By Meg Burgess
A lack of representation has always been an issue in the fashion industry, with many brands being ‘called out’ on social media for only using one model of colour. So, many were pleasantly surprised when Fenty, Rihanna’s personal brand, announced on November 22nd that Normani would be the brand’s first ambassador. Normani, previously a member of girl group ‘Fifth Harmony’, stated in an interview:
“I am beyond honored to join the Savage X family as their new global brand ambassador. Rihanna is always at the cutting edge and continues to push the boundaries in everything she does. The way she embraces her sexuality and exudes grace is such an inspiration to me and so many other women around the world. Rihanna and Savage X celebrate and empower women of all shapes, sizes, and colors everywhere — it’s a beautiful thing and is truly revolutionary. I am so grateful for this opportunity and excited for what’s to come with my new Savage X family.”
Normani as an artist has developed a positive image of herself, being an ambassador for both The American Cancer Society and The CyberSmile Foundation. She rose to fame in 2012, after auditioning on the American ‘X-Factor’, and finishing the show in third place, after joining ‘Fifth Harmony’. However, after the indefinite hiatus of the group in 2016, Normani started to develop her own sound in the music industry. After collaborating with Khalid on the song “Love Lies”, she rocketed to fame as a solo artist, later releasing her own hit single “Motivation” on August 16 2019. She is seen as an icon in the music industry, particularly for black women, even being called one of the “greatest female pop-group performers of all time” by The Guardian.
Many have said that she is the perfect candidate for the very first ambassador for a brand like Fenty, which builds its brand name on diversity and representation. The announcement was made after the ‘Savage X Fenty’ fashion show on September 20nd 2019, where she performed alongside names like Gigi Hadid, Halsey, Joan Smalls and Cara Delevingne. The ‘Savage X Fenty’ fashion was highly praised for including women all of body shapes and sizes, as well as featuring many women of colour. One of the highlights of the show included Normani’s dance performance of “Get Busy/Like Glue” by Sean Paul, where her talent for dance was showcased.
Fentyas a brand, promises “celebrating fearlessness, confidence and inclusivity”, something which is often lacking in the fashion industry as we know it. Rihanna has managed to build a brand which celebrates all different kinds of women, first starting out with ‘Fenty Beauty’ in September 2017. The brand boasted a foundation line with 40+ shades, as well as contour kits, lipsticks, highlighters and make-up brushes. It was highly praised on social media, as well as on popular streaming platforms like YouTube. Rihanna told Time, “I never could have anticipated the emotional connection that women are having with the products and the brand as a whole. Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter. That’s something I will never get over.” People have also praised Rihanna’s management of her line by wearing her make-up at red carpet events and promoting it on social media, as well as being heavily involved in the production of her products, even down to its formula and packaging.
The beauty industry is no stranger to controversy, especially when diversity is concerned. On January 15th2018, Tarte released the corresponding foundation to the cult ‘Shape Tape’ concealer, which featured only two shades for women of colour. Taste then received a lot of backlash for creating a foundation line with only 15 shades, with beauty YouTuber Jeffree Star commenting, “Last year, Rihanna came in the game and slayed everybody. She basically said, ‘Hi everyone! Let’s be inclusive, and if you’re not, you’ve got to go.’ And it was such a beautiful launch. If a brand does not have a big shade range? Why bother?” Other influencers also heavily criticised Tarte’s launch, comparing it to the immensely successful launch that Rihanna had with Fenty Beauty.
So Rihanna’s decision to choose Normani as her Savage X Fenty brand ambassador is a very good one, with Rihanna herself saying, “Normani is the perfect choice for a Savage X ambassador. She exudes confidence and power. Everything she does is executed with passion and the belief she’s going to kill it. That’s why people gravitate towards her.” Fence’s ambition to increase diversity in both the beauty and fashion industries is a progressive one, something which hasn’t been seen in a long time. And especially for a powerhouse like Rihanna to collaborate with new talent like Normani, our society can finally start to become more representative, understanding and inclusive.