From all past journalistic accounts, Robyn Rihanna Fenty is reliably late. Tonight, it seemed fitting then for there to be a flurry of nervous activity on the aptly named Flushing Street in Brooklyn, New York City; one of restless energy from eager fans clutching their iPhones in the air – boomerang at-the-ready – and certainly one of almost-depletion from scurrying publicists heralding the arrival of arguably the best selling digital artist of all time. Two years on since inking a deal to launch her own cosmetics line, Fenty Beauty, with the Kendo division of LVMH (who also produce Mark Jacobs Beauty and Kat Von D Cosmetics), Rihanna’s entry into the beauty world already felt a little overdue and has had her Twitter followers on a hair-trigger waiting ever since. Alas, after many a recent Ginger Binge and Moscow Mule Killawatt highlighter teasers, the line is finally here and the popstar’s decision to launch in the middle of New York Fashion Week felt deliberately (and delightfully) disruptive.
Eighty minutes behind schedule, an imperial yellow vision (not unlike her 2015 Guo Pei Met Gala gown) is spotted. Bathed in her own “Trophy Wife” highlighter, the 29-year-old artist, fashion designer and humanitarian enters the stage. “I don’t think anyone in this building is as excited as me tonight,” Rihanna chortles to the 300-strong crowd, her tattooed wrists sleeking back her ponytail. “It’s like a birthday party, it’s like an album release, I feel all of those feelings. I have been working with Kendo on this passion project and they’ve been such a delight in making all of my crazy wishes come true. In the middle of the night, they would fly anywhere to come and meet me. All of you guys in this room are the first to come into contact with this range; play with it, have fun with it, it’s make-up, it’s not serious, it doesn’t bite.”
Her goal, as Kendo tells us, was two-fold: Create the most inclusive beauty brand the world has ever seen. And make the line accessible to consumers all around the world in 17 different countries, 1600 doors, at the same time.
With this announcement, Rihanna is straight to the bar (where Jay-Z is supplying his Rosé – although she’s having none of it, it’s shots all round). With so much fanfare around her, she almost appears oblivious to everyone eyeing the yellow ruffles from the dark recesses of the room; the waiter holding the silver tray with microscopic cheese toasties, the publicist with the clipboard, the make-up artist with the shark-tooth-shaped brush, the wine-guzzling journalist. But amid the candyfloss Highlighters and rich caramel Sinamon Match Stix, Rihanna is making a very bold statement. The line will release an enormous 40 different shades of foundations at selected Sephora and Harvey Nichols stores in the allocated countries – and each will stock all 40. While the method begs the question of inventory up-keep, the focus is heavily centred upon the inclusivity of all people of all races; a notion which challenges today’s patriarchy and it’s divided America.
“Fenty Beauty was created for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures and races,” she tells GRAZIA, her hazel green eyes dizzying as they lock on you.
“I wanted everyone to feel included. That’s the real reason I made the line. Beauty for all, that’s what I believe in.”
“I’m inspired by women all the time. In their different personalities, skin tones, lifestyles and beliefs. I wanted to share a look that every woman feels they can wear every day, on any occasion, at any age. It’s been my go-method for years: the foundation, the concealer, the contour, the highlight, the mattifying powder – and then, go! These steps are key to starting your makeup, no matter the look you’re going for,” she continues.
The focus on diversity – where she has enlisted models Duckie Thot, Slick Woods, Selena Forrest and Halima Aden – perhaps stems from an insecurity the Barbados-born beauty had to overcome when finding her now-designer-clad feet in the fickle music industry. “I found my race was highlighted mostly when I would do business deals,” she told The New York Times in 2015. “And [racism] 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 expectations.” And with Fenty Beauty, she certainly has.
But that’s just the deal you get with Rihanna; she’s never been one to follow music, fashion or beauty’s tempestuous side. We’ve seen her collaborate with everyone from Manolo Blahnik to Puma, from Calvin Harris to Eminem. In 2007, as her career as a pop princess burgeoned on the periphery of the bigtime, the artist cut all of her hair the night before she shot the cover for Good Girl Gone Bad. Her management were not impressed. “I had to rebel and do it my way,” the singer said at the time. “And I had to jump ship and do it without permission.” In 2013, she collaborated with M.A.C. Cosmetics and created one of their best-selling red lipsticks of all time, Ruby Woo’s sister shade RiRi Woo. In 2014 she broke the internet (before Kim did) and coined a new movement, Free The Nipple, when she arrived at the CDFA Awards in a sheer Swarovski-crystal-encrusted Adam Selman gown. And in between short red bobs, long blonde waves and lashings of lashes on her effervescent cat-eye flick, Rihanna makes the most avant-garde lists on every carpet.
It’s true, she zigs-zags as she desires musically (remember the reggae tracks?), sartorially and professionally. While a style chameleon, she is somewhat of a conundrum, an enigma where we just don’t know what to expect next. She’s purposefully unpredictable. And it works. Even just hours after the first Fenty Beauty sale was made, we’re thinking about the next drop. (Seriously, how much more innovative can you get amid a 91 product range at launch?) A wild guess would say more illuminators.
For Australians, we are the first market globally to make a sale of Fenty Beauty worldwide – it’s a huge coup for a country of consumers who usually have to wait months to receive these types of products launches. Must-haves on this premium line include the aforementioned Killawatt highlighter duo in Ginger Binge and Moscow Mule, Rihanna’s rosey, nude GlossBomb lip gloss which only exists in one shade that “flatters every skin tone” and her unique blotting paper. The latter looks like your mum’s portable lipstick-mirror combo carrier/sticky-tape dispenser which mattifys shine on the fly.
Let’s buck that late trend for next drop, Rihanna. Trophy Wife 2.0 is a necessity.