and she says she’s only getting started.


Gucci trench coat and swimsuit. Cartier earrings. Panthère de Cartier rings. PHOTO: MARIO SORRENTI

The list of performers who’ve been a part of the Super Bowl halftime show more than once is short, but Parris Goebel is on it. The New Zealand–born Goebel, 31, first got to have a hand in the entertainment portion of football’s biggest night when she choreographed Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s 2020 joint outing in Miami Gardens, Florida. But Goebel’s work choreographing this year’s blockbuster Rihanna show—which combined the singer’s highly anticipated return with her surprise pregnancy reveal—in Glendale, Arizona, blew up the internet, as Riri hit the multiplatform stage in a pair of Alaïa by Pieter Mulier coats and a custom red boiler suit by Loewe.

Goebel, one of Harper’s Bazaar’s Icons for 2023, is known for the force and dynamism of her routines. (To see more from our 2023 Icons issue, including cover stars Kendall Jenner, Doja Cat, and Paul Mescal, click here.) Lopez first encountered her on YouTube, where Goebel—then still a teen and living in Auckland—had begun posting videos of her local dance crew in action. The multihyphenate hired her to help choreograph her 2012 world tour. Since then, Goebel has worked with artists like Justin Bieber and SZA and collaborated with Rihanna on the star’s Savage X Fenty shows.

When I first started choreographing for my dance crew as a teenager in Auckland, New Zealand, I was obsessed with really hard-hitting movement. Dance is my language, and I knew I wanted to communicate power. Maybe that came from my upbringing, my culture, and how I saw the world. It was this really beasty, unapologetic sense of expression. But as I grew older and became a bit more in touch with my femininity, my style ended up becoming this beautiful fusion of masculine and feminine energy.

We sometimes think femininity is soft, but I don’t see it like that. Women are born with strength and resilience. We’re constantly wearing a million different hats and have these unexplainable abilities that feel like superpowers. I work really hard on rewriting the narrative of what it means to be feminine. Femininity is strength and owning your sexuality in a bold and unapologetic way.

“I work really hard on rewriting the narrative of what it means to be feminine in my choreography.”

I only choose projects now that push me and that I’m going to come out of better, smarter, and stronger. I really thrive under pressure. The common thread of everything I do is that it’s uniquely challenging, whether that’s choreographing a music video or creative-directing and choreographing a show at Paris Couture Week.

This year’s Super Bowl halftime show was up there for sure. There were many layers to that performance that made it kind of a complex project, from working with 280 dancers—some of whom were in the air on floating stages—to finding out Ri was pregnant.

Honestly, I had a gut feeling the choreography would go viral. When I made up certain moves, I was like, “Oh, everyone is going to do this.” My favorite videos are the ones for “Work” where people play Rihanna and get other people to crawl after them. I think that’s hilarious!

Right now, I’m working on a feature film with Sony. It’s my directorial debut, and I’m really excited to put dance on the big screen in a way that no one’s ever done before. But as for what I’ll be doing in five years, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I’ll open a restaurant, maybe I’ll start a little jazz bar or something. I’m always chasing the thrill of creating and doing something new.

This interview and photo shoot were conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Hair: Tomo Jidai for Oribe; makeup: Frank B for LoveSeen; manicures: Lisa Jachno for Chanel Le Vernis; production: One Thirty-Eight Productions; set design: Philipp Haemmerle. Special thanks to Buttercup Venues