TLC Aren’t the Only Ones Tired of Rihanna’s Nipples
I am sick of Rihanna. Sick to death. I’m sick of her yodel-barking. I’m sick of her acting like her success is because of her musical prowess. I’m sick of her increasing emphasis on her crotch. I’m sick of it all. This is not because I don’t think she is beautiful. She is. This also isn’t because I have a problem with her sex positive image. I don’t. But, I, like many people, would like to see her embody an image that defeats the status quo rather than conforms to it. And, the recent trend of her finding new and innovative ways to display her nipples – though she looked great – has left me wondering if she even thinks she could make it in the pop world without them. And pop royalty TLC agrees with me.
TLC, as frank and honest as they are, gave a TV interview in Australia in which they criticized Ri-Ri for constantly being ‘nekkid’. T-Boz said:
“Every time I see you, you don’t have to be naked.”
“It’s hard for us to say anything because any time we do, they say, ‘Oh, TLC must be jealous,’ but it is what it is.”
“I call a spade a spade. We became the biggest selling girl group with our clothes on, and that says a lot. It’s easy to sell sex. We could go around with booby cakes all day long.”
And being the mature adult that Ri-Ri is, she responded by changing her Twitter background to display an image where TLC covered their bare breasts. Oh, and there was this too.
When there’s no changing the fact that I’m me, and they’re well…they’re them. pic.twitter.com/RCF4TqxN69
— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 6, 2014
I can’t help but to relate this to when Sinead O’Conner did her darndest to try to help the wildly out of control Miley Cyrus. We all know that she is a ticking time bomb, and when she explodes we’ll have our next Lindsay Lohan. And when O’Conner tried to reason with her, she was only met with name calling and sarcasm. Same here with Rihanna and TLC.
The most troubling thing about these dust ups is the vapid fans that back these wayward celebs. That is the true problem that this new breed of pop stars poses. They have carte blanche to act in any way they please knowing they will always have an invisible force of support to validate and emulate them.
And TLC is right. Want proof? Just go to Google images and search “Rihanna nipples”. As a musical artist, the fact that this search yields an overwhelmingly large gallery of photos in confounding. Now, male dominance, misogyny, and patriarchy are also to blame for the fetishizing and excessive interest in Rihanna’s nipples in the first place. But, I have to wonder if she is simply egging them on, adding fuel to fire just to see her name in even brighter lights. And, I question if she has considered the collateral damage to the images of black women (especially young, impoverished women) who have less sexual agency than she does.
The common defense people throw up for this is blanket feminism, sexual ownership, and plain old Bobby Brown “My Prerogative”s. And I’m for all of that. Live your life the way you see fit. But don’t denigrate those whose footsteps you walk in. In many respects, TLC represents the epitome of black feminism as it relates to image control. They were the ones walking around adorned in condoms and advocating for (safe) sexual freedom back in the 90’s. There might not even be space for Rihanna without their trailblazing.
Maybe the internet age has really warped minds in a way we may never recover from. Maybe history has become just something to be Googled when needed. Maybe the advent of likes, favorites, and retweets have built indestructible platforms for foolery. This might just be true.
But I sincerely hope it’s not.
My deep love for Rhythm and Blues, my prolonged mourning for the loss of greats like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Luther Vandross, and the ongoing disintegration of the black media identity are the backdrop for my concerns here. And, while I totally understand and agree with her desire to be fully herself before her fans, I have concerns for the disrespect she has shown for those who helped pave a rocky road before her. Maybe it’s her youth. Maybe it’s her stardom. But, no matter the impetus, well-meaning criticisms from peers should be received with grace and humility. Rihanna – at times, seems incapable of either. That in and of itself is a major disappointment.
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