Rihanna is coming under fire for her recent Vogue Arabia cover. The 29-year-old singer, who posed for the publication’s November issue, is being criticized for representing an Arabian magazine, despite not being Arab—a criticism other non-Arab celebrities and models have faced for past covers.
The cover featured Rihanna channeling Queen Nefertiti, an Egyptian royal ruler from the 1300s, with snakeskin coat, metallic blue eyeshadow, a blue-and-gold headdress modeled after the one worn by Nefertiti.
Celebrating Queen Nefertiti, @badgalriri is our November queen of style. Photography @gregkadelstudios; Styling @anyaziourova; Makeup @isamayaffrench; Hair @yusefhairnyc. Rihanna wears @gucci. Production @mad_prod #voguearabiaxrihanna #voguearabia الاحتفاء بالملكة نفرتيتي، ريهانا (@badgalriri) هي نجمة غلاف عدد شهر نوڤمبر، ملكة الأناقة. تصوير غريغ كادل(@gregkadelstudios)، تنسيق أنيا زيوروڤا (@anyaziourova)، مكياج إيسامايا فرينش (@isamayaffrench) تصفيف الشعر يوسف(@yusefhairnyc). ريهانا ترتدي تصاميم غوتشي(@gucci) من إنتاج @mad_prod #ڤوغ_العربية
And though Rihanna, who coincidentally has a tattoo of Nefertiti on her ribcage, saw dozens of positive comments gushing over her drool-worthy cover, the singer also faced critics who believed an Arab or Egyptian model should have posed for the cover. (Rihanna is of Barbadian, Irish, and Afro-Guyanese descent—areas not considered a part of the Arab world. )
The backlash ranged from calls of cultural appropriation (considering Rihanna was portraying an Egyptian woman, despite not being Egyptian) to claims that Vogue Arabia perpetuated the notion that black and African people are interchangeable.
Rihanna isn’t the only celebrity who has been criticized for posing on a magazine cover for a country they have no ethnic ties to. Gigi and Bella Hadid have seen similar backlash for posing for Vogue Arabia, while Kendall Jenner was also criticized for modeling for Vogue India in May. Some users, who considered the backlash against Rihanna not as vocal as the others, called out the internet for its alleged hypocrisy.
So far, neither Vogue Arabia nor Rihanna has responded to the backlash. However, Vogue Arabia‘s Editor-in-Chief, Manuel Arnaut, did mention that cover was meant to signify diversity in his editor’s letter, which will likely stir up more controversy on the internet.
We are dedicating the issue to strong and dynamic women who are changing the world,” Arnaut wrote. “Rihanna, our cover star, is one of them. Not only is she one of the most successful pop icons ever, shaping the entertainment industry with her powerful tunes and unique sense of style, she is also an advocate for diversity.”