For her next act, the pop star will become the first black woman in charge of a major luxury fashion house in Paris. Here, she gives T magazine an exclusive first look.
FOR THREE YEARS, I have been a diligent student of Rihanna’s 2016 song “Work.” The first lesson it taught me was in the fine art of ubiquity: The omnipresent earworm hovered over casual intimacies, significant encounters, mundane journeys and made sense of itself wherever, in whatever crevices it chose. Then “Work” found its way into my own work. In my script for “Slave Play,” which debuted at New York Theater Workshop in 2018, the protagonist Kaneisha suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and Rihanna’s “Work” plays in her head on repeat, taking on a frighteningly oppressive quality and revealing the historic bedrock I was attempting to excavate: namely, that black people, specifically women, must live with the knowledge that their emotional and physical labor is the backbone of every relationship that they endeavor to have with their partners, with America. The song, which weaves through the dialogue, brought more attention to the play than any other device could have.
This sense of casual immensity is what drew me to Robyn Rihanna Fenty, 31, as not only a performer but as an artist and a businessperson: a model for my own maturation. When listening to her repetitive, patois-filled song— work, work, work, work, work, work — one hears a Barbados-born1musician who recognizes that the histories that are carried in her movement and her tongue are foreign to the listener. But instead of shying from that otherness, she dines upon it, a lesson for any of us who have held onto the shame of difference. As she prepares to launch Fenty, the fashion line she has created in partnership with LVMH2 — the first luxury fashion house the conglomerate has created from scratch (which will begin sales at a pop-up in Paris on May 24, then be fully available at fenty.com on May 29) — I wanted to discover what lessons she had to offer as she carried that confident otherness deeper into the nonmusical work she has been concentrating on this decade.