Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty unapologetically embraces her sexiness, her talent and her Blackness and that fearlessness reminds me to live just as boldly in my skin.
Here’s the thing: I don’t need to Rihanna to “remind” me I’m also Black. I can see I’m Black when I look in the mirror, when I show up to the office or when I go out into the world. But Rihanna does remind me that my Blackness is powerful, that the culture I come from is complex and deserves respect. She inspires me to show up fully as myself in all rooms I enter, be it a boardroom or a bedroom.
Still, when I need a boost in confidence, I turn to some of my favorite memor-Rihs (see what I did there?) of when the singer showed the world that she’s a proud Black woman.
1. When she wore a doobie wrap on national television.
Rihanna left folks both shook and confused when she took the stage at the 2013 American Music Awards wearing her hair tightly bobby pinned around her head in what’s called a “doobie wrap.” Black women with straight hair wear this protective style when trying to preserve straightness and shine, similar to putting your hair into rollers. Of course, this is usually done right before bed and is rarely worn outside the house. But RiRi rocked it onstage with the confidence of a woman who knows that her hair and all the things it can do are amazing.
2. When she sang in native dialect.
Rihanna showed off her Bajan culture when she released a dancehall R&B song “Work” featuring Drake. Some listeners confused her lyrics for “gibberish” but soon came to realize that what they were hearing was her native accent and dialect. With her hit song, Rihanna paid homage to Caribbean culture and the diverse voices making new waves in the music industry.
3. When she created a makeup line with 40 shades of foundation.
Finding a foundation shade to match Black and Brown skin was a NEARLY impossible task before Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty hit the scene in 2017. The line was created “so that women everywhere would be included” in a beauty industry that historically leaves us out.
4. When she gave back to Barbados and children around the world.
In 2017, Rihanna was named Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year for her efforts to help provide education and health care for children through her Clara Lionel Foundation named for her grandparents. RiRi shows she’s proud of her roots in the diverse Caribbean community in Barbados, and they’re proud of her too. They recently renamed the street she grew up to “Rihanna Drive” and appointed the singer Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the country.
5. When she got THICC!
Black women’s bodies are criticized, appropriated and disrespected in so many ways that it’s sometimes hard to maintain confidence in the natural dips, curves and dimples (or lack thereof) in our bodies. Rihanna’s own body came under scrutiny when pics popped up revealing thicker hips, fuller breasts and a rounder face on the singer. But her weight gain didn’t weigh down her confidence. Rihanna called her fluctuating body type “a pleasure” and led other women to find pleasure in their body types as well.
6. When she boldly declared that sex with her is “so amazing.”
RiRi took that confidence and turned it into another No. 1 record when she released “Sex with Me” off of the deluxe version of her eighth album “Anti.” Rihanna has definitely faced some backlash in her career after she abandoned her “good girl” image in favor of a sexier bad gal persona. Black women are familiar with being hyper-sexualized in media, but Rihanna’s song tells us there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sex and feeling sexy. In fact, it’s empowering.
7. When she straight-up said “I’m Black, bitch!”
When a Twitter troll questioned why Rihanna’s “hair is so nappy,” the Grammy Award-winning artist responded with a simple declaration: “Cuz I’m Black, bitch!” It was a clapback heard ’round the world and the iconic Twitter moment became the name of her new pitch-black Flyliner for her Fenty Beauty collection.
Cheers to Rihanna, an unapologetic Black queen!