Why Rihanna’s Fenty Show Is Being Accused Of Cultural Appropriation
Rihanna’s latest runway show for her fashion brand Fenty came under fire recently for cultural and religious appropriation.
The backlash was over the inclusion of a controversial song which included sacred Islamic verse, and some fans are deeply upset that their religion was used out of context.
So, what went down here and what can be learnt from an incident like this?
What Did Rihanna Actually Do?
Millions of people tuned in to watch a virtual runway show of Rhianna’s second lingerie line.
It featured Lizzo, Bella Hadid, and Cara Delevingne as models, and was predicted to be a huge triumph following the success of her 2019 debut show.
But backlash soon started circulating over the use of a specific song that featured in the soundtracking.
The song Doom is by artist Coucou Chloe. It includes vocal samples of an Islamic Hadith and it was playing while models danced along in Fenty underwear.
What Is A Hadith, And Why Was Its Use Offensive?
In Islam, Hadiths are sacred texts that represent sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
They’re considered really important by all Muslims, whether they are Sunni or Shia, which is why some people were extremely offended when they heard one out of context and being used by a non-Islamic person.
Beauty blogger Hodhen Liaden spoke out about the appropriation, explaining that the religion of Islam is not an aesthetic that can just be used by anyone – and especially not for profit.
And another viewer tweeted how extremely disrespectful they found it to see models dance to sacred words of the Prophet.
Rhianna’s Got It Right So Far
In the past, Rihanna has mostly got it right with her work in the fashion and beauty industries.
She’s has been praised for her brand’s understanding of diversity and inclusion.
She released 40 shades of foundation for the fairest to the darkest skin colours, which then became an industry standard known as the ‘Fenty Effect’.
And her runways are known to champion race, gender and all body types – something that other shows (like now-defunct Victoria’s Secret) have traditionally lacked.
Since her virtual runway show, Rihanna has shared an apology to her Instagram account saying the choice of song was an “honest, yet careless mistake” and that she did not intend any disrespect towards any religion.
And artist Coucou Chloe has since apologised for using the vocal samples. She claims she didn’t know they featured sacred texts. She admitted that she should’ve researched properly and is now removing Doom from all streaming platforms.
What Can We Learn From This Incident?
This is isn’t the first time that the Muslim faith has been appropriated by the fashion world.
Twitter user Myesha argued that for a show like Fenty that was supposed to be a keystone for inclusion, she felt her Muslim community were once again completely alienated. She tweeted that this was the perfect showcase of how fashion brands and the media have never truly considered the Muslim faith to be part of their audience.
And for Hodhen Liaden, while it was refreshing to see Rihanna’s public apology, she believes big brands desperately need more Muslim people working for them to avoid situations like this happening again.
Ultimately, while this shouldn’t have even happened in the first place, both Rihanna and Coucou Chloe have arguably responded really, really well.
But what the persistence of cultural appropriation throws up is that there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that all people feel both recognised by, and a part of, wider culture as a whole.