Rihanna celebrates Fenty Beauty’s one year anniversary and winning the Allure Best of Beauty Breakthrough Award with not one but two Allure covers! Looking stunning on both of them, the photos were shot by a London-based photographer Nadine Ijewere.
Via Allure: She is a wizard of reinvention, and every time Rihanna conjures something new, we happily sink further under her spell. This year, with Fenty Beauty, she reinvented the beauty business.
Rihanna has given us so many things. Every summer for over a decade, she blessed us with new anthems for beer-drinking and sex-having and man-slaying. I think she also invented denim? But this year, Rihanna’s already-seismic influence exploded with the launch of Fenty Beauty, and its rallying cry for inclusivity in beauty was heard around the world.
The brand’s expansive (and successful) foundation-shade range not only set a new standard for cosmetics companies but also brought women of color to the forefront of the beauty conversation, making thousands of consumers feel heard and seen in that enthralling, palpable, and exciting way that a Top 40 song simply cannot. For this, we wanted to hear the voices of those people, so we asked a few to pen letters to Rihanna.
But Brennan, you’re saying out loud to yourself, talking to a magazine without a second thought, what would your letter to Rihanna say? Thank you for asking: Dear Rihanna, Remember when I worked in an office next to your apartment in Manhattan and would literally get up and leave my desk anytime a large black SUV pulled up outside your building? Most of those were Ubers, but one time it was your car, and you emerged with curls akimbo, wearing jeans that fit you like a song. You smiled vaguely in my direction (south), and I wanted to thank you for the memory. And, you know, for everything else.
Now, for a few thank-you letters from fellow fans:
A Thank-You Letter to Rihanna From My Inner Bad Girl
Can I tell you how fun it’s been? Getting to know your work from my first viewing of Pon de Replay on Total Request Live to your more recent forays into the sister-worlds of beauty and fashion, and everything in between? I would not call myself a stan. I understand you are a human woman who I don’t know in real life, and while I tend to enjoy the art and perspectives you choose to share with the rest of us, you do not belong to me. However, I would call myself an enthusiastic fan. Rest assured, it is earned enthusiasm. I can’t tell you how badly I need more fun. This is a letter of appreciation.
You were born just after the American Valentine’s Day, so it’s no wonder love and myth are written all over you. It will never get old seeing you acting, modeling, or running a multimillion-dollar business, not “like a boss” because you’re already the fucking boss. But it’s your music that ties me down. Your music has shown up at all the right times for me, and I am not particularly special or alone in this experience.
At the end of my second year of college, when I broke up with the guy I had been dating since I was 14 and found myself feeling relieved by the new freedom, you released Good Girl Gone Bad. I needed to cry while listening to “Hate That I Love You.” I needed to dance by myself to “Don’t Stop the Music.” I needed to roar down some Indiana back roads a little too fast, playing “Shut Up and Drive” as loud as possible until I could let myself cry. All I wanted was to be done with the growing parts of growing up, and you gave me anthems that reminded me, at the very least, that I wasn’t doing it alone.
I read recently that time is easily squandered by the luxury of youth, but you’ve shown me another way. Where I would easily wallow in the worst of my feelings, you modeled vulnerability and strength as equals. You have answered for the actions of others as well as your own in ways you should have never been asked. And yet you do not hide — but you do set boundaries. Your evolution has been such a pleasure to watch only because you let it be real. You let me be real. You refer to your own thiccness with admiration, and your life with all the seriousness it requires, and nothing extra. You know the luxury of youth, but you do not waste your time. What a beautiful lesson.
Speaking of beauty, this summer, in Vogue, Cate Blanchett described you as “ancient, mysterious, unique, wicked.” It is true, there seems to be something about you, an energy (you know what kind) that taps into the darker side of femininity. You turned what should formerly be known as manspreading into a thing that now looks ridiculous without the addition of stilettos and tulle. You made me consider moody makeup in a day look and changed my perception of what is allowed. The way you spoke about your body and your sexuality helped me change the way I thought about mine. I think part of me knew, but you reminded me no matter who might have the pleasure of finding themselves welcome to handle whole handfuls of my body, when they tease and ask me who it belongs to, the real answer is always, “Me, and me alone.”
Because of you, I am no longer afraid to be hungry, and I am unashamed of what I hunger for. The work of accepting my freedom and my body has, at times, been overwhelmingly hard work. It shouldn’t be, but I won’t wallow. I’ll remember who I belong to, even when it’s hard. Still, thank you for making it fun.
— Ashley C. Ford, writer, talk-show host, and speaker
When I was a model, back in the early ’90s, it was really tough to find my own foundation, or to have makeup artists understand my skin tone at all, so I mixed my own and made it work. I ended up doing makeup for all of the other girls, and that’s how I became a makeup artist. (For a while, I assisted Bobbi Brown, and then I worked with her as the global head of artistry for her brand.) In 2007, I launched my own brand, a series of makeup sticks in a variety of shades, called Color by Cynde Watson. I thought it would be cool for them to be dual-ended, a warm and cool shade. Undertones are everything for women of color. That was key. I went to HSN with it and started selling it.
But it didn’t work out. It was too ahead of its time. First of all, being a black woman selling to all women — it was referred to as a line for women of color. And I was like, “No, it’s not, it’s for all women.” It was so crazy for people to wrap their heads around that in 2007. Ten years later, it’s finally time.
Rihanna, I truly commend your fearlessness and passion to continue the amazing fight to normalize inclusivity in the beauty industry. To be fair, there are a few key makeup brands that I recognize and appreciate from “back in the day” whose missions were and still are to celebrate multiple skin tones, but I credit you for breaking boundaries and shaking things up in today’s beauty space with your intense conviction and celebrity influence. You are inspiring consumers, retailers, and future beauty brands to think globally and recognize that all skin tones matter.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
— Cynde Watson, makeup-brand founder
I met you during the Fenty Puma Season 2 show in Paris — it was my first time out of the country. I always thought your shit was made for me, and I wanted nothing more than to model for you, so hearing that I was cast in your show had me ecstatic. That you continued to use me was just surreal — business turned family real quick.
You introduced me to a more mainstream level of exposure. I was famous for all of the wrong reasons before. People loved the idea of Slick, but you gave me countless platforms to let people actually fall in love with who I am. You made inclusivity cool, and that’s revolutionary. Now people are putting money toward inclusion, rather than putting money toward a certain supremacy. It’s a beautiful switch in pace. You have my loyalty until the end of time. My gratitude for the growth, love, and support you’ve put in my life will never subside. You are a true angel and the most multifaceted, immortal boss I’ve ever met. I’m so thankful for you. But you knew dat.
— Slick Woods, model
I was 14 when the “Umbrella” video came out. I was also one of three black girls in my class of over 80 people. I wore two thick, poorly parted braids on either side of my head, and I was in a perpetual state of anxious self-consciousness. I was an Awkward Black Girl. And I was highly unprepared for “Umbrella,” which to some was just a music video, but to me was an existential mindfuck.
Here was a black woman who had completely unsettled the agreeable, cookie-cutter pop-star personality that had previously been assigned her. I inhaled magazine articles about your decision to cut your hair without sign-off from your label (unprecedented!) and the hysteria that ensued. You seemed to become bolder, a bit darker, and simultaneously more comfortable with yourself. I was struck by the image: a young black woman taking control of the narrative that had already been set for her by the people around her.
Meanwhile, for the first time, I realized that I, too, could define the way I presented myself to the world. I felt unstuck. Fast-forward 10 years, I still have never dyed my hair, have a relatively normal amount of social anxiety, and can only barely partake in current dance trends. But I am bolder, more comfortable, and very much in control of who I am. I’m still no good girl gone bad, but that’s not the point. I can be whoever I want to be, in part because you showed me I could.
— Kim Johnson, superfan