Marjorie Gutierrez, 56, says it wasn't until September of 2017 that she finally discovered a base product that matched her skin tone. That was the month the world's biggest pop star unveiled Fenty Beauty, a makeup line with one standout hero product: a foundation that comes in a groundbreaking 40 shades. "You could say I'm Rihanna's biggest fan who's old enough to be her mama," Gutierrez says. "It felt like she saw me. I was like, Wow, finally this is a brand that thought of me when they were creating this makeup."
These are the kinds of stories women told us over and over again last Friday at a party in Brooklyn, NY. For the 150 attendees who gathered in the Sephora store in the Kings Plaza JCPenney, the one-year celebration featured samples of Fenty Beauty's new Diamond Anniversary Collection, an oversized Diamond Bomb All-Over Diamond Veil big enough to sit in, and mini makeovers. But the biggest draw was actually a secret for the fans invited: Rihanna herself was going to make an appearance.
I was like, 'Wow, finally this is a brand that thought of me when they were creating this makeup.'
True to form, Rihanna made a dramatic surprise entrance, gliding down the escalator in the middle of the store in a magenta strapless ruffled gown — a cloud of sweet-smelling perfume floating in her wake. Her makeup, done by Fenty Beauty global makeup artist Priscilla Ono, matched the gown perfectly with magenta lips and bright pink cheeks.
There were screams, shouts, running, really everything that you'd expect when an international superstar suddenly appears in the middle of 150 of her biggest fans. But even in the hysteria, Rihanna took the time to make every person feel like he or she was the only one in the room — even if just for a moment.
"She’s one of us... That’s one of the reasons she connects so much to us," Cerimar Eaves, 35, told us minutes before asking Rihanna for a selfie. Rihanna breezily responded, "Of course, girl!" and stopped for a snap. "I feel like I'm floating," Eaves said afterwards. "That was unreal."
I just want to tell her thank you for representing Caribbean women and Black women fearlessly and effortlessly.
For many fans in attendance, who have been card-carrying Navy members since the days of "Pon de Replay," the idea of the pop star creating any makeup line was exciting in itself. But once they saw what it was, and what it represented on a larger scale, it felt personal.
"I just want to tell her thank you for representing Caribbean women and Black women fearlessly and effortlessly," Emanie White-Heard, 26, says. Adds Nadene Pinnock, 37, "I’m just so glad it’s made so many women feel important and included. I’m a Caribbean woman. To see where she’s come from, I’m just so proud of her."
For Sarah Clinton, 27, she had no doubt from the beginning that Rihanna would deliver with her first makeup launch. "We knew it was going to be good and she’d get our skin tones right," says Clinton. "We got one of our own people helping us out. She went hard. The highlighters? The lipglosses? I love it all."
Throughout the night, Rihanna held a baby, giggled with fans, and then took the mic to offer her appreciation to everyone who came. "I just want to say thank you to everyone who came out," Rihanna said. "Now let's buy some makeup!"
For many of the attendees, Rihanna's innovative moves in the beauty industry have inspired them to branch out into business themselves. "She thought OK, I can’t find the makeup that I want, why not make my own makeup?" says Rikkii Orange, a 23-year-old who came to the event with her 47-year-old mother, Kimberly Funderberk (who both got a hug from the star, left). "If Rihanna can do it, then I can do it. It’s liberation."
By the time the clock struck 9:30, Rihanna had said her hellos and goodbyes and feasted on some mini burgers and grilled cheeses along with the rest of the crowd. Between the guests, friendships were made and numbers were exchanged. Women were going up to one another and asking, "Which highlighter is that?" and, "What shade are you?" says Orange, "She created a community. You go out and you meet women who are immediately like, Oh, you're wearing Fenty? Let's be friends."
Looking ahead at year two of Fenty Beauty, these fans have a few requests, too. They want a mascara, more lipglosses, a more neutral eyeshadow palette, and maybe even some Fenty skin care. And any of those could be on the way, because as one of the Fenty Beauty global makeup artists Hector Espinal told us at the party, "This is just the beginning."