Introducing Sanam, the Instagram artist who became Rihanna's new Desi accomplice

The Seattle-based artist was scouted by Rihanna on Instagram for her "B***h Better Have My Money" video

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The Independent Online

Last week Rihanna’s video for her single B***h Better Have My Money spawned hundreds of thinkpieces from people saying it glamorised violence, it was racist, or that it was anti-feminist.

But just as many people were obsessing over it, too. From the dark, Tarantino-esque plot (Rihanna is owed some money, so she kidnaps her accountant’s wife and tortures her then him) to the brief homage to girl-power blockbuster Thelma and Louise at the end.

If anyone is the breakout star of BBHMM, though, it’s the enigmatic Desi henchwoman accompanying Ri-Ri throughout; an Instagrammer who goes by the single-name moniker Sanam.

Sanam told Vice last week she was scouted by Rihanna on Instagram, who had seen her on the mobile app’s ‘Expore’ channel.

A photo posted by @trustmedaddy on


“She was like “Hey, I have this idea I want to run by you. I think you’re so fucking rare. Let me know if you’re interested.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I was just freaking out, because Rihanna is messaging me on Instagram, telling me she thinks I’m cool," she said.

Sanam said that they were flown out two days later to film the scenes.

“She was so sweet. She was showering us with compliments. She is so fucking real and down-to-earth, which is the corniest thing to say about a famous person, but she really is.”

Sanam currently works in a plant store during the day but is an artist on the side, focusing on painting and drawing, but she has become more involved in social justice issues. “I like to make art that speaks on that, but in a really funny, cheeky way.” 

Since the video premiered, Sanam has gathered something of a cult following. People are obsessing over her art and her own personal style, delivering frank, honest work about privelage, race and gender.

A photo posted by @trustmedaddy on

There are few prominent Desi icons in Western culture, and Rihanna taking an interest in Sanam not only shows the singer as being more culturally aware than her peers, but gives Sanam a brand new platform tell her story.

From her ‘tikka’, the jewellery worn on the forehead, and her ‘nath’, the statement nose-ring seen in several Instagram posts, Sanam is breaking new ground.

But she is also fully aware that the path she wants to pave is an uphill one.

“It’s hard to make art when you’re a woman, but especially a woman of colour, just because it’s not respected in the same way as a white male artist’s work.

"It’s really hard to feel empowered sometimes. Being in the video, I feel like that’s given me a little bit more of a platform to talk about that kind of stuff.”