When there is a noticeable change in a celebrity’s weight, especially if said celebrity is a woman, people talk about it. If she loses weight, fitness and entertainment blogs package it as a great makeover, a fresh start, or some other positive “transformation.” Onlookers cheer and congratulate them. We saw this happen with Gabby Sidibe, much to her chagrin. When a celebrity gains weight, those same publications speculate on whether or not she’s pregnant until they can rule it out. With procreation ruled out, people wonder if she’s sick, depressed, or undergoing some other life crisis. But when Rihanna gains weight, something different happens.
Bad Gal Riri has been spotted out, and it appears that she has gained a few pounds. While pregnancy speculations hit the gossip mill pretty quickly — as celebrity pregnancy rumours are wont to do — the claims were quickly lost in a sea of fans who seem to be pleased with the possibility that the Bajan singer will be better equipped to fill out a Fashion Nova body-con dress. Twitter was full of supporters who insisted that Rihanna looks great in her current state.
It’s worth noting that although this response marks a departure from the usual reaction to famous women gaining weight, I don’t think we should necessarily be jumping for joy just yet. The fact that we are having conversations about Rihanna’s body at all is a reminder of how much emphasis we still put on women’s appearance as important and valuable. And make no mistake about it, the celebration of Ri’s curves is about celebrating a different, but just as limiting, standard of beauty.
Many communities of colour reject thinness as the ideal body type. For black people in particular, someone like La La Anthony is closer to the “ideal” female form than Beyoncé or Rihanna are. It’s the reason Kim Kardashian is so marketable to black women. The explosion of butt augmentation and YouTube videos like this one are further proof of this. Many people are cheering on Rihanna’s weight gain because it’s a sign that she’s moving toward that ideal thickness. I feel pretty confident that if Ri gains what people feel is too much weight, or is no longer proportionate to an hourglass, those celebratory emoji will turn to side-eyes.
But here’s some slightly unrelated news that we can definitely celebrate. In the midst of all of the talk about her weight, Twitter has still agreed that sacrificing one’s boyfriend to Rihanna, if only for a few moments, is also totally okay.