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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.)
But, then again, the shoot is stunning, and Rihanna has never looked more intimidatingly Rihanna. And, anyway, it's not like she's ever been overly concerned with following the rules.