I am never going to make an argument that we need less Rihanna in this world, so I’m thrilled to see her nab Vogue again, this time with a lengthy ode to her contributions to the beauty industry — Fenty is not just legit, but made the drugstore brands wake up and realize humans are more than just six different colors — and her budding fashion house in Paris. She’s been absent from a lot of red carpets but is out there stealthily being a successful businesswoman, and while the temptation is there to fret that Vogue has a very limited selection of women of color that it considers for its covers, Rihanna is thoroughly deserving of the cover and the record. (Second, and just surpassed, is Shari Belafonte with five covers in the ’80s, and then Beyonce and Lupita Nyong’o have four each. Michelle Obama has three.) Her sixth is not her best. She’s wearing her own design, though I can’t tell if it’s six of them layered on top of each other or just one cloak that is exuberant about hoods. The facial expression and the composition has a touch of The Girl With The Pearl Earring to it. She does pull me in simply by dint of being Rihanna, but… I often glance at this and find that she seems both weary and wary, like she’s Taupe Riding Hood and she’s freaking fed up with the tension of hearing twigs crack behind her on the forest path and wondering what animal it is.
For comparison, I’ve put all six of her Vogue covers in the slideshow so we can wander down memory lane and decide which ones we like the best, but I’d argue her previous one — the one from around the time she co-chaired the Met Gala — is the best.
The story is an odd bit. It’s interesting because Rihanna is interesting, and not because it’s particularly interestingly written. I’ve never liked this whole style: “Thinking about the time she said X, I asked her Y, and she said Z, and then I asked her about A, and she said B. I remembered this one t-shirt and asked her about C.” Like, either do a Q&A, or don’t, but this kind of relaying of a conversation does very little other than to paint the reporter as a wellspring of knowledge — like, “Look what I know on the fly!” And on that tip:
Normally I bring a list of questions, but I didn’t have time to prepare one, which I make a split-second decision to confess. “I’m winging it, so you have to help me,” I say nervously. Rihanna flashes a grin that is somehow both reassuring and mischievous. “Aren’t we all?” she says.
I mean… okay. That is… would you ever actually admit to Rihanna that you didn’t do your homework, when that homework involved showing enough respect for her time to do a little research? The opening is all about how the interview was pushed a day earlier (“Waiting for Rihanna is practically a journalistic genre all its own,” the reporter writes, providing absolutely no useful context as to why). But this wouldn’t have been assigned to this reporter without decent lead time. I do not believe this would’ve been on Vogue’s docket without the editorial team having a firm idea of what direction it would go in and what the reporter would be expected to focus on — after all, when this is your sixth Rihanna profile, you have to find the fresh angle and study the others. It’s asinine to me that anyone would pretend there wasn’t time to prep a list of questions, much less because Rihanna turned out to be available on Wednesday, not Thursday. So I guess this person just… didn’t. And yet then proceeds to “I asked this, I knew that,” all over the place.
Here’s a bit that was easy to excerpt:
Does any part of Rihanna foresee a day when she might decide that, in fact, there will be no more music? “Oh, nooo,” she says. “Music is, like, speaking in code to the world, where they get it. It’s the weird language that connects me to them. Me the designer, me the woman who creates makeup and lingerie—it all started with music. It was my first pen pal–ship to the world. To cut that off is to cut my communication off. All of these other things flourish on top of that foundation.”
That is very, very wise. I think you see that kind of attitude in The Rock, also, who just popped by Smackdown’s premiere on FOX to wrestle, because he’s smart enough to know where it all began and keep a toe in there as he sees fit. Rihanna will surely make music more often than we smell anything new The Rock is cooking in the ring, but the idea is the same: They know whence they came.