The recent ad campaign for Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage x Fenty features a group of five badass Black women in bustiers, panties and fishnets riding on motorcycles. They are a part of Caramel Curves Motorcycle Club, an all-women collective based in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Shanika “Tru” Beatty and Nakosha “CoCo” Smith, two of the co-founders of Caramel Curves, tell R29Unbothered over the phone that Rihanna’s team initially reached out to them in January for an International Women’s Day project that the newly-minted billionaire was planning. The project was ultimately cancelled because of a scheduling conflict, but persistence prevailed and Rihanna’s team and Caramel Curves landed on having the women model the latest collection of Savage x Fenty lingerie.
Though they never got a chance to speak directly with Rihanna, the “Work” singer recently shared via email why she wanted to collaborate with them, saying, “The Caramel Curves show the world what being a badass boss is all about, while bringing sexiness along for the ride.” Named for their skin colour and shapely bodies, Caramel Curves found being the latest ambassadors for Savage x Fenty a kismet pairing. When they’re not donning pieces from Rihanna’s lingerie line, the ladies of Caramel Curves can be found in their signature riding uniform of heels and sexy clothes. “We gave motorbiking kind of a sex appeal,” Beatty says. Smith adds, “Starting the club initially was about riding around with a bunch of women, looking good and being sexy.”
In 2005, Beatty, along with a few other lady bikers, founded the club as a way to connect with other women in the male-dominated biker scene. Smith, who says she’s been riding since ‘96, was one of the first women in her city to start riding, and that she would often end up riding with other men. Beatty was also surrounded by men when she started out nearly two decades ago, and says she would ride everywhere, including places like the grocery store and school just to improve her biking skills after being left behind by her more experienced male counterparts. “As a female biker, we had to work harder” to be accepted, Beatty says.
After taking a break in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, Caramel Curves started up again in 2006 as both a biker club and support group. It would be a few years before Caramel Curves would begin to gain attention within their NOLA community as the pink smoke that would emit from their bikes began catching people’s attention. Now, with over 50,000 followers on Instagram, Caramel Curves credits New Orleans in making the biker club who they are. Smith points to the second line — a New Orleans tradition where people gather to watch as dancers accompanied by a jazz band parade in the streets — as one of the aspects that has made riding in the city particularly exciting. “[Second line] is what makes most people I know get motorbikes,” Smith says. “From being able to zig-zag through all the traffic that second line starts. And that’s why people mainly pull their bikes out to go and stunt.”
Since being featured in the New York Times and appearing on Steve Harvey’s talk show, ABC, Today, and many other shows, Caramel Curves is has captured the country's attention not just for the skills but also as pillars in their community. From its inception, the ladies have been taking opportunities to pour back into their beloved Nola. “We try to do things at least every other month and a big thing at least twice a year,” Beatty says. Both Beatty and Smith agree that they have a soft spot for children and women. Prospective members do mandated community service too. Altogether, the group has fed and clothed homeless people and had a Christmastime bicycle giveaway for children. “We come out of our own pockets as an organisation to actually fund these events that we have,” says Beatty. “We don’t get any money from large corporations… it’s strictly from our hearts.”
Even though riding, and all of the accolades and attention that has come with it, has become a huge part of their lives, the women still maintain their regular lives as small business owners, mothers and partners. “This is a hobby,” Beatty says. “Our jobs, our lives, our husbands, our boyfriends, [our] children, come first,” says Beatty. “And as long as we keep everything fun, it’s easy.”
As for the future, Caramel Curves are always looking for new members to add to their crew of ten. When asked what advice she'd give women who are considering taking up riding, Beatty says, “You can do that sh*t, go ahead girl!” And the Caramel Curves will be there to encourage you the whole way. “We gon’ help you find a bike and then once you get it, we gon’ help you learn how to ride,” Smith says.
In their Savage x Fenty ad, the ladies call Caramel Curves a sisterhood. “[It’s] being somebody’s confidant… [their] go-to … [their] shoulder to lean on,” says Caramel Curves member Karma. Riding has given the ladies more than they could have imagined. Their latest role as ambassadors for Rihanna’s lingerie shows the women at their best: on their motorcycles, with the wind blowing through their hair, the living embodiment of their definition of "savage." “[Savage] may have an initial meaning that means something bad,” Smith says. “But for me, savage means 'badass,’ [and] ‘hot as f*ck.’'