Growing up, I was a HUGE Rihanna fan. When it came towards learning every single step to “Only Girl” on Just Dance 3 to watching her spread her wings and dipped her feet into the world of fashion and makeup. Savage X Fenty, a popular lingerie brand by Rihanna herself, has done super well the last couple of years when it launched alongside her growing makeup empire of Fenty Beauty has played a huge role. Though Rihanna is my fellow Pisces sister and an incredible artist with un-real range and vocals, when it comes to her Savage X Fenty line, she’s making headlines and for the wrong reasons.
Recently, Savage X Fenty has come under fire for cultural appropriation and accessorized sacred Hindu spaces. Many South Asians across the world have called out Rihanna, her brand, and her models for appropriating the Hindu culture after pictures surfaced that showed Rihanna wearing a Ganesha pendant. In fact, this shows how people that don’t follow Hindusim appropriate our religion. Some examples include when they talk about Henna freckles, the idea of manifestation and karma, or even when talking about yoga and aligning one’s chakras.
Unfortunately, wearing a Ganesha pendant wasn’t the only thing that Rihanna has done to offend the Hindu community. This conversation first started with Valentine’s Day-themed photo shoot for Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage X Fenty. Model Jhardan Reign (@jhardanreign) was shot which consisted of a corset, thong, and Cupid’s bow and arrow. This photoshoot wasn’t at a luxurious location in Paris or Mexico but in front of a Hindu Temple.
It’s important to know that Rihanna has not been cognizant of other cultures even before her controversial Savage X Fenty shoot this year. For example, Rihanna received backlash from the Muslim community on social media for using hadith or sacred sayings of the Prophet in the music soundtrack of a Savage x Fenty lingerie show. Luckily, she realized her mistake and posted her apology on social media and said that next time she would be more aware and that it was “honest” and was overall a careless mistake on her part.
Tik Tok & Cultural Appropriation :
Tik Tok is a community for all. Yes, people from all around the world use the app as a platform to share videos and a hobby for all during the pandemic. The majority of Gen Z is on Tik Tok to take a break and document their COVID journey.
Whether it’s making the famous feta pasta, bonding through memes, or even doing popular dances, Tik Tok is a place for all young and older, it’s a place for people of all interests. The scene has even gotten political when it came towards the 2020 election and was a common ground for Gen Z’ers to list their problems and grievances with many politicians joining Tik Tok to reach youth voters.
Though Gen Z has taken over the Tik Tok platform, the trend of Henna freckles, wearing Bindi’s, making fun of Indian accents, and talking about karma and tarot readings + manifestation has taken over people’s “for you page” and has shown Indians in a negative light.
For example, when “Sketchers” by DripReport came out, it turned into a frenzy and many people decided to start singing it in an Indian accent. As much as my peers and I laughed, it still made me feel like there was something wrong with me when it came to being Indian.
Growing up, teachers used to ask if I spoke Hindu and couldn’t distinguish that Hindu is a culture and Hindi was a language. Seeing celebrities follow these trends and the very low Brown representation on TV, even the slightest celebrity representation turned into the stereotypical brown boy or girl who was smart and had all these stereotypes that people think Indians are like. Seeing Rihanna do something like this when it comes towards a holy place like a temple that I call home is shocking to me and makes me realize that they don’t really educate kids in the US about the Indian culture and many Indian-American kids are also afraid to speak up during class when teacher’s make a mistake because they don’t want to seem “too Indian” or even “too white-washed”.
This poses the question if this sort of act would ever be tolerated in front of a church, synagogue, or mosque? It’s extremely insulting. Rihanna, being a POC herself, should’ve known better. South Asians need to start holding celebrities accountable for culturally appropriating the Indian culture and using Hindu symbols and ideas as a way to “flex” or gain “clout”. Somebody’s culture is significant to them and should be respected and shouldn’t be used to gain more followers or used as a publicity stunt. It’s time that celebrities learn and appreciate cultures to avoid the chances of getting “canceled”.
What Can Rihanna Do?
Rihanna can definitely apologize for her mistake of making a model pose in front of a holy place for the Hindu population. Rihanna needs to understand how her actions impact a community as a whole and how these mistakes clearly add up. Though she’s a popular celebrity, it doesn’t give her the right to portray a different culture that she doesn’t belong to. Furthermore, culturally appropriating the Hindu culture without issuing an apology paints her in a negative light and would cause her to lose her South Asian base. Deleting a post off Instagram isn’t going to make the “problem” go away just like that. The first step Rihanna should take is informing her followers to be more conscious of different religions. Another way is by being more mindful with her outfit choices in order to avoid another controversy like this one.