Krysty Chávez, a social media editor at Marie Claire, wrote an op-ed for the publication about being offended over Rihanna’s thin eyebrows on the 2018 September Issue of British Vogue. According to her, the Bajan-born pop star was culturally appropriating the eyebrows of Mexican “cholas,” female gang members.
— British Vogue (@BritishVogue) August 1, 2018
In the article published yesterday, Chávez wrote, “When I saw Rihanna on the cover of British Vogue this week with a set of ultra-skinny brows, my immediate reaction was, ‘Wait, WTF?’ Why is Rihanna wearing chola brows?”
She continued, “But to me and thousands of other Mexican and Mexican-American girls looking at these photos, RiRi’s brows look a lot like the chola brows our mothers feared we would one day wear—the brows that are now untouchable and unwearable to women like me, especially in conjunction with hoop earrings and, god forbid, lip liner.”
According to the magazine’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, Rihanna requested the beauty look and considered it “ladylike” but also “punk.”
Others including Chávez pointed out that thin eyebrows are not exclusive to Latina women. I understand that skinny brows were not created or exclusively owned by the Latinx community: They also have roots in South African culture, in Roaring Twenties fashion, in the Harlem Renaissance community, and I’m sure they can be found in many other subsections of the world, too,” she wrote.
Despite this fact, several readers still labeled Rihanna a cultural appropriator.
One Twitter user, Mikki Kendall, pointed out that dancer Josephine Baker, who Rihanna often honors with her style wore thin brows.
Meanwhile the piece that could have been written was about the white gaze & respectability & Rihanna rejecting the idea that this aesthetic isn’t beautiful. Because hi, the Black girls with thin brows were getting called ghetto for them before chola culture had a name.
— ❄Mikki Kendall❄ (@Karnythia) August 3, 2018
😴😴😴 #FIXED "I'm an unknown writer no one gives a fuck about, and I find using Rihanna's name for hits and clicks gives me recognition I can't get on my own."
So Rihanna, Enninful & the MUA went STRAIGHT for "chola culture". Not Josephine, Pat McGrath, Galliano, Dior, 1920s… pic.twitter.com/wS8bV7g4DF
— Rhonda (@phlygerl) August 3, 2018
Rihanna did dress up as a chola more than three years ago, and there can be an argument made about that. However, cultural appropriation happens when a dominant culture takes elements or customs specific to a minority group for their own use. Thin eyebrows were never a trend solely linked to latinas because of their gang affiliation.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.