*Photo credit: Craig McDean for NYTimes.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty aka the trendsetter, pop megastar and all around bad ass. She’s known for turning out chart-topping hits (try getting ‘Work’ out of your head) and mastering red carpets, on which she shoves everyone into the sub-par fashion catalog. Many of her critics complain that she does not present herself as the archetype “role model,” but is that an accurate assessment? Yes and no.
Aside from owning her sexuality, confidence and expressing herself in the manner of her choosing, Rihanna should be recognized more for her accomplishments as a brand and business woman. She has added her name to (and skyrocketed sales for) companies like Vita Coco, River Island, M.A.C, and most recently PUMA, where she acts as a Creative Director for the collaboration, Fenty x Puma. Furthermore, the Bajan superstar has launched a creative agency, Fr8me, and is developing a beauty line with one of the world’s leading conglomerates, LVMH.
Let’s delve into that last business venture for a minute. A corporation that earns over 40 billion dollars annually from brands like Céline, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs, has tapped the braless island girl with raunchy lyrics and unapologetic(remember that album) blackness to create a line of beauty products? Why, yes they did! Because, for one, her influence – which is rooted in diversity and living carefree – is incomparable. No other celebrity can lure in cash from the Caribbean, elitists, artsy underground crews, Afro-conscious groups and the “ratchets” (a sect most disliked by those who revel in classism and respectability) like Rihanna does. She draws in every type of consumer, young and old, which leads to my second point.
LVMH has built its name by securing profitable sub-companies and aligning itself with influential brands. Partnering with an ever-growing, multi-industry influencer like Rihanna is a natural, beneficial fit for both parties. We can deduce that one of the conglomerate’s primary goals is to remain on top, which also means regularly gathering revenue from not only established luxury Corps but also from aesthetically pleasing entities that are trendy or in Rihanna’s case, trend setting. Collaborating with her guarantees high ranking sales and allows them to stay one step ahead of competitors.
Once a celebrity gains substantial power, they often add Philanthropist to their multitude of titles. For Rih, that is the Clara Lionel Foundation. Her nonprofit aims to improve the lives of underprivileged youths in her native land of Barbados, as well as other island nations. Just this week, we were introduced to a new scholarship fund for Caribbean and American college students who plan on studying in the States. So, again; how is this woman not considered the prototype idol?
Well, on one hand she is. But on the other, is not because she fashions herself as the anti (see what I did there?) role model. It’s more about doing things in way that feels right. And who doesn’t want to live authentically?
Still, Rihanna is greatly inspirational. She represents the American dream while simultaneously restructuring what this dream looks like. She’s an immigrant who migrated to the States with hopes of bringing her goals to fruition and did it. She has created a life that surpasses expectations of a girl “from the left side of an island” (‘Mother Mary’). She has shown black girls everywhere that you can be great in one discipline, explore other areas of your creativity and be successful in all of it. That our quirks – be it an accent or unconventional attitude – can work in our favor and hardships can lead to triumphs if we maneuver them properly. Rihanna is proof that black women have influence and know how to use it – to acquire all that you desire, without losing sight of who you are, never conforming and always rise in spite of adversity.
Rihanna is the modern archetype role model. Don’t fight me on this.