Rihanna Talks Racism In Candid New Interview

Photo: WWD/REX USA.
Rihanna got real in an intimate new interview with The New York Times style magazine, opening up about personal topics such as her experience with racism in the U.S. Not one to let her guard down often, Rihanna sat down with Miranda July for her unusually revealing cover story with T Magazine. July asked the pop star how her awareness of race changed when she moved to New York from her native Barbados.

"You know, when I started to experience the difference — or even have my race be highlighted — it was mostly when I would do business deals," Rihanna said. "And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing." Interestingly, that prejudice Rihanna still faces at the negotiating table has become a huge motivator for the defiant pop star.

"[I]t’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting, and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations." Rihanna, whose new album, Anti, is due this year, certainly has proven people wrong — raking in millions and becoming one of the most sought-after artists in today's music industry.

The Barbadian icon went on to discuss how people of color — from young men on the street to one of the world's biggest pop stars — are judged by their looks:

But I have to bear in mind that...people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way — they’ve been programmed to think a black man in a hoodie means grab your purse a little tighter. For me, it comes down to smaller issues, scenarios in which people can assume something of me without knowing me, just by my packaging.

While we're not used to thinking of RiRi's looks as a detriment to her career, she makes a great point about the subconscious judgments people pass and the racial micro-aggressions that result from the latent stereotypes people hold. This is characteristic of so much of the racism that people of color face every day in this country — not just the headline-worthy instances of terrible violence or blatant prejudice, but the quotidian scenarios where somebody's race becomes a silent factor in the situation the moment he or she enters a room. Even if that somebody is Rihanna.
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