There is one female singer who can rival Beyonce’s reputation as the Diva of Divas then it is surely Rihanna. The Barbadian singer/songwriter is not yet 30 years old but has already released eight studio albums, two compilation albums, two remix albums and a staggering 68 singles. As if this wasn’t enough she has also branched out into acting, with parts in several movies, including an ill-fated remake of Annie, Luc Besson’s 2017 sci-fi project, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and, in 2018, she will appear in Ocean’s Eight, an all-female addition to the popular heist movie franchise. Now speculation about when she finds the time to sleep has been further fuelled by the news of her own make-up range. Rihanna signed a deal with LVMH to create a complete cosmetics collection which launched on September the 8th and is available exclusively via the popular cosmetic store, Sephora.
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Fenty Beauty (employing Rihanna’s surname) encompasses a range of 91 products, all of which have been designed specifically to suit all skin types and tones. The foundation alone encompasses 40 different foundation shades (one of the widest spreads in the industry) and 30 Match Stix skinsticks to correct, conceal and create an attractive shimmer. There is also a blotting powder, plus a range of other beauty accessories. Rihanna is quoted on Sephora’s website as saying, “Fenty Beauty was created for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures and races. I wanted everyone to feel included, that’s the real reason I made this line.” The Fenty Beauty range has already received glowing reviews from experts in the field, who predict that Rihanna’s products will be a huge hit because they were created with black and brown skin tones in mind.
“White skin has been treated as the standard for so long in the US and Europe that only recently have the big makeup labels seriously begun developing products specifically for black and brown women,” stated digital magazine Joy105.com. Beauty blogger, Clover Hope, was also enthusiastic about the launch: “The problem I and many other women of colour face on a regular basis is surviving that experience [where products have been created specifically with Caucasian customers in mind] again and again, in an industry where makeup is predominantly default white. This is not a new dilemma at all, as much as it is a constant cycle of exclusion and expected inefficacy with occasional outliers,” she wrote. Sephora has already reported that the darker shades are already proving the most popular, with branches all over America selling out fast, which is great news for the international beauty market, as it looks beyond pale female clientele to embrace a more diverse customer base. “The next wave of growth is expected to emerge from extending solutions to consumers of all other ethnicities,” researchers Euromonitor stated last year in a report on the international beauty industry.
Yet again, it looks as though Rihanna has made a smart career move. Her first album, Music of the Sun, produced the international hit single, ‘Pon de Replay’, the video of which showed Rihanna as a small, sassy figure in jeans and a sparkling crop top who might have had the dance moves and the attitude that would not only persuade the DJ to “turn the music up” but also propel her to stardom. However, compared to her later, ultra-glam image, she was still very much a work in progress. Later projects would take her down a darker road as she ‘upgraded’ her image to conform to the world of R&B. The comparative innocence and cheerful dance-pop vibe of Music of the Sun and its successor, A Girl like Me, was replaced in 2007 by Good Girl Gone Bad’s unsubtle sexuality. Ironically this album would deliver Rihanna’s biggest hit in the shape of ‘Umbrella’, a catchy and positive tribute to the power of friendship, which would scarcely have raised a blush from a maiden aunt. Released in 2009, Rated R provided the soundtrack for a disturbing part of Rihanna’s life. Not only was her image verging ever closer to an X-rating but her relationship with rapper Chris Brown was hitting the headlines as often as he appeared to be hitting her. Despite pressure to speak out against domestic violence and dump Brown, Rihanna seemed disinclined.
After she appeared in public with visible injuries she seemed more concerned with invasion of her privacy than the fact that she appeared to be living with a man who communicated by the medium of fists. When the first single from this latest album was revealed to be ‘Russian Roulette’ press interest went from intense to rabid. Nobody could deny the strength of the singer’s vocal performance but the subject matter raised more than a few eyebrows, as it related the story of a fearful woman seemingly forced to participate in a game of Russian roulette by an abusive partner.
More speculation of Rihanna’s addiction to the toxic relationship with Chris Brown resurfaced in 2012, when it was rumoured that the pair had reunited, although Brown revealed in 2013 that their relationship was over In the meantime, while Brown’s career seemed to be treading water, Rihanna went from success to success as she hit the top of the charts both as a solo performer and as part of several clever collaborations with David Guetta (‘We Found Love’ and ‘Right Now’), Coldplay (‘Princess of China’), Kanye West and Paul McCartney (‘FourFiveSeconds’) and Drake (‘Work’), with whom she also had a brief relationship. After finding continued success with Loud, Talk That Talk and Unapologetic, the singer released her eighth studio album, Anti in January 2016. The cover featured a striking artwork which took as its basis a monochrome photo of a young Rihanna on her first day at day care, holding a black balloon, her eyes covered by a golden crown. The album’s look was completed by a splash of red and a braille poem, ‘If They Let Us’, written by Chloe Mitchell: I sometimes fear that I am misunderstood. It is simply because what I want to say, what I need to say, won’t be heard.
Heard in a way I so rightfully deserve. What I choose to say is of so much substance That people just won’t understand the depth of my message. So my voice is not my weakness, It is the opposite of what others are afraid of. My voice is my suit and armor, My shield, and all that I am. I will comfortably breath in it, until I find the moment to be silent. I live loudly in my mind, so many hours of the day. The world is pin drop sound compared to the boom That thumps and bumps against the walls of my cranium. I live it and love it and despise it and I am entrapped in it. So being misunderstood, I am not offended by the gesture, but honored. If they let us… Rihanna’s voice continues to be her “suit and armour”, both musically and as a prominent woman of colour. Not only has she used her voice to attract attention to her own talents, she is now employing her influence to improve the lives of women all over the world. The prevailing attitude of the cosmetics industry, for too long, has been that it is pointless to produce items for black and brown women because they will not sell. The fact that the darker items in the Fenty Beauty range have sold out so quickly proves that there is a huge, hungry market out there, one which Rihanna and her team of make-up experts are well placed to serve. If she continues her current trajectory, Rihanna could become one of the 21st century’s most successful music artists and a new Elizabeth Arden or Helena Rubinstein, to boot.