Has The Bar Been Set Too Low For "Style Icons" and Role Models?
May 13 2014
The CFDA will soon be anointing Rihanna as the "Fashion Icon of the Year" at its annual dinner this coming June. The ostensible purpose of the award is to recognize her "contribution to fashion".
Of course, the award is not actually a surprise to anyone who tuned into the most recent Paris Fashion Week scene. Rihanna was everywhere that mattered including mugging for the cameras in a Chanel shopping trolley with Cara Delavigne. Judging by the sheer number of orchestrated appearances she made during PFW, it was obvious that a push was underway by the fashion establishment (brands, magazine editors, etc.) to anoint her a style icon and/or role model to be emulated by younger customers the world over.
To her credit, Rihanna is not only a beautiful young woman but she is legitimately talented. And, it's refreshing to see a woman of color being embraced by an industry that doesn't exactly have a history of being at the forefront of diversity. She's also reasonably stylish (minus that infamous denim thong) or at least her stylists did a good job of putting her together for the various shows and parties she attended throughout PFW. In short, there is much to recommend her. Alas, you'll have to forgive me for being a detractor.
Personally, I believe that there is much more to style than looking good in clothes. Style extends to how you choose to live your life. I don't think that someone who pursues a relationship with and publicly defends a man who brutally beat her or, who glamorizes drug taking or, who chronicles her nights out at strip clubs or, routinely posts sexually explicit images of herself and others should be held out as either a style icon or role model.
From where I sit, she is yet another pop star with a messy personal life and a propensity to make bad personal decisions. While we're all entitled to make our mistakes in life, I don't think chronically bad behaviour should be rewarded with CFDA accolades, lucrative fashion week appearances, cosmetics contracts and magazine covers. Moreover, there are other young, talented and accomplished women of color who have managed to navigate the world of celebrity with considerably more grace and aplomb than Rihanna: Janelle Monáe, Lupita N'Yongo, Jourdan Dunn, Kerry Washington and Solange Knowles (whatever her reasons, who amongst us hasn't fantasized about laying into a foul-mouthed rapper who has built a career on degrading women) all leap to mind. Why not them?
No doubt the brands, the magazines and Rihanna will each profit handsomely from these business arrangements. But what about the young women and girls who will be influenced by her? They deserve better.
The Luxe Chronicles