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Rihanna Talks Blackness in T Magazine Interview

Rihanna never softens her words to remind us that she is “completely not” a role model. And there is no malice to find in her honesty.

She’s often condemned for being a beautiful 27-year-old simply enjoying her fame but it’s a very delicate line to balance between expressing yourself and sounding like rapper T.I., or not making a public statement and being told that as a Black artist you don’t care enough.

In her interview with T Magazine, Rihanna chats candidly on topics like her social media presence and her phobias about the side effects from childbirth. In the interview, she takes a moment to gather her thoughts to answer Miranda July’s question on the moment when she understood what her Blackness meant in the music industry.

‘‘You know, when I started to experience the difference — or even have my race be highlighted — it was mostly when I would do business deals. And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations.’’

Yes, this is the same Rihanna who labeled Rachel Dolezal “a bit of a hero” last week. This is also the same pop singer who stars in the politically charged “American Oxygen” music video with clips of Ferguson protesters and the famous 1965 Selma, Alabama march for civil rights.

‘‘I have to bear in mind that those people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way — they’ve been programmed to think a Black man in a hoodie means grab your purse a little tighter. For me, it comes down to smaller issues, scenarios in which people can assume something of me without knowing me, just by my packaging.’’

Race matters, even to the wildly successful Black entertainers we enjoy. To recognize ingrained notions of prejudice held by her business associates is to assert that Rihanna, in fact, faces the same stereotypical pretense everyday Black people endure within their own chosen career.

It’s the idea of her being lesser than because she is a Black woman that probably accredits some of her “in your face” attitude. But for Rihanna, if she’s going to be the Black elephant in the room, then she definitely won’t be silent about it.

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