Yesterday, Rihanna made us more jealous than usual on Instagram, inundating our timelines with images of her getting ready for and celebrating at the Kadooment Day parade in her native Barbados as part of the annual Crop Over festivities. Of course, Riri was dressed to the nines as she played with the Zulu International Band in a bejeweled bra top and bottoms, neckwear, a feather headdress and matching wings. As always, she looked absolutely stunning.
Rihanna’s outfit is typical of Crop Over and carnival costumes. There is always lots of bling, plenty of plumage and, of course, a generous amount of skin showing. That is the entire point of carnival – it’s a time to let loose and embrace your body (in fact, you see people of all body types in barely-there carnival outfits) while jumping and wining (which international publications are wrongly calling twerking) in the street to upbeat Caribbean tunes. But of course, what is a typical masquerading outfit to some is a vulgar look to others. The UK’s Mirror reported on Rihanna’s Kadooment Day look, calling it raunchy, pointing to the fact that only part of Rihanna’s derrière was covered.
“When it comes to flashing the flesh, no one does it better than Rihanna,” writer Edward Roberts wrote. “A fact that the singer proved as she got kitted-up in a raunchy costume for Crop Over Festival in Barbados on Monday.” Ummm…raunchy?
Sure, Rihanna’s outfit is skimpy, but besides the fact that ALL carnival costumes are like that, the term “raunchy” rubbed us the wrong way. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “slovenly, dirty… very smelly… obscene, smutty.” We’re confused as to how Riri’s outfit is more obscene than, say, something a Victoria’s Secret Angel might wear during the brand’s annual fashion show? It is a big deal for a Victoria’s Secret Angel to wear the coveted Fantasy Bra. Indeed, the Mirror noted that Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima “stun[ned]” in their respective Fantasy Bra looks, which were basically just as bare as Riri’s. For Rio’s annual Carnival, the Mirror reports on Gisele’s look, calling it simply a “bikini.” Why is Rihanna degraded for wearing pretty much the same thing in an environment where it is completely acceptable?
This isn’t the first time Rihanna has caught flack for her carnival costumes in the media. When Riri hit the road in 2011, New York Magazine provided this shady commentary: “Whoever first said ‘look at her go’ might be interested in this example of ‘going.'” In 2013, Perez Hilton’s headline read, “Rihanna Sexes it Up” for the parade.
Now, there are plenty of articles on the Internet praising Rihanna’s eye-popping Kadooment costume. Another article on the Mirror rightfully says Rihanna looks “sensational.” But this doesn’t make up for this gross misstep. It happens all too often that women of color are disparaged for their fashion and beauty choices, but when those same clothes are put on white women, they can’t seem to hold back the praise. This “raunchy” misstep is yet another example of the prevailing double standard against women of color.
Bottom line: Rihanna looked absolutely fantastic and 100% appropriate for her turn on the road at Kadooment Day. Words matter. We need to be respectful when discussing the ways in which people celebrate their cultural traditions.