Earlier this week, Rihanna made headlines for her historic British Vogue September cover issue. However, despite her historic milestone, some are deeming the singer’s skinny eyebrows as “problematic” and appropriation of Chola (a Latina gang member) culture.
In an article published Thursday by Marie Claire titled “I’m Latina, and I Find Rihanna’s Skinny Brows Problematic,” MarieClaire.com Social Media Editor Krystyna Chávez, who is Mexican-American, says she is “deeply confused” and “deeply annoyed” by RiRi’s ultra-skinny, penciled-on eyebrows.
“Considering it was highly unlikely that Rihanna had suddenly joined a gang, and seeing as the Caribbean singer wasn’t exactly raised on the streets of East L.A., my Mexican-American heart was deeply confused and deeply annoyed,” Chávez wrote in the article.
“As a minority, I know I’m always one step away from being judged negatively based on how I look. I know that if I stepped out with these brows tomorrow, I would face such intense judgment that would just feed into the negative stereotype many minorities work very hard to avoid,” she continued. “Not all of us have the luxury of drawing on some eyebrows and calling them fashun—even if RiRi does look gorgeous, and even if it’s just an editorial spread meant to look pretty and harmless and inspirational.”
In addition to Chávez’s commentary, fans on social media also took offense to the style icon’s eyebrows.
“Reading an article on Rihanna’s Vogue eyebrows and they say it was inspired by the “30s” are you kidding me,” @NatGomez13 said on Twitter. “This is straight Chola culture that inspired badgal RiRi -_- so annoyed.”
Although thin eyebrows are associated with gang culture in the Latino community, there is a slew of entertainers — namely Grace Jones, Josephine Baker, and Diana Ross to name a few — who have sported the fashionable look through the years.
“I understand that some people may not see Rihanna’s photos and immediately think chola,” Chávez added in her article. “I get that some people will see the brows and think of the ‘20s and Josephine Baker, or even Marlene Dietrich. But for the Latinxs among us who have faced persecution for our appearances for decades—and for the cholas, I knew growing up who took immense pride in their look—we will only ever see Chola brows, no matter how much you dress them up.”
Despite the criticism and association to Chola culture, Rihanna says thin eyebrows are “beautiful” and “very ladylike.”
“Thin eyebrows are just beautiful, very ladylike… but it’s still punk,” she told British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful during a video interview for the issue. “That’s what I enjoy in fashion and make-up – there’s so many different textures and colors and vibes you can create.”
Do you think Rihanna is guilty of cultural appropriation?