I am a secret Rihanna fan. The truth is, I’m well out of her normal fan demographic. I’m literally old enough to be her mother. I realize that to admit to this will have some of you judge me, but I, like Rihanna, am unapologetic. I love this chick.
For those of you who always had perfectly shiny patent leather shoes to wear to Sunday school and whose Catholic school uniform was always properly pressed, for those who were class president and cried if you got a grade below A, and who came from two-parent, two-car families, Rihanna is not for you. Your role models should be Beyonce or Michelle Obama, two ladies in very different spheres of life who nonetheless have happy marriages and lots of disposable income in common. These ladies embody the “politics of respectability” that many Black women aspire to live up to. They are both hard-working wives and mothers who put in the time and the effort to be able to live the lives they do. I applaud them both.
But this is not about respectability. Rihanna is the poster girl for the rest of us. Rihanna is in her 20’s to be sure, and is hardly an appropriate role model for a grown Black woman. We are supposed to be somewhere married, raising kids, paying a mortgage in some suburb and going to church. We are supposed to be in that Black woman’s lockstep, doing all the right things.
We are supposed to understand that the days of youth are behind us, and that we should fall in line as the sort of sexless, mature, wise figures who take care of the children we didn’t bother to have, or somehow contribute to society in a socially approved way. Rihanna, our guru, is our secret rebellion. We don’t tell everyone about this – we just follow her quietly on Twitter, on Instagram and the gossip blogs. We listen, not necessarily to all her music, but her latest CD “Unapologetic” has some songs we really like. Aren’t we all “Diamonds” after all? Shouldn’t we, at this point in our lives, be unapologetic about our all our choices, even the bad ones?
Maybe Rihanna is not your idea of a role model. She was infamously beaten by her off-again, on-again boyfriend, singer Chris Brown. She’s been semi-naked so much online that she admits her own mother told her , in no uncertain terms, to stop it. She curses, she openly smokes weed and she recently posed on her Instagram in nothing but custom Prada thigh-high boots and a thong. But she’s also the girl who shares Scriptures with her fans, who puts racists and haters in their place and who shared her heartbreak at the sad news of her beloved grandmother’s passing with millions of her followers via social media.
Her “Man Down” video puts a female spin on rape while subtly relating an anti-misogyny message. In other words, she’s often contradictory, sometimes crazy, still young and trying to figure it all out while working and commanding the kind of attention on the world stage that would challenge most of us. Not only are grown women like me reminded of the freedom and possibility we had in our 20’s, for some of us, she’s the embodiment of the rebel spirit that we still have that says we don’t have to have to be who the world, our family, our friends or our lovers want us to be. We love Rihanna, tattoos, hair changes, public mistakes and all, because she reminds us that we still have within us the possibility of truly being ourselves, no matter how old we are.
There’s something compelling about Rihanna’s willingness to live honestly in the spotlight and to reveal some of her most trying moments as she tries to figure them out herself. We know celebs tell you what they want you to know – and rebelliousness is as much a part of Rihanna’s brand as being the poster girl for Doing It All is Beyonce’s. The truth is, Rihanna is far more disciplined than she lets on. At 25, her seven albums have made her one of the top-selling artists of all time. She is a 7-time Grammy winner and has been on five world tours since 2006.
In a week’s time, Rihanna’s social media posts might come from four or five different cities around the world. So despite the controversy, she’s doing what she needs to do to employ not just herself but the various members of Team Rihanna including all the songwriters, producers, musicians, crew and other people who work because she does. After a bout with laryngitis, Rihanna’s in town tonight, hopefully with a healthy throat and ready to entertain the thousands of fans that have been waiting to see her. I don’t know if I’ll make the show because the realities of adult life do mean that things like bills take priority over $200 concert tickets. But whether I see her in person or not, I root for her. And ain’t nobody’s business if I do.
(Photo: PR Photos)