R&B songstress Rihanna is the latest celebrity to be accused of cultural appropriation, this time for the pencil-thin eyebrows she sported on the cover of British Vogue’s September issue.
The cover, graced by the singer’s likeness as she posed with drawn-on brows, a deep plum lip and a flowery crown atop her heard, was applauded by most fans but drew the ire Marie Claire social media editor Krystyna Chavez. Chavez, who is Mexican-American, accused the “B—h, Betta Have My Money” singer of appropriating the “chola,” or female gangster look from Mexican culture by wearing the penciled in eyebrows.
In an op-ed, the magazine editor expressed annoyance with the fact that a street style that has stigma in her community was all of a sudden seen as beautiful and “acceptable” after a celebrity wore it.
“When I saw Rihanna on the cover of British ‘Vogue’ this week with a set of ultra-skinny brows, my immediate reaction was, ‘Wait, WTF?’ Why is Rihanna wearing chola brows?,’ wrote Chavez, who said she stayed away from the look so she wouldn’t be mistaken for a gangster while growing up in East L.A.
“I guarantee had, say, J.Lo or Gina Rodriguez graced the cover of a magazine with pencil-thin brows, they would have been ripped apart on the Internet for looking like a girl from the hood at best, or a chola at ‘worst.’ To most Mexican and Mexican-American women, drawn-on eyebrows are a look historically representative of a marginalized culture—my culture—and have become a Latinx street style viewed as “trashy” by the rest of society,” she wrote. “That is, until Rihanna wears them.”
Chavez acknowledged that skinny brows weren’t created solely by the Latinx community, adding that the look has roots in South African culture and draws on vintage styles dating back to the Roaring Twenties. Still, she said the look left her feeling “deeply confused” and “deeply annoyed.”
The make-up artist behind Rihanna’s Vogue cover look, Isamaya Ffrench, has remained mum on how she created the razor-thin brows but said she knew she wanted to push the boundaries of style. She and Rih Rih apparently collaborated on the look.
“Rihanna is amazing at make-up so working with her is like working with a make-up artist,” Ffrench told “Vogue.” “… She knows what works for her (even though everything works on her!) and it’s always a collaboration.”
Rihanna, who described the ultra-thin brows as “very ladylike … but still punk” has yet to address the outrage expressed by many in the Latinx community and is carrying on with business as usual. The singer has been busy promoting her cosmetics line, Fenty Beauty, and playing superwoman after one of her make-up artists lost their luggage.
“Sorry, [KLM airlines] but my makeup artist Priscilla Ono traveled with your airline and has yet to receive or hear anything about her missing luggage from your company!” the star wrote in a stern IG post. “I’m asking cuz we have a big production starting tomorrow and maybe some help from you would be nice, as her work kit [her entire collection of makeup tools] went missing on her flight with you!”
Ono’s luggage was promptly located and returned. Can you say Rih Rih to the rescue?