Nine years ago yesterday, Jessica uncorked a humdinger of a rant on this Rolling Stone cover, which has Rihanna grinding up on a balcony wearing glorified underpants made of threadbare silver lame and a vaguely moth-eaten tank top. I’m just going to paste it in its entirety:
And look. I get it. It’s Rolling Stone. They love nothing more than taking a young woman and rendering her basically or literally pantsless — witness Gaga and Anna Paquin (although that was mass-scale nudity at its weirdest) and Gaga again and Britney and the girls of The Hills and Xtina and Britney again and Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan and Megan Fox and Miranda Kerr and Fergie and Jessica Simpson (bonus! She’s also CLEANING!) and Katy Perry and Jennifer Aniston and that’s just what I found in a ten minute Google search — because why be Rolling Stone when you can be Maxim? It’s not like any of those women are successful or interesting or have any other talents or stories to tell or anything else to offer a reader beyond their bods. I mean, who even knows how to BEGIN to create an attractive or sexy or alluring or intriguing cover of a woman who isn’t as obviously tarted up as possible? That’s as elusive as the Yeti — don’t tell any of the other 142,499 magazines in the world who’ve done otherwise. And CLEARLY the most interesting thing that’s happened to Rihanna in the last several years is how much she’s been SEXTING and how she has a tendency towards pantlessness in her own self-directed hours. And God knows, there’s nothing more appropriate than juxtaposing a CHAIN-MAIL LOIN-PANTY with the headline “How US Soldiers in Afghanistan Murdered Innocent Civilians for Sport.” YES THAT IS VERY TONALLY APPROPRIATE. CHAIN-MAIL LOIN-PANTIES FOR ALL!
It’s true. (It’s also weirdly timely — Ricky Gervais JUST “took on Hollywood” again at the Globes, and sadly any Britney comeback still might not warrant a cover.) The whiplash I’m getting between Rihanna’s buttocks and “The Kill Team” is going to hurt tomorrow.
The cover, especially for an established household name like Rihanna was even back then, still comes across as a bland, cookie-cutter approach to female stardom: Make the young talent arch her back a little and bare what she will, and then tell the dudes who buy this magazine that she likes ‘em bad and she’ll write naughty words. At the time we covered this, the accompanying article hadn’t been released yet. I just dug it up and read it, and the cover approach is contextualized somewhat by the release of Rihanna’s fifth album, Loud, which includes “S&M” — she is asked whether it’s autobiographical, and her hotness is much documented in here, some of it cheerfully by Rihanna herself — but then the whiplash sneaks in a bit again when she’s also asked to discuss serious topics like Chris Brown’s assault, and her father hitting her (she recounts him doing so here). It’s extremely wide-ranging and unvarnished. For example, the writer tags along while she shoots the video for “California King Bed,” which yielded this:
“What up, fellas!” Rihanna says as she strides on set, wowing a bunch of union guys in cargo shorts with her flowing see-through nightgown and white-lace underwear. She’s about to film some bed scenes with Nathan, a model she handpicked from a selection of candidates on the Internet. There were actually two finalists, so yesterday they both came to the set to show Rihanna their abs. Nathan’s abs won.
Today she greets him with a handshake and an icebreaker: “Hi, I’m Rihanna, nice to meet you. No boners.”
It’s all very unguarded and uncorrect, in the way of a young megafamous person — she was 23 — in 2011. She makes jokes that aren’t entirely jokes about how it sucked not to be dating someone; bumps into Colin Farrell at the height of erroneous rumors that they’re dating; and orders two pasta entrees, her consumption of which is of course documented. And she says she doesn’t eat vegetables because… I’ll let her tell it:
She says she doesn’t like vegetables because they taste “like bush.” She does, however, love french fries, Cheetos and KFC. She’s trying to learn Italian — she got Rosetta Stone for Christmas — but right now, her foreign-language vocabulary consists mostly of swear words. She loves Jonah Hill and Michael Cera (although she calls them “the fat guy” and “the other guy”), and she says cheerfully that she’s trying to appreciate her body while she can, because she knows “butt and tits” are the first to go.
It is a journey. I’m curious what you make of it, with hindsight… but I think we can all agree that the chain-mail loin-panties can still take a seat.