New music? A fashion show? Rihanna’s putting in work, work, work, work for resurgence of her brand, no matter what anyone says. And it’s not easy: she’s not just a fashion goddess, but a cultural icon. The problem isn’t simply that Rihanna doesn’t know how to dress—she’s good at it, even if her clothes look like they’ve been stolen off the runways or ripped from a garbage bin. It is that she doesn’t understand the long-term impact of her celebrity on younger people now that they have access to her, and that doesn’t do her any good. She’s an example of the old idea that to be famous is to achieve the status of “the rich have it, we don’t,” and to be famous has the power to make you “rich” in a different way, to make you rich in ways that are more personal, because fame does not give you the tools for making decisions, making decisions about what life you actually want to live.
Rihanna is still the single most profitable business, and now a new one, as well, and this is one of the reasons that Beyoncé is the world’s most successful pop star. Beyoncé has been very good at marketing itself, at being the public face of what she does. But no one ever takes her seriously as a fashion designer. And Rihanna, to her credit, has not yet become a commercial success; she’s still the second best-selling artist in the history of the music business, behind Madonna. But that success, that commercial success, has allowed her to become a cultural icon, to become a part of the zeitgeist, and to do important things other than just sell records.
And she’s not alone: the same thing is happening to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Madonna, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera—young women in their twenties and thirties who are not only making their names, but are beginning to be seen as cultural icons. And