Rihanna: an American Icon

Ann Marie Akpan, J1 Staff Writer

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It was 2005 when we were introduced to a big-eyed, brown-haired girl from Barbados named Rihanna. As she made her way to the dance floor with a few light moves asking the dj to play her favorite song, “Pon de replay,” over and over again.

Her evolution from sweet islander girl to her edgier side “began” around the release of 2007’s Good girl Gone Bad album. Since then, Rih’s appearance has gotten

bolder. She’s had more transformations in her studio album work as well, with each one being symbolic of not just her own evolution but also of all women as we grow, change, and react to the world around us; just like the messages in her songs.

Looking back at when we were first introduced to Rihanna shows just how much she has evolved.  According to Hypebae –  a fashion and lifestyle site – much like her role model Madonna who came before her, Rihanna is the radical of today’s generation. Riding the wave of feminism as she ages the content of her work has gotten more mature. There are singles like “Work” that play into her soft side as a woman in a relationship. But most of it is an explicit look at independence in her other single, “Needed me,” as she continues to push the boundaries of nature. She dropped two videos both with imagery exploring female empowerment.

When it comes to Rih’s clothing, there’s a reason why she was awarded the title of fashion icon. Her approach to fashion is fearless. This was shown a few months ago when she wore a pair of thigh-high denim boots which she created in collaboration with well-known fashion designer Manolo Blahnik. This further proved her fashion status, which may have led to her work with PUMA, a floundering brand that has seen its popularity grow thanks to Rih. According to BusinessInsider writer Maria Nazario,  The pop star released her first line of sneakers for the company, called Puma Creepers, in September 2016. “The launch of the first Puma by Rihanna shoe, the ‘Creeper,’ has been extremely successful and most retailers have sold out within hours or days,” said Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden according to Nazario.

Additionally, she signed a contract in late 2014 for seventy-five million dollars to produce her own beauty line, Fenty beauty, which she definitely sold out just like her collaborations with MAC cosmetics.

Another facet of Rih’s success and impact can be felt in her work empowering the youth to further their education and pursue their own success. Last month a young man anonymously revealed that he’d been struggling to come to terms with his sexuality when he turned to Rihanna by DMing her on twitter.  According to  BuzzFeed  the fan says “it’s been hard for him to come out as a gay black man, but Rihanna’s messages have helped him realize that he shouldn’t be ashamed of who he is.” Buzzfeed added that the fan hopes to have fully come out by July, when he will meet Rihanna for the first time.

Rihanna is a role model, which, according to Hypebae, “was on display” in her recent “Black Girls Rock, Rock Star Award” acceptance speech. In her speech, Rihanna said, “Role model is not the title they like to give me, you know…I think I can inspire a lot of young women to be themselves, and that is half the battle.” Rihanna’s words and the award from BET provide yet another example of her importance to not only pop culture, but to the lives of young women of color.  She received a rockstar award because she continues to help various charities and continues to pour herself into her own personal charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, which helps children in other countries pay school fees.

Rih’s complexities make her dynamic, yet she’s still a superstar. Over a decade after “Pon de Replay” and her ascent into stardom, Rihanna’s in a league of her own. You can join it, or you can watch from the sidelines, but when it comes to being a role model, no one can deny how important to the game she is today.

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