Mel Ottenberg could dress Rihanna in a plastic bag – worse, crocs – and still, I’d build an argument for the way she – and only she – works them. It is her striking sense of style, her exotic voice and similar-natured manner that leave my brother and I at her feet. We are the largest advocates of this fierce R&B artist: who she is, all that she does and exudes. She, or at least the image we’ve created of her, depicts that of a golden girl; the girl whom everyone wants to be. Of course, while Tony just plain appreciates it, I’m busy trying (this being the key word) to work, work, work with the same effortless cool. In my dreams I travel to and from Trinidad and Tobago solely to channel my Caribbean roots. Any link I can find to an island origin – my wide hips and small waist – is a link to Rihanna, or rather, the way of the Barbadian beauty.
While I covet the style of numerous celebrities, I’m exceedingly inspired by strangers on the street, by old movies and by new places. I don’t believe I’ll ever wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and wonder how Miley Cyrus would dress for a semi-cloudy day with plans for shopping. I assume details of any semi-cloudy reality would be deemed redundant by her anyway. More importantly than her disregard for the weather though, I wouldn’t wish to replicate her attitude. Her style defends an almost careless approach – towards people, her platform and her potential. It was the early days of high school when I concluded that not caring was uncool and completely unimpressive to me. I appreciated an awareness of others in the people I met. I wasn’t expecting – I still don’t expect – active reaction to their opinions, but certainly an acknowledgement of their existence and ability to be influenced. One thing you can’t argue of Miley Cyrus, however, is that her style is loaded with personality. Other media icons, no doubt in endeavour for street style shots, wind up exuding a much more bleak demeanour. They fail to express character and individuality – better yet, sass.
Rihanna is different. She takes sass on walks just to find herself on stage. Yet all the same, she represents the girl along the road. The one who laughs with radiance, who cycles to the dairy ahead her loose dark hair. The girl who spends days on the beach and nights at family barbecues doing handstands. She is free. She doesn’t wear a bra because she doesn’t care if you see her breasts. In fact, if you asked to see them, she’d probably giggle and show you. While Rihanna is in love with everyone else more than she is herself, she is ever so confident in the woman that she is. To those who chase after her she gives a bold stare; it sparks visions of her heritage, her strength and her attitude. Her features: a strong set of eyes, a pair of lips that dip intently as if to leave space for the tip of the nose. They are accentuated by a pout in your direction. The pout is not harsh. It’s a reminder. It tells us of the inevitable vulnerability of humans, and this woman’s power despite it.
My point is, Rihanna, or “A Rihanna” is both: the humble and the endearing, the sassy and the successful. Consequently, to emulate her makes for a certainly diverse wardrobe: that which consists of basketball jackets and bright heels, denim shorts and crops, oversized jackets and pink pant suits. It’s this diversity adorned with an utterly desirable sense of self awareness, confidence and certainty that has, in any given circumstance, begged my questioning: What Would Rihanna do?
Just a week ago, I moved to Wellington. I’m still coming to terms with how much my life has changed permanently in the space of a few days. I’m partly convinced this is a temporary change of scenery, and I’m to return to my life in Auckland in a weeks time. One thing hasn’t undergone alteration in this new city, however. Its my approach to change; to being, to becoming and equally, to dressing in a new place. Such an approach is as phresh as the girl off the runway. In fact, this step-by-step (of only three because otherwise I get lost) is absolutely inspired by her.
Introducing The Rihanna Approach to dressing, to uni, to work, to life – and well, to all else.
1. Be sporty and stylish.
If this isn’t Rihanna’s mantra, it certainly is that of her stylist. Rihanna is notorious for sporting such a combination; take, say, the time she wore this to a basketball game or this before the Alexander Wang X H&M collection was dropped. Integrating sports style – trackies, athletic crops and sneakers – into daily wear is no short of second nature to Rihanna. Her ability to add femininity or edge to otherwise active outfits is awesome for the sake of practicability alone. That the outfits are built for boosting confidence is a mere bonus.
Sport luxe is edgy. In that it can be played up or down, it’s unquestionable. It satisfies even those ANTI-fitness (so many Rihanna puns, so little time). In most cases there’s no expectation for follow through or participation in the implicated sport. Sport style promotes one exercise and one exercise only: the sass walk (see: Rihanna performing Phresh out the Runway at the VS Fashion Show 2012 at 3.20. We should always walk as if we’re listening to this song). Why, no fashionista could care less if you know of the b-ball team you’re wearing. Jocks themselves will be too intimidated to ask. They’ll quietly wonder where you managed to source such American Retro (Recycle Boutique in Auckland, $30 if you’re wondering).
Whatever you do, don’t become the mother who gyms and coffee dates – and well, that’s about it. Do more than wear the gear, be the gear. I’m not saying you have to go for a run – but do be active. Get out there. Meet people. Become the person you talked about in high school. Follow your passions. Imagine the teachers who doubted you. Now see your goals, your visions and your ideals through. Do it with flair and do it with confidence. Own what you have to offer. Seeking to attain the natural gifts of others will only act to waste the potential of your own.
Tip: Instead of a dress, try a basketball jacket or singlet paired with heels. It’s the best thing I’ve done since embracing culottes. Sure it feels a tiny bit stripper (watch not to pose too provocatively) and it’s not something to wear to your Grandma’s, but in the ideal situation, it feels the right amount of sexy, sassy and tomboy. It also acts as a slap in the face to all jocks, which let’s be honest is entirely what they need anyway. You’re going to find no one else in such attire at an event – except perhaps the boys, of whom against you’ll almost always win best dressed.
2. Walk with purpose – for you’re going places.
This is, of course, another moment at which I will recommend applying Rihanna’s ultimate sass walk (most advice sessions do end here). Don’t mistake her stride for cockiness; she arrives at every destination with a giggle in gratitude. She knows that her every step emanates confidence. If a series of motions could arise envy, her walk would do it. My advice is this: even if we lack the same security in ourselves, let’s dabble in the practice of being self-assured anyway. We ought to try it on for good measure. Let’s not question who we are, where we’re at, nor the value of either at any one moment. To walk with purpose is to accept your most recent step. It’s also to welcome the one ahead; to embrace that there will be many more to come. So let’s exude an essence for the path we are creating. Yes, it is only the beginning. Indeed most of us are unfamiliar with the characteristics of which will define our route. But ye of little faith: will you have some? Read your horoscope if you want, believe in fate, or God, or any other man or woman supposedly drawing up your map; why not? But more so, believe in yourself, and in your ability to initiate your own future. Don’t take for granted the way you’ve come. Remember that it was only you who decided to wake up today, you who responded or initiated conversation with others, you who made decisions, and chose, even if absent-mindedly, to accept failures. It’s you who will do the same tomorrow. Have faith in your own ability to move forward. Don’t be disheartened by the amount of space in front of you. Be content in the knowledge your steps will fill it.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to wear boots, nor to “overdress”. I use inverted commas solely because I believe the only one capable of deeming an individual too dressy is the individual themselves. If you rock what you wear, the person you are and the places you’re going, people lose a platform on which to question or criticise you. Notice that people pick on insecurities. Choosing to ignore your own is equally deciding not to be hindered by others’ opinion of them.
3. Channel an island vibe.
Although sass is more than warranted, cockiness is not. Just take my girl Rihanna. She has been doing her thing since 2005 – and bloody successfully at that. Yet you don’t see her turning down a collaboration with Puma because she believes she’s above them. No, to this day you’ll find her smiling at a Chanel show, no doubt calling Karl Lagerfeld her bitch like she does her other BFFs. The point is, there is nothing better than a successful person who remains humble. Don’t let your situation, where you’ve come from, or where you think you are hinder where you could go. Understand that the only reason you’re so far is because of your support networks: your family, your friends, and the place you grew up. Don’t disregard your previous circumstance despite how much it may appear increasingly distant or irrelevant. Make effort. Stay in contact. Be grateful and always express gratitude.
A pout ought to be hitched and ditched everyday. It doesn’t matter how ultimately sassy and determined you look when sporting it; smile as if you’re a local anyway. There’s no better way to emit a sense of familiarity. Befriend with your eyes. Accept different upbringings, priorities and people. Be comfortable and be relaxed. Remember that we all trip on stairs sometimes. Don’t talk, look or act like you are the exception.
Don’t be afraid or above seeking help. Remember that you’re still at the bottom. Be guided by altruism. Be drawn to genuine people. Do more than have a single conversation with them. Promise to catch up. See it through. Stop being afraid of letting people join your family. Let your groups expand consistently. And then still get coffee with old mates. Express how much you miss them.
Tip: Dress comfortably and authentically. Avoid layering while you don’t have to. Wear a maxi and sandals and go play in parks. Forget make-up, especially on the days you feel satisfied with your natural beauty. Make the most of these days. The more you indulge in the feeling, the more you’ll feel it. Stop trying to enhance your beauty; it’s not necessary. Don’t wear a bra (here it is, the most dearest piece of advice, the what my mother told me, the secret to being badass written by Rihanna). It’s a little secret – in fact, often it’s not – but it’s still lovely. Be okay with the appearance of your nipples if they show. Do so only in a wholesome way.
The reason behind such a thing as the Rihanna way is simple. She does not solely dress with confidence, she acts with it. She doesn’t just display her body at her own discretion. You see, despite any flaws – and even she will have them – she radiates self-contentment. We too should stay humble and remember people. Yet equally stand unafraid of seeking further interaction. One day, we’ll be more than where we started.
So with that, go do like @badgalriri. Much love and even more luck to you all this year regardless of your endeavours.
P.S. Contrary to common belief, this post was not endorsed by Rihanna.