I am so pleasantly surprised by the photos of Rihanna's performance at the latest instalment of the bonkers-fest that is the Victoria's Secret "Fashion" Show. (Oh I know, quotation marks humour. Move over Tina Fey.)
The dress is Vivienne Westwood. I feel like the sunglasses might be vintage Chanel.
I'm particularly fascinated by the last photo - the one in which she struts with Very Pretty Woman, Doutzen Kroes. Rihanna does more than hold her own and yet she doesn't dominate, precisely. In fact, I feel like there is a weird zen-voodoo-ying-yang sexiness balance in this photo.
The question of how to present female musicians at the VSFS is interestingly tricky terrain. For example, things didn't feel quite right when Fergie performed at the show in 2009:
The different between Fergie and Rihanna's ensembles is that the latter has some very decent fashion content. Fergie's outfit is an attempt to meet the VS Angels on their own terms (bonkers trash) and inevitably the comparison does not work to her advantage.
In 2011 Nicki Minaj went another way completely, taking a deranged whore clown of nightmares as her sartorial inspiration:
That said, and even bearing in mind that Miss Minaj has made outré costume an important part of her public persona, I can't help but feel that you can look at Fergie's example and find that Minaj has gone too far the other way. There is also something almost minstrel-ish about the singer's performance which feels kind of icky when you consider how fews black girls actually model in the show - I counted 3 out of the group of 37 models this year.
Katy Perry's live show aesthetic is so perfectly in tune with that of the VSFS that she must have seemed like an obvious choice when she performed in 2010:
And so it is Rihanna, with her Dietrich-ian sexiness, who manages to create the perfect dynamic. There's a quite a bit of Eartha Kitt-y cat cool in there too:
Rihnna exudes a very slightly masculine air while not a appearing, nor indeed wearing anything in the least butch. It's the opposite of how Missy Elliot appeared when she performed with Madonna, Britney and Christina at the Fauxmo Spectacular, 2003 VMAs:
Sidenote: Why didn't they make Missy the priest?!? I will never stop asking that question.