On Tuesday, the world’s richest female musician shared a first look at her latest photo shoot for the magazine.
In the image, the fashion mogul can be seen wearing a vibrant blue gown that features pleated, billowing sleeves and a bright red sash tied at her waist.
Rihanna’s beauty look is equally as elaborate with her hair fashioned to emulate traditional Chinese styles, her brows blocked with a flash of red at the front and her lips painted in red just at the centre.
Harper's Bazaar China also shared a series of images from the photo shoot on its own Instagram account, where it revealed that the idea behind the cover was to show how a “Western style icon meets Eastern aesthetic”.
In photos posted to Harper’s Bazaar China’s account, the 31-year-old singer is shown wearing a number of different looks that include references to Chinese culture, including a manicure featuring lotus flowers and dragonflys, fans in her hair, and even a shih tzu dog.
Despite the magazine sharing its intentions behind the images, many people on social media have accused the publication and singer of cultural appropriation.
“As much as I love Rihanna how is this not deemed as cultural appropriation?” one person asked.
Another added: “So nodoby gunna call Rihanna out for cultural appropriation...hmm I see [sic].”
Others dragged Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner into the debate after both reality stars had recently been accused of cultural appropriation – Jenner for a Vogue cover where she wore a hairstyle many felt was similar to an afro and Kardashian for her new shapewear line which she named Kimono.
“Why is Kim not allowed to call her brand Kimono cos it’s cultural appropriation yet Rihanna can do s*** like this?? Just doesn’t sit right with me,” one person tweeted.
Another agreed, adding: “Wait a minute when Kendal Jenner was on the cover of a magazine with an 'afro' people were screaming cultural appropriation but when Rihanna dresses up like this, nobody says anything, it's art, it's glam.”
In response to the criticism, many people defended the photo shoot by explaining that the images were made for a Chinese audience by Chinese creatives.
In both Rihanna's and the magazine's Instagram posts, credit is given to the photographer, stylist, director, and editors of the spread.
“Rihanna's Harper's Bazaar China photo shoot is not cultural appropriation at all,” one person tweeted.
“The whole team behind the photo shoot (stylist, photographers, chief/visual editors) were Chinese.”
Another added: “It is so interesting how people have been impulsively calling Rihanna’s photo shoot in Harper’s Bazaar China as ‘cultural appropriation’ when the entire creative team consists of Chinese artists.”
This isn’t the first time Rihanna has been accused of cultural appropriation.
In 2017, the Fenty Beauty founder came under fire for her Vogue Arabia cover in which she channelled Queen Nefertiti, an Egyptian royal ruler from the 1300s, by wearing a snakeskin coat, metallic blue eyeshadow, a blue-and-gold headdress.
The singer was criticised for representing an Arabian magazine, despite not being Arab.
“Ok sorry but Rihanna is NOT Egyptian girl you’re a queen yes, but take that crown off,” one person wrote on Twitter.
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