Jun 4, 2014

What I ♥ Today: The Shimmer Slaying Of Rihanna

I'm not the biggest Rihanna fan, but I appreciate her candor and her style from time to time --- especially when she pulls out some serious Josephine Baker game like this. I'm just in total awe of her draping herself in Swarovski-diamonds for the CFDA Fashion Awards this past Monday, so much so, that I can't function anymore. She was receiving some kind of an fashion icon award or something, but nobody really cared about that because this shimmery Gatsby-esque scandal just put us all in headlights and made us forget how to speak and spell properly.

You want to know how Rihanna got dressed for this event? Shirley Bassey came out of nowhere and sang, "Diiiiamonds are forrrrevvverrrrr!!!" and Rihanna was dressed in two minutes. It was diva witchcraft.

The booty don't lie.

I'm not usually looking at women's rumps, but Rihanna is just oozing so much confidence in this strut, in this look, that its a wee bit infectious and thus I must marvel. I know some people will criticize what is being done and question why Rihanna is being touted as a "fashion icon" as she has always been shock with little substance, and with her mentioning in her acceptance speech that she used fashion as a "defense mechanism" could raise a few insecurity flags.

I'm not sure if Rihanna intended to make political or social statements with her diamond crusted gown, but saying she's channeling Josephine Baker isn't just for shop talk as the name drop lends on how we view Black women and their bodies in the 21st Century versus the time when Baker reigned and romped around in a daring banana skirt to become the first international Black woman superstar.

Depending on your gaze, Baker's legacy of is either derogatory or celebratory. I'm in the latter thought. I admire Baker for a number of reasons especially with her championing civil rights and bad ass spy work during World War II, but I find her performing scantily clad just as empowering if not more so. Through reading about Baker over the years (seriously read Josephine: The Hungry Heart --- it's a biography nirvana), I understand that Baker dealt with insecurities and was exploited to some extent with performances that negated her to a 'jungle seductress'. Still Baker had the attitude that she didn't want to be compromised and she pushed through the negative to find the positive in the celebration of herself, even when Jim Crow era was telling her otherwise. France, her adopted country, embraced her beauty, a beauty that America, her birthplace, wasn't ready for (and to some extent, still isn't) back in the roaring sexual lax of the 1920s, and she burst with inhibition to flaunt her assets, turning the idea that Black women and their bodies were "undesirable" and that their own personal beauty was subpar to that of a White woman's on its head. Baker's sassafras gall kicked opened the door for numerous Black women to follow in finding freedom in their nakedness and the shameless choice to exhibit the pride to occupy their own skin.

The question is have we progressed from Baker's time? Yes and no. There are still women out there being exploited, who aren't shedding their clothes because they so choose to, who are being abused and policed. But let's be real, a woman will be sexualized whether her clothes are on or off, it's a damn do or damn don't, and we need to continue making strides to absolve those misconceptions. While Rihanna doesn't possess the body all of us have, we should be progressing in body ownership, in loving the idea of our outward selves and not being ashamed to show and let our curves tell all. We should have the choice to tease, to flaunt, and to hold back. In short, a woman should have a choice to her own agency. Rihanna is making that choice, and she wears this look well, and if she can skirt along the lines of glamorous and scandalous, then we should step back and let her have this moment. La Baker would've wanted her to.

...and yep, that is a diamond crusted doo-rag, folks. Mmmhmm, Rihanna you just keep on sparkling and slaying.

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