Okay, look, Rihanna is an icon. Over the span of four months, the not-so-elusive chanteuse has been awarded the title twice: once with iced-out pins in her hair and the other wearing nothing but crystals (seriously). And, now W is giving her the title a third time, heralding her as the "world's wildest style icon."
And, to help honor the star's wild side, W has cast her in a cover shoot Rihanna calls an "Eskimo Horror Story." Now, controversy and Rihanna have been bedfellows since 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad, so it should go without saying that this Mert & Marcus editorial contains something to fuss about, right?
Well, maybe. Rihanna's draped in fur, covered in face paint, and hanging out with some wolves. It's high-fashion's means of distilling the stereotype of our northern neighbors down to its simplest of forms. But, is it offensive? Had W cast, say, Lara Stone over Rihanna, then yes, this spread would've raised a ton of eyebrows and red flags. There's the regrettable sense that the photographers are taking one form of minority (black Barbadian) and subbing it for another (Inuit and Yupik nations) — they would never have done the same shoot with a white model. On top of that, there's Rihanna's use of the word "eskimo," a term that's considered to derogatory by some people's standards. (The Racial Slur database does not, however, define it as defamatory.)