Harper’s Bazaar China recently put Rihanna on the cover of their August issue. Normally Rihanna + ____ is a reliable equation for guaranteed success. Except Harper’s Bazaar China recently learned that Rihanna + Elements of Chinese Culture equals anger and cultural appropriation accusations from the internet.
According to The Independent, it didn’t take long after Rihanna’s cover was released that people started accusing her and Harper’s Bazaar of cultural appropriation. Rihanna is seen on the cover wearing zan (traditional Chinese hair ornaments), East Asian-inspired makeup, and holding what appears to be a palace fan. Harper’s Bazaar China described the shot as when a “western style icon meets eastern aesthetic.” On the inside, she can be seen modeling similar looks. She looks like if that live-action Mulan took place 2000 years into the future, in an alternate universe where all the fighting was done on a dance floor.
Rihanna for Harper’s Bazaar China
Photographed by Chen Man. pic.twitter.com/5MqAgRoBtO
— IAMFASHION (@IAMFASHlON) July 9, 2019
Some people praised Harper’s Bazaar China for the cover. Others thought it was wrong to put Rihanna in an East Asian-inspired look when she’s not from anywhere near there. When Rihanna tweeted a picture of the cover, she gave credit to everyone involved. It was shot by Chen Man, with editing and visual direction by Simona Sha, Wei Tian, and Xiaomu Fan. So probably not as problematic as if she thanked Becky, Karen, and Kyle.
This isn’t the first time Rihanna has done East Asian style. Back in 2012, Rihanna appeared in Coldplay’s video for the song “Princess of China,” which featured random pan Asian clothing, katanas (that’s Japanese), geisha style (also Japanese) taiko drummers (Japanese again), and at one point, the Dance of the Long Nails (which would be from Thailand). So at least this Harper’s Bazaar cover keeps it all in the same country?
She also took some heat last year for dressing up as a modern-day Queen Nefertiti for Vogue Arabia.
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Since almost everyone involved is Chinese (save for Rihanna), I’m inclined to let China decide if Rihanna is looking like a no-no. But I’m sure some people will still be so pissed if this gets a pass, and by some people I mean Kim Kardashian. She just changed the name of her underwear to anything but Kimono, and she didn’t even get to dress up as a slutty pseudo-geisha first!
Pic: Chen Man/Harper’s Bazaar China