What next, Ambassador Rihanna?
Like every right-thinking Barbadian, we are proud of our homegirl Rihanna and the heights she has reached on the world stage.
Recently, the exquisitely beautiful RiRi graced the cover of Vogue for the third time in just four years, and was named an icon twice –– first at the 2013 American Music Awards and then this week by the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America.
Without a doubt, her rise has been meteoric and her success at the tender age of 26 remains unmatched, by Barbadian standards. But there is an elephant in the room and we feel the need to confront it. Does her “good girl, gone bad” image really mesh with who we are as a people?
And should we be proud of the fact that mention is being made of Barbados’ name every time she ditches her bikini bottom, goes topless for another mag, or shows up half-naked to receive an international award?
Indeed, while our cultural and tourism officials continue to sit back quietly, seemingly taking everything in stride –– both good and bad –– the question needs to be asked: is “Ambassador Rihanna” really helping or hurting our bread and butter tourism product?
In any case, we would be happy to hear from Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy on this. He could perhaps show us the evidence that best explains why our industry numbers are still plummeting when we have one of the best-selling products globally behind our brand.
Culturally, too, is this smoking party animal, who generally communicates in four-letter words, and makes a point of being “audacious –– even jaw-dropping or button-pushing”, generally reflecting the quintessential definition of the “Bajan woman”?
Nah! We think not –– or maybe she does! In a week when our economy was exposed for what it is, RiRi also created headlines with her sheer fishnet gown for the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America Awards, sparkling as it was with thousands of embedded crystals, but leaving little underneath to the imagination. Her outfit, at least, could be said to best reflect our mood and national circumstance –– shimmering bright on the surface, but revealing otherwise hidden crevices.
In her defence, some of her fellow Cawmerians and others have argued –– rightfully so –– that Rihanna did not ask to be anyone’s role model, and she certainly doesn’t need our approval. After all, she’s a superstar!
Furthermore, as an entertainer seeking to remain relevant, it is a requirement, apparently not a choice, that she constantly push the envelope to maintain her “iconic” status.
Still, so grateful must we be that she has put Barbados on the map, we must never ever be heard to issue a critical word of her, even when it is painfully obvious that her rolling train is speeding down a deadly track most certain to lead to a painful crash –– if not total destruction!
As she accepted the 2014 Fashion Icon Award this week, Rihanna spoke of her origins in Barbados, where she said she didn’t have a lot of access to fashion.
However, she admitted: “Fashion has always been my defence mechanism.”
Even as a child, she told the crowd, she used to think: “She can beat me, but she can’t beat my outfit.”
Said she: “I can compensate for all my weaknesses with my fashion,” adding: “There are rules, but rules are meant to be broken.”
But at what price and to whom?
In fact, one of our readers put it best this week as the latest controversy enveloped the singer for her “sexually suggestive” campaign that shows Rihanna, almost naked, sitting on the floor with her legs raised against a bottle of Rogue scent:
“There is no need to pose naked to sell perfume. If the scent is worthy, the product will sell.”
We are minded to agree.