Badgalriri Vogue Fever

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Rihanna “Rihanna is so bravely authentic. She doesn’t care what people think of her; she’s fully invested in being herself,” says Ross. “She also has a seriousness of purpose and focus that not a lot of people have. It’s all about the work, and it doesn’t come with any excess personal baggage.”

“As a black woman, I could not live with myself if I didn’t do that,” she says. “But what I didn’t anticipate was the way people would get emotional about finding their complexion on the shelf, that this would be a groundbreaking moment.”

She has said in the past that her biggest regret about the sheer Adam Selman dress she wore to the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awardswas that she didn’t throw on a bedazzled thong, mostly because the nude undies she ended up in weren’t the right match—“not my nude,” as she points out.CFDA

Because what could be more sexy than a sense of humor? “You’ve just got to laugh at yourself, honestly. I mean, I know when I’m having a fat day and when I’ve lost weight. I accept all of the bodies,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m not built like a Victoria’s Secret girl, and I still feel very beautiful and confident in my lingerie.”

Ocean’s 8, in which she plays Nine Ball, a street-smart hacker with waist-length dreadlocks in an all-female crew of bandits (Sandra BullockSarah PaulsonCate BlanchettMindy Kaling, and Helena Bonham Carter) plotting a heist at the Met ball. (The real-life plot twist here is that Rihanna is cohosting this year’s gala, alongside Donatella Versace and Amal Clooney.Badgalriri

With her next record—her ninth—Rihanna is moving the needle on her creative output all over again: She plans to make a reggae album. Though it’s too soon to name a full list of collaborators, one early influence may be Supa Dups, the Jamaican-born record producer who has worked with such dancehall greats as Beenie Man, Sean Paul, and Elephant Man. If Rihanna had to name her favorite reggae artist of all time, though, it would have to be Bob Marley. (Descriptions of the Bob shrine she once built in her home are all over the internet.) “I’m gonna sound like a real tourist when I tell you my top Bob songs,” she says, pausing to scroll through a playlist on her iPhone before rattling off many of his most beloved hits: “Three Little Birds,” “No Woman, No Cry,” and “Redemption Song,” a Marley classic she has covered on tour. It may surprise you to learn that of all the tunes in the reggae icon’s catalog, “Buffalo Soldier” is the one that resonates with Rihanna on a deeply personal level. The song’s theme of upheaval and displacement is a familiar refrain for the singer, who was whisked away from Barbados to New York within months of being discovered by record producer Evan Rogers at the tender age of sixteen. Her risk-taking instincts and taste for danger have often earned her comparisons to Madonna, though in fact the similarities between Bob Marley and Rihanna ring truer, even beyond the obvious island connection. Like Marley, Rihanna is possessed of an unstudied yet wholly electrifying sense of cool. Her ability to continually recalibrate the mood of a generation in the way she sounds, looks, and moves through the world has unwittingly positioned her, just as it did him, at the global axis of popular culture.Savage

She has been obliged to play out many of life’s messiest rites of passage in the public eye. It’s why she has always been reluctant to embrace the idea of being a role model. “That title was put on me when I was just finding my way, making mistakes in front of the world. I didn’t think it was fair,” she says. “Now I understand the concept, but at that time I was the same age as the girls who were looking up to me. And that’s a really hard place to be in as a teenager.” Though she’s certainly older and wiser now, the role-model tag still doesn’t quite fit. It implies a conventional mind-set that is at odds with her fiercely independent spirit. Rihanna’s vibe is more mutable, her instincts more counterintuitive, her energy almost impossible to contain. And her willingness to be vulnerable and bare her soul only amplifies her mystique.Fenty

Mel Ottenberg, the stylist who has helped orchestrate the singer’s most audacious fashion moments, lovingly likens her to “a cat that can jump out of a window wearing stiletto heels and still land on her feet.” She’s not afraid to indulge her primal impulses, either. Her favorite bedroom is painted black, and she has fitted out one of her homes with a man cave–style den—she calls it her “kitty cave.”

As it happens, the name Rihanna gave her lingerie line perfectly encapsulates her state of being right now—and it’s spelled out in gold letters on a chain hanging around her neck: s-a-v-a-g-e. “Savage is really about taking complete ownership of how you feel and the choices you make. Basically making sure everybody knows the ball is in your court,” she says

Rihanna on Vogue