Rihanna in her self-dubbed “#ghettogoth” style.
Photos: Getty Images/@badgalriri Instagram
Rihanna’s never been one to shy away from a trend. Since her debut, she’s switched up her style at the drop of a hat. She’s gone from girlish pop star during her “Pon de Replay” days, to emphasizing her island roots in “Rude Boy,” to the style chameleon we know now, who changes wigs and outfits on what seems like a weekly basis. Her current look, however, seems to be creating some waves. Rih has been tagging tweets and Instagram photos (RIP, we miss you, @badgalriri!) using the hashtag “#ghettogoth” since last fall. The most recent of these “#ghettogoth” looks was her appearance at last month’s iHeartRadio Music Awards, where, in an all-black ensemble and bantu knots, she seemed to channel Jada Pinkett Smith from The Matrix.
While many people are intrigued by her new ~lewk~, Venus X—a New York-based DJ—is not amused. Venus, along with Hood by Air designer Shayne Oliver, has been throwing GHE20G0THIK parties since 2009. According to Venus, the parties were an intersection of aesthetics and politics wrapped up in an all inclusive package that welcomed everyone on the LGBTQ spectrum. In the wake of Rihanna’s “#ghettogoth” look and various news outlets crediting the singer for the new style, Venus has come after Rihanna, claiming that she’s “collect[ed] all the coin” and credit for a personal brand that she didn’t create.
— VENUS X (@VENUSXGG) May 12, 2014
It isn’t the first time that Rihanna’s been accused of appropriating a subculture either. Rihanna went “seapunk” for Saturday Night Live during her “Diamonds” performance in 2012, and along the way upset Tumblr and artists like Jerome LOL. But let’s be real: Designers, stylists, and celebrities look to other cultures (subcultures included) all the time. Rihanna or her stylist, Adam Selman, are not pioneers on that front. Plus, the ’90s are definitely having a moment right now. Who’s to say that this isn’t something that’s just in the zeitgeist right now? And if it isn’t, does Rihanna (or any established artist) have to acknowledge those influencers who may have played a part in their style? Let us know your take in the comments below.