While the fashion industry is gradually shifting toward diversity in all forms of the word, its progress is anything but fast-paced. Hanna El-Mohandess explains how Rihanna is inclusively taking U.S. beauty standards–and the world’s–by storm.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty, also known as Rihanna or “Riri,” is a U.S. national treasure.
Okay, so maybe she doesn’t belong to this nation, but regardless, she should be treasured wherever she goes.
I think it’s safe to assume that we all know who Rihanna is; she’s almost inescapable, but in the best way possible. She makes headlines at every event she attends and makes waves at every event she hosts. About once a week I find myself scrolling through my phone, stumbling upon some groundbreaking thing Rihanna has done in one of the million industries she’s a part of, and smiling while I thank the heavens above for putting her on this earth and making sure I was here at the same time.
Earlier this month, Rihanna was named the world’s wealthiest female musician, but she is so much more than that. She’s wealthy because she is an expert renaissance woman, dominating various spaces across diverse industries. She has been at the top of the music industry, with her most recent album Anti hitting no.1 on Billboard charts twice, only two months apart. She’s an actress who kills it at the box office; her most recent movie, Oceans 8, made 297.7 million dollars in ticket sales. She’s been hailed, by Twitter and by Anna Wintour herself, as the Queen of the Met Gala, and therefore the Queen of all fashion–and to top it all off, she’s also a political appointee currently serving as Ambassador to Barbados.
After a quick rundown of her resume, it’s very clear that diversity is an integral part of Rihanna’s brand. It therefore makes sense that she makes it a point to implement and highlight this same value in all of the companies she has created, including Fenty Beauty and SAVAGE X FENTY.
Rihanna isn’t one to just slap her name on a label and sit back and wait for her millions to start rolling in–she was entirely involved in every step of Fenty Beauty’s inception, from development and formulation to packaging and marketing. Fenty was Rihanna’s passion project. Rihanna, like many women of colour, is very open about the lack of options the beauty industry has provided for people with complexions darker than “ivory” or “sand.” The shared experience of walking away from a makeup chair disappointed is what drove Rihanna to make sure no one ever has to feel that way again. "I never could have anticipated the emotional connection that women are having with the products and the brand as a whole," Rihanna told Time Magazine in 2017. "Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter. That's something I will never get over."
This focused approach on diversity and inclusion has proven extremely profitable for Rihanna and her beauty empire. In November 2017, when Time named Fenty Beauty one of its Best Inventions of the Year, the magazine revealed that the brand had raked in $72 million in its first month, which just happens to be five times what Kylie Cosmetics made in the same period, despite the fact that the two had a very similar customer base.
Now, Rihanna has done the same with within the fashion industry. At her Fenty pop up shop in New York City on June 18th, she debuted new designs on mannequins that varied in size and included featured curves and dips, giving us mannequins that finally resemble the average woman.
For years, we’ve demanded to see more examples of diverse size inclusion on runways and in campaign ads. But the fight for mannequins seemed almost impossible, which is a shame; you could argue that mannequins are more important than any of those things. In 2017, Racked reported that mannequins are the "strongest method of 'silent selling,'" and one that "looks or is shaped like the customer" is more likely to influence sales. Your average mannequin is built to Barbie standards with a six-foot height, 34-inch bust, 24-inch waist, and 34-inch hips. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know very many women who measure up to those standards–and apparently neither does Rihanna. As she explained to E! News at her pop up launch, "We have our fit models, which is the standard size from factories, you just get your samples made in one size. But then, I want to see it on my body, I want to see it on a curvy girl with thighs and a little bit of booty and hips.”
Fenty’s mannequins have already stirred up a similar reaction to when Fenty Beauty released their 40 inclusive foundation shades, prompting almost every beauty brand to make a wider range of shades for their customers. Here’s to hoping the mannequins have the same effect.
Witnessing women all around the world finally begin to see themselves represented in the products marketed to them is a beautiful thing. Rihanna’s dedication to representing every woman makes her one of my heroes. “I wanted to include every woman,” Rihanna told Elle, “I want women to feel celebrated and that we started this shit. We own this. This is our land because really it is. Women are running the world right now and it’s too bad for men.”
I will say it a million times until it’s finally heard: diverse women are willing to spend substantial amounts of money on makeup and clothes, as long as it’s made for them–because it rarely is.
Rihanna has already figured that one out; now we just have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up.