Rihanna has given the world a whole heck of a lot, and we’re all the better for it: Eight studio albums; an inclusive makeup line with 50 (fifty!) shades of foundation; a lingerie-heavy TV special that celebrated bodies of all shapes, colors, and sizes; a high-end fashion line; the singular anthem “Bitch Better Have My Money”… the list goes on. But even after all she’s given us, she still knows her fans want more. And “what’s more personal than politics?”
That’s what the multi-hyphenate icon told Vogue in an interview for her new November cover. (For the record, she appears clad in a look from Fenty, her own label. A whole flex!) And while she did concede that she has been “in an exclusive relationship for quite some time, and it’s going really well, so I’m happy,” she spent far more time reflecting on what drives her from a political and activist standpoint and how that affects how and when she decides to use her platform and star power.
Take, for example, the long-standing rumor that she turned down performing at the Super Bowl halftime show to show solidarity with the currently-unsigned quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom many believe has been effectively blacklisted by the NFL for his work protesting police brutality.
“I couldn’t dare [perform at the Super Bowl halftime show]. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people,” Rihanna told Vogue. “I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
Instead, she put her efforts into projects that do reflect her values, and support marginalized people. As Vogue notes, two of her biggest creative ventures — Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty — both support Rihanna’s longstanding Clara Lionel Foundation, which she named after her grandparents. The foundation serves to support people in the Caribbean, and has now begun considering how to help people affected by climate disasters like Hurricane Maria. Of note is the foundation’s focus on supporting reproductive and health services in Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to rebuild after the 2017 storm — not least of all because President Donald Trump has grossly mischaracterized the amount of funding the U.S. government has given its own people.
And Rihanna had plenty of thoughts when it came to the current administration. “What do you say? What can you say? It’s gonna get better? I almost feel sick to my stomach,” she told Vogue before showing the reporter a viral video she had seen that morning of a White House spokesperson peddling ahistorical and xenophobic propaganda.
“I don’t even believe this is happening in real life. In front of my eyes. In front of the world. It’s not even hidden. This is blatant,” she added.
She also called the unrelated yet almost-concurrent shootings from early August — in which one perpetrator targeted Latinx people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and another perpetrator opened fire on a bar in Dayton, Ohio — “devastating.” Like plenty of 2020 presidential hopefuls, she squares the issue in part as a crisis of access to semi-automatic weapons, and one of racism.
“People are being murdered by war weapons that they legally purchase. This is just not normal. That should never, ever be normal,” she pointed out. The singer went further to question the White House’s apparent habit of using mental health as a scapegoat when perpetrators are white men: “The fact that it’s classified as something different because of the color of their skin? It’s a slap in the face. It’s completely racist. Put an Arab man with that same weapon in that same Walmart and there is no way that Trump would sit there and address it publicly as a mental health problem.”
Given she was born in Barbados and is not a U.S. citizen, the possibility that Rihanna could one day run for president is unfortunately off the table. But she’s already found ways to make an impact in her own way — the only question is, are you foolish enough to try to stand in her way as she affects and inspires seismic change?