Rihanna and Artist Lorna Simpson Collab for ESSENCE
Rihanna, global superstar and entrepreneur has collaborated with legendary artist Lorna Simpson to reinterpret the narrative of modern-day beauty in a 12-page portfolio feature for ESSENCE magazine’s January + February issue. Over the past 15 years of Simpson’s 30 year career, she has created collages that recontextualize images of Black women from vintage pages of Ebony and Jet magazines. Essence says Simpson channels Rihanna as her muse throughout the spectacular artistic rendering—reimagining the artist in a way that has never been seen before.
“I needed to create images of Rihanna to place within the environments of source materials from my archive. For the project to have the same kind of dramatic visual intensity as my collage work to date, I had to consider the atmosphere and lighting of specific source materials before arriving to set,” Simpson said. “Knowing Rihanna’s charisma and commanding presence, my effort was then to be as present and prepared as possible to capture her exquisite performance for the camera…”
The spread featured Rihanna in designer pieces including her signature Savage X Fenty line as well as Prada, Givenchy, Hood by Air, Thelma West, Rick Owens and more. It also features the piece, Anthems of Possibility, written by Simpson’s daughter, writer and actor Zora Simpson Casebere.
She weighs in on how Rihanna helped shape her womanhood at an early age and how serving as a stand-in model on set for her mother was a full-circle moment.
“…At 13, I was deeply grateful that at a formative time in my life, it was Rihanna’s voice and art that became my portals to so many questions about sexuality, sexual exploration and sexual autonomy,” said Casebere. “Now, on set, I assisted my mother as a model as she explored how she might later place Rihanna within the visual contexts she’d selected from vintage Ebony magazines, old Associated Press photographs and 19th-century lithographs of mineral specimens.”
“When Rihanna arrived at the set—my first time seeing her in real life—I was mesmerized. She was the very definition of grace, charisma and influence,” Casebere continued. “Wearing a magnificent Maximilian black headdress, she requested the song ‘Thick’ by DJ Chose, then met the camera with power and possibility—power in how she moved her body through space, and possibility in how she dismantled and moved beyond institutional boundaries…”
The January + February issue will also pay homage to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ historic win with reflections by five influential Black women: Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry, Karen Finney, Star Jones and Minyon Moore.
In addition, the issue features an interview with Barack Obama talking about his new book and journey as the nation’s first Black president. Plus, iconic actress Cicely Tyson shares an eye-opening excerpt from her new memoir.
For more on this issue, visit ESSENCE.com or pick up the January + February 2021 issue on newsstands.
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