Tag Archives: Rihanna

Rihanna's profile pic from the New York Times T Magazine.

#AskHerMore: On Rihanna and interviewing Black celebrities

Over on Clutch, the staff responded to a recent T Magazine profile of Rihanna with dismay, noting that the interview really isn’t about Ms. Fenty. The profile was written by artist and actress Miranda July, and appears to be more about July’s feelings about meeting Rihanna then the “revealing” conversation teased in the headline. Clutch explains:

For instance, when Rihanna recalls being sent to America as a teen, admitting, ‘That’s something I don’t think I could ever do. Send my only girl to another random country to live with people she’d just met,” July doesn’t ask what it felt like, or if she ever asked her mother about how she was able to let her baby go. Instead, we get a tidbit about a then-27-year-old July trying to figure out what to do with her life. […] I seriously doubt most people cared July “dressed for Rihanna” or that Uber Black was the “highest level of Uber [she’s] ridden” in.

The staffer also drew attention to the September New York Times Sunday* Magazine profile of Nicki Minaj, also noting the interview left much to be desired.

Reading the full profile, July is fangirling hard for Rihanna in the piece, so much so that that outside of breathless descriptions of all the other people she encounters on the way to Rihanna, it takes almost half the piece to get to Rihanna actually talking. (The same thing happened with Nicki’s interview – you are almost half-way through the piece before she speaks a word.) Some commenters, familiar with July’s work, praised the piece as yet another piece of performance art from an undoubtedly quirky artist making a larger point about society.

But part of me wonders if this is too generous of a reading. If this is the case, then July’s art came at the expense of the subject: Rihanna. This kind of treatment is frustrating because the writers don’t seem too concerned with understanding the core or essence of the celebrity they profile.

The number of celebrity “interviews” that offer little insight into the person while providing long indulgences of the writer’s stream of consciousness is an annoying trend. I felt a vague sense of deja vu while reading the T Magazine piece, and realized The Fader’s cover interview (that wasn’t) had the same problem – I have no more insight about Rihanna then I did when I started.

I wonder if that “omg can you believe I get to interview this person?” trope is just another kind of racially influenced narcissism – why center the words of the black woman I am speaking to when my inner dialogue is so much more interesting? There can’t be two subjects of a profile piece. And, interestingly enough, it’s anathema to the entire celebrity journalist code – the first rule is that you do not fan out, because it obscures your subject. If you are too busy fawning, you don’t ask follow up questions, and you don’t reveal anything new to your readers/viewers. (There are many issues with celebrity rags, but this sort of thing would not fly in People Magazine.)

July is also candid about the questions she backs away from, saying:

I wanted to ask her about being a young black woman with power in America but it seemed somehow wrong to speak of this; maybe she was postracial now. So I directed my question to a younger Rihanna, and asked if she had suddenly felt aware of race in a different way when she moved to New York.

But this too is a cop-out. I don’t think a journalist from Essence or Ebony would have shied away from this question. And I can understand a discomfort with asking questions about race, but why do a profile if you aren’t going to ask questions? Rihanna’s answer was still interesting but the writer left so much unexplored. I’m glad Miranda July got a few good selfies out of this, but the interview reads like one long missed opportunity.

This type of breathless coverage robs Rihanna of her voice. And when we take into consideration the swirl of stereotypes surrounding black female celebrities in particular, one would hope that interviewers would try harder to illuminate more of the inner lives of these successful and often misunderstood women.

*Corrected with correct magazine, thanks to @DearSpelenda on Twitter.

Racialicious Roundtable: Law & Order: SVU, “Funny Valentine,” Or “The One About Chris Brown And Rihanna”

By Tami Winfrey Harris, Arturo R. García, and Joseph Lamour

L&O screencap1

Tami: I am a dedicated fan girl of the Law & Order Mothership. And I kind of liked Vincent D’Onofrio’s Sherlocky Det. Goren on Criminal Intent (though he does have an element of the white guy super detective about him). But Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has always seemed particularly sordid and crass. This heavy-handed, “ripped from the headlines” exploitation fest is a great example of exactly why I just can’t with this series.

Joe: I usually like Law and Order: SVU (because I secretly want to be Mariska Hargitay’s best friend forever), but sometimes there’s a misstep. When they rip things from the headlines, usually, it’s not this close to what actually happened. This episode felt more like a dramatic reenactment on the Investigation Channel than a show that has won six Emmy Awards.

Tami: “Caleb Bryant?” That’s the name they’re going with?

Yeah, that was elegant. All of the “twists,” though, were really shortcuts: Micha wasn’t presented as being a star at Caleb’s level; she was just starting out; and her producer gets shot and there’s nothing the cops can work with.

Joe: At least they didn’t go with Chuck Green or something vaguely like that. Mischa Green. Let’s all say it together: “Boo.” I would have suggested Hannigan. (Get it?)

Tami: Does Dave Navarro have a crushing tax debt? Has the Jane’s Addiction and Chili Peppers cash run out? Why does he have a bit role in this horror show?

Joe: Maybe he was a victim of the Madoff scandal like Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon. I do love his show Ink Master, though! I also love that I still find that hair sexy. He can do no wrong for me. I can only guess he joined this episode as an open protest to what’s happening in the music industry. Although there’s no interview that clears that up. Sigh.

Tami: Can someone define “beef cookie” for me? Is that an insult that hasn’t made it to the Midwest yet?

It hasn’t made it anywhere. LOL. It’s not on Urban Dictionary (’cause I’m sure Faux Fenty wasn’t calling Faux Karreuche “a small gathering of boys”), and I thought I found it in an ASAP Rocky song, but the person who put it in misheard “When the beef cooked”… so, in short, I have nothing but a guess: I think it means a woman who hits on a man even though she knows he has a girl already… so it’s like she wants to have a fight (beef=fight, girl=cookie). I think. That is nothing but a complete guess, however.

Chris Brown Caleb Bryant just uttered “Call my Jew,” and we are six minutes in.

Tami: The Law & Order franchise is notoriously bad at portraying the “urban music” community. It’s as if they cannot separate the rhetoric of genres like hip-hop from, you know, real, multi-dimensional people. [Remember when L&O, original recipe, did a “ripped from the headlines” epi about JLo and Puffy and that nightclub shooting? Puff Daddy was renamed G-Train and the episode was called…wait for it… “3 Dawg Night.” Yeah.]

It’s very meta when Bryant’s lawyer complains about the demonizing of young, black men in hip-hop within a franchise that is just as capable at that. “Call my Jew?”

The real “Caleb Bryant” is somehow talented and charming enough to make people forget that he is also a babyish, swaggering, violent fool. SVU’s Caleb Bryant is just a stereotype.

L&O screencap4Arturo: I think they tried to lampshade that with the Wendy Williams and Perez Hilton cameos. It’s not just that an abuser in this position has any sort of “charm,” but there’s a mechanism in place designed to protect those brands, as Mischa’s manager indicated.

Joe: Is it just me or is this actor playing Caleb Bryant wearing a lot of makeup?

Tami: He is. He looks like Nipsy Russell as the Tin Man in The Wiz. Is it just me or is the acting in this episode a pox on humanity?

Joe: That’s not just you.

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The Friday Mixtape – 6.1.12 Edition

Starting us off this week are Portland’s own The Slants, who are giving fans an interesting incentive for pre-ordering their latest album, Slants! Slants! Revolution. The band is looking to raise $10,000 via Kickstarter to pay for a new tour bus, and, if they meet their goal, anyone who contributes $50 or more will be memorialized on the bus with their name, location and a custom message, on top of other swag like exclusive content. And as the band explains on their fundraising page, for a group that’s played more than 350 shows around the U.S. and in Europe in just four years, new wheels are definitely a priority:

We’ll be able to purchase an older shuttle bus and renovate it for the tour. This would mean that we wouldn’t need to tour with a trailer anymore, be much safer on the road, break down less often, and have a little more space on our house on wheels.

Among the group’s stops on the road thus far have been anime conventions (Spoilers: they’ll be playing a gig this July during the San Diego Comic-Con), and that gets reflected in the video for “You Make Me Alive,” where some cosplayers get to shine alongside the band.

This next track is one of those asides that makes late-night web searches worth your time: a few years back, members of Tijuana’s Nortec Collective – a group of DJs who blend beats from Northern Mexico with techno – decided to cover Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down” with the backing of a brass band. The ensuing cultural collision packs a punch worthy of the original.

Speaking of collisions, here’s a mash-up from DJs From Mars pitting Rihanna’s “We Found Love” against “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” by Coldplay. It’s okay, Coldplay doesn’t bring the mood down this time.

Our friends at Bold As Love turned us on to this track by Brooklyn-based Maya Azucena, whose music has been featured on shows like The Wire and 30 Rock, and has performed – by request, even – at the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals Summit in 2010. If you’re not familiar with her, “The Half” is a great introduction.

We take to the stage for our final track, what with the trailer for the new film adaptation of Les Miserables hitting the web this week, with the only voice you hear being Anne Hathaway’s take on “I Dreamed A Dream.” The film will also feature Samantha Banks as Eponine, a role that Lea Salonga brought to life on Broadway. This fall, Salonga is scheduled to star alongside George Takei in Allegiance – A New American Musical set during the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Here’s Salonga as Eponine during the 10th Anniversary show for Les Mis, with “On My Own.”

Finally, with summer kicking off, let’s open this thing up a bit: we are now taking requests! If you’ve got a track or an artist that you want your fellow Racializens to know about, drop me a line at arturo@racialicious.com and we’ll give you some shine.

The Friday MiniTape – 3.30.12 Edition

This week, we step outside of genre boundaries to have some fun with something that, personally, has helped revitalize my music fandom: mashups.

For a lot of folks, the term might be synonymous with Girl Talk. But actually, there’s a phalanx of DJs and producers specializing in the art of the mash – and rest asssured, it’s as much an art as it is a matter of lining up beats. After all, one wouldn’t think that hearing Bob Marley’s vocals for “Is This Love?” would mesh with Daft Punk’s “Digital Love,” but MadMixMustang, to borrow a phrase from the fashion industry, made it work.
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The Grammys As White Nostalgia?

Courtesy Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

By Guest Contributor David Kline

Reviewing the outcomes of this year’s Grammy Awards, Jon Caramanica of the New York Times described how, “for the umpteenth time, the Grammys went with familiarity over risk, bestowing album of the year honors (and several more) on an album that reinforced the values of an older generation suspicious of change.”

For Caramanica, the issue is not the quality of Adele’s musical offerings, but that her spectacular success at the Grammys – her album 21 brought her six awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep – represents a particular cultural refusal of progressivism, a nostalgic clinging onto the safety and familiarity of a tried and true musical conservatism. What I want to suggest is that this nostalgia might also be understood as certain kind of white nostalgia for cultural dominance that is perceived as threatened within what is now known as the “post-racial.”
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Chris Brown, Male Violence, And Racist Rants

by Guest Contributor Costa Avgoustinos (Pop Culture and the Third World)

There are two interesting links floating around in regard to Chris Brown’s Grammy win and return to the spotlight/ people’s hearts. One is a great article by Sasha Pesulka entitled I’m Not OK With Chris Brown Performing At The Grammys And I Don’t Know Why You Are Either. The other is 25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions To Chris Brown At The Grammys, a series of screenshots of tweets from women professing  that because Chris Brown is attractive, they would be happy for him to beat them.

It’s interesting to compare society’s reaction to celebrity attacks on women to celebrity attacks on racial minorities. As Pesulka maps out in her article above, when Chris Brown assaulted girlfriend Rihanna society’s reaction was mixed–a lot of people came to Brown’s defence, a lot of people demonised Rihanna, a lot of people thought it was a private matter so blame shouldn’t be placed publicly and, after all that, a lot of people welcomed Brown’s return to the spotlight. In contrast, when Michael Richards went on a racist rant using the N-word, or Mel Gibson went on a racist rant (or, I guess, several rants) against Jews, society’s reaction was a lot more uniform: ‘You’re a jerk, we’re putting your career in the toilet, and that’s where it will stay forever.’  Why is Chris Brown allowed a come back, but Michael Richards and Mel Gibson are not?

I don’t make the comparison to try and rank racism against sexism or to argue gender-based violence is in some way more or less acceptable that race-based violence. That would be useless and stupid. Nor do I think the issue is one of ‘Sticks and Stones’ versus ‘Names That Hurt Me’–that is, that Richards and Gibson deserve less grief simply because, unlike Brown, they themselves didn’t cause physical harm. Again, stupid. But I think something can be learned from comparing our reactions.

Several commentators have pointed out a divide between how White mainstream media and Black media have approached the Chris Brown incident. White, mainstream media, from Jezebel to Good Morning America, has been pretty much anti-Brown since all of this happened. Black media, from NewsOne to Bossip, has been more reserved and seems more willing to forgive and move on. I would wager that this is in part due to Black media being uncomfortable participating in the perpetuation of the ‘violent Black man’ cliché, and the witchhunt that often ensues by the mainstream media with a bit too much eagerness. Or perhaps, as Dr Oliver Williams, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, has stated, perhaps it is because ‘communities find it easier to focus on oppression that comes from outside than on what (they) do to (them)selves.’ Continue reading

Quotable: Gabrielle Union on Rihanna’s ‘Man Down’ video

Saw “Man Down” by Rihanna. Every victim/survivor of rape is unique, including how they THINK they’d like justice to be handed out. During my rape I tried to shoot my rapist, but I missed. Over the years I realized that killing my rapist would’ve added insult to injury. The DESIRE to kill someone who abused/raped you is understandable, but unless it’s self defense in the moment to save your life, [it] just ADDS to your troubles #mandown. I repeat, SELF DEFENSE to save yourself/protect yourself, I’m ALL for. Otherwise victim/survivor taking justice into your own hands with violence equals more trouble for you!! The “Man Down” video did a GREAT job of getting the entire world talking about rape. I hope that leads to healing and prevents rape.
– Via The Root