On October 9, 2019, Vogue unveiled its November 2019 cover with the Bajan-superstar-turned-fashion-mogul, Rihanna. From appearing on her first cover of American Vogue cover, shot by the incomparable Annie Leibovitz, to her most recent one – this milestone of gracing the cover as many times as she has is a major accomplishment. This feat has only been topped by supermodels like Gigi Hadid (who has 30 covers under her belt) and Lauren Hutton (with 26 covers). During her interviews, the superstar touches on very important topics like the state of America today and when she plans on releasing her long-awaited ninth studio album.
Writer Abbey Aguirre starts the piece by explaining to readers that she went to interview Rihanna with no questions prepared and even this discloses to Rihanna. “Normally I bring a list of questions, but I didn’t have time to prepare one, which I make a split-second decision to confess,” she writes. “‘I’m winging it, so you have to help me,’ I say nervously.”
In typical Rihanna fashion, she replies, “Aren’t we all?”
But with Rihanna constantly busy with her ever-growing empire – Fenty Beauty, Savage X Fenty, and the Fenty Maison luxury brand, it’s hard to even conceive an idea of what her schedule looks like. “I have been trying to get back into the studio,” she says. “It’s not like I can lock myself in for an extended amount of time like I had the luxury of doing before. I know I have some very unhappy fans who don’t understand the inside bits of how it works.”
Rumors have been circulating around the release of the album, some think that there will be two albums – one album full of reggae songs and the other with pop, chart-friendly hits – but Rihanna never confirms nor denies this claim. Although, she does speak to the reggae rumors swirling. “I like to look at it as a reggae-inspired or reggae-infused album,” Rihanna says. “It’s not gonna be typical of what you know as reggae. But you’re going to feel the elements in all of the tracks.”
Aguirre asks Rihanna why “reggae feels right for the moment?” to which Rihanna replies, “Reggae always feels right to me. It’s in my blood.”
She continues by saying, “It doesn’t matter how far or long removed I am from that culture, or my environment that I grew up in; it never leaves. It’s always the same high. Even though I’ve explored other genres of music, it was time to go back to something that I haven’t really homed in on completely for a body of work.”
Then Aguirre asks the question that’s been on everyone’s mind – especially her fans, the Navy – When are we getting this hypothetical reggae-inspired album?
Aguirre writes, “When I ask about a release date, Rihanna’s face morphs into a grimace, equal parts amusement and terror. ‘No, oh my God, they’re gonna kill you for that!’ she exclaims. ‘And they’re going to kill me more!'” The Rihanna Navy, that’s who she’s talking about. Fans are no stranger to waiting for a Rihanna album, they waited four years after the release of “Unapologetic” in November of 2012 for the release of her eighth studio album, “ANTI.”
One of the most surprising tidbits from this Vogue interview is what she had to say about performing at the Superbowl. The Vogue writer asked her if it was true that she declined to perform what was once music’s most coveted performance opportunities, to stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.
“Absolutely,” she says. “I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. 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.”
On the topic of American politics, she asks the superstar about the way she felt the days following the back-to-back shootings in Dayton, Ohio and then in El Paso, Texas along with President Donald Trump saying both were the result of a “mental illness problem.”
“Um . . . Donald, you spelled terrorism wrong!” she said. “People are being murdered by war weapons that they legally purchase. This is just not normal. That should never, ever be normal. And 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.” She goes on: “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. The most mentally ill human being in America right now seems to be the president.”
To close out the piece, Aguirre paints a picture of the annual Diamond Ball for readers. This super-exclusive gala is attended by some of the most important names in music and philanthropy. Artists like Cardi B, Normani and Megan Thee Stallion graced the event with their presence. The prime minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, was also in attendance.
She highlighted the most eye-popping display of wealth at the gala. Particularly, the moment Cardi B paid a handsome $111,000 on a copy of the visual autobiography accompanied by a 2,000 pound Haas Brothers marble stand where the book rests.
One of the most exciting parts about Rihanna is her versatility, she keeps people on their toes. But also knows how to have fun in the process. While advocating for crisis relief in countries like the Bahamas and better educations in countries around the world, Rih takes a break to rap her verses as N.E.R.D. performs their song, “Lemon.” The total fundraising for the night: $5 million.
Moises is a full-time freelance writer based in New York City. He graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. He reports mainly on arts and culture.