On Thursday, August 11th, MTV announced that this year’s recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award is Rihanna. The Grammy Award-winning fashion icon shared the news herself and has been buzzing on social media and in mainstream media. Many were amazed and congratulated the Barbados singer for this major achievement, but of course being Rihanna comes with haters.
Not long after the announcement, social media user, of course, tried to discredit Rihanna’s success and impact in music, as well try to say she’s undeserving of the award and that now is not the right time to give her the award. Even one journalist displayed his lack of professionalism when he insisted that the Michael Jackson’s name should be taken off the Video Vanguard award. Haters and naysayers come in all shapes and colors, but what surprises me is that most of these hate-filled comments come from people of color. I want to take the time to explain why we should be accepting Rihanna’s greatness and why belittling her does more harm than good, especially in the black community.
Now I know you’re probably thinking, “is this another Rihanna stan article?”, and I want to answer that with a resounding NO. I love Rihanna as much as I love other black female artist, and if this was another black woman in Rihanna’s position, I would be writing the same article. You see this is an issue deeper than Rihanna; it’s an issue of African Americans constantly being put against each other, allowing the media to make it more than what it seems, and simply not allowing black women to just be successful. When it comes to Rihanna and acknowledging her accomplishments, people are often quick on putting a limit on it, as if Rihanna’s is on some sort of timeline. When people say, “well Rihanna is good but she has a lot more to do in her career”, I think to myself, “what’s your point?”. Every artist who’s received an achievement award, including a Video Vanguard award, has gone on to do more with their career. Recipients such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, and Kanye West have released more albums, went on tour, etc, and I don’t recall anyone saying their awards were given too early. Also, music legends such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Janet Jackson (who’s also the youngest recipient ever), have gotten their Video Vanguard awards way before their careers have become monumental as they are today. With that being said, why is there all of a sudden a rubric to awarding Rihanna?
Minimizing and downplaying Rihanna’s success or anyone’s success for that matter makes you look jaded, especially when it comes from a place of spite. It’s even more of a bad look when you downplay Rihanna or other black women to uplift other black women. Throughout Rihanna’s career, there’s an ongoing trend on with the general public or with the media to make snide and shady remarks about Rihanna, yet somehow find the time to adequately give respect to those who are just as successful as her. So as a journalist I ask, what’s the shade really about? In a time when we are chanting #BlackLivesMatter, celebrating #BlackGirlMagic, and getting in formation, I find it ironic how many in our community are quick to tear down another black woman and continuing to parade other artists in this “there can only be one successful black woman” mentality. In case you haven’t learned, let me give you a quick lesson; expecting others to unite around black artists and black celebrities, yet shame others because of personal views are counterproductive.
Whether you hate it or not, Rihanna is successful, she’s made her mark in the music industry and popular culture, and she has an influence on a generation that has grown up with her, and those in future generations. On August 28th, Rihanna is going to walk across the stage, accept her Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, and you will respect that.
Now let’s be honest. What is it about Rihanna’s success that gets everyone in their feelings? Are you secretly envious? Do you envy Rihanna’s confidence? Does her career intimidate you? Do you just want to be messy? Or does your internalized misogyny and color complex issue make it hard for you to accept that there’s more than one successful black woman in the music industry?
I’ll leave you with that, give you a few days to contemplate that.