Rihanna accused of cultural appropriation in new cover shoot

"I am Asian and I find it offensive"

A cover shoot with Rihanna for Harper’s Bazaar China has drawn criticism of cultural appropriation.

The 31-year-old pop star, who is putting the finishing touches to her new album, poses on the front page in attire that’s reminiscent of traditional Chinese fashion.

Likewise, her hairstyle and jewellery hark to similar Chinese styles, while the centre of her lips are painted in red. On Instagram, Harper’s Bazaar China described Rihanna’s look as when “western style icon meets eastern aesthetic”.


Rihanna’s choice to appear in the magazine’s August issue dressed in this manner has upset people online.

One user commented on Instagram: “I am asian and I find it offensive. I know Rhiana and the creators of this photo doesn’t give a s*** about my opinion, which only proves that the disrespect they have to our culture. If you wanted to create an asian look why didn’t you invite asian artists?”

Another wrote: “Not appropriate and racist. She has no idea what she’s wearing.”

But others were keen to defend the publication and the singer, with one social media user hailing it “cultural appreciation”.

“This is cultural appreciation, not appropriation. If she were claiming to be Chinese or she invented the style, appropriation fits,” they said.



Another person commented: “If anyone has an issue with the magazine cover, take it up with the Asian staff of Harpers Bazarr China [sic] who collaborated on the concept and styled her. This issue isn’t even available in the majority of the US unless you are in the larger metropolitan cities like NYC.”

It’s not the first time in recent years that a pop star has been criticised over claims of cultural appropriation.

In 2015, Beyoncé appeared as a Bollywood star in the music video for ‘Hymn For The Weekend’, her collaboration with Coldplay. Last year Bruno Mars was accused of appropriating black music.

Meanwhile, in June Rihanna gave an update about her long-awaited ninth studio album, the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Anti’.

Although she said the record is not yet finished, she spoke of blocking off a “solid period of time for the studio next month” (i.e. July). We can only hope that means a release by the end of 2019.

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