Social media gives hope to people, I would include myself in this group, that they can establish more personal relationships with celebrities. We live in a celebrity culture where some celebrities maintain certain power due to the immense fan club they possess. It is thus crucial for each celebrity to carefully present herself through social media platforms.
Rihanna, one of the most powerful recording artists of our time, has a prominent social media presence. Rihanna tends to use on a daily basis her Instagram account. She can be found by the name, or pseudonym, badgalriri and immediately when one accesses her Instagram account we get a quite clear image of what its like to be Rihanna. With over 10m followers, and an account, which is public meaning that anyone can access it, the “reach” as Nancy Baym mentions in her book, Personal Connections in The Digital Age, of every picture she posts can’t be counted.
Rihanna’s identity performance tries to keep followers and viewers constantly updated with what happens in her life. She posts between 2-10 photos daily of herself in diverse situations.
BADGALRIRI has had the tendency of posting explicit pictures the past months as well as images that show her chill lifestyle and enthusiastic way of living. This is shown in her Instagram photos.
Rihanna has around 1120 people she is following and some of them are fans of her Rihanna Navy Fan Club. It is evident that the celebrity/fan relationship may have shifted from a one way, uni dimensional tie to a bi-dimensional tie making it seem more personal and giving space for conversation.
Rihanna gives glimpses of her personal life through her Instagram and what is constant is the emphasis on her travelling, her photoshoots and images of her performing. All pictures have as the center and focus herself, since it is what the followers want to see. Rihanna participates in a reflexive project of the self where she is constantly trying to figure out what is going on and never forgets to update her followers.
Marwick & boyd relied heavily on celebrity culture to explain certain social media outcomes. They stated:
We conceptualize celebrity as an organic and ever-changing performative practice rather than a set of intrinsic personal characteristics or external labels. This practice involves ongoing maintenance of a fan base, performed intimacy, authenticity and access, and construction of a con- sumable persona. Increased access to technologies of content creation and distribution has popularized techniques of ‘micro-celebrity’, using social media to develop and maintain an audience (140)
The notion of practicing celebrity identity is highly emphasized here where in terms of Rihanna I could say that she tries to maintain her fan base, authenticity and access by performing on her Instagram account.
Looking at specific Instagram posts, I notice an over emphasis on her body, many times making the images explicit, inappropriate and very daring. Dobson coins this as grotesque in his study “The grotesque body in young women’s self presentation on MySpace”. Rihanna’s pictures can actually either be seen as grotesque or simply heterosexy (another term used by Dobson to describe certain presentations of self) since they are very sexy but not in an humiliating, degrading way for all. Rihanna appears as extremely sexy, but always shows her natural beauty and curvaceous body.
Rihanna flaunting her curvaceous body can be seen as heterosexy, according to me but many may regard it as a grotesque over emphasis on the body.
It is not just that femininity is ‘sexualised’, but that it is aligned with a specific gendered and heterosexual aesthetic, derivative of both ‘traditional’ femininity (pink, delicate, cutesy, and so on) and mainstream heterosexual pornography (overly large artificial looking breasts, high heels, excessive make-up, revealing clothing or clothing which draws attention to sexual and erogenous zones) (5)
Representations of young women with wide open mouths and protruding tongues are very common in the photo galleries displayed on the profiles of the young women that I have viewed. In many of the images seen on these profiles, poses and faces are purposefully comical and silly. In some of the images seen, the protruding tongue and the licking or kissing gestures looks to be a caricature or a parody of overt or exaggerated seduction. (8)
In the above picture Rihanna is protruding her tongue and it is what Dobson would categorize as a grotesque kind of picture.
Moreover, besides her posting sexy pictures of herself, she wants to show how she travels all around the world to please her fans and satisfy the industries needs.
Rihanna is seen posing in places ranging from Abu Dhabi until Greece. She presents herself as a frequent traveler in order to expand her fan club, increase her popularity as well as show everyone she is a person with a variety of interests.
BadGalRiri reflects on her daily experiences and shows she feels blessed to be able to travel and live the life she is living. Throughout her posts, we see incidences, where she is also promoting her products as her MAC make-up line and her fashion clothing line. This can be seen as internal product placement since through herself she is promoting her merchandising and I could characterize her as a business woman.
What strikes me is her relaxed attitude towards the critisism she might receive for her posts including illegal substances, known as weed and cigarettes. Instagram is getting more and more explicit everyday but in a way we could say that it shows Rihanna is trying to show every side of her character.
She is trying to show the frontstage and backstage, as Goffman termed, and appear more authentic . Erving Goffman’s 1959 work “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” suggested that people, like actors, navigate ‘frontstage’ and ‘backstage’ areas in any given social situation.
Rihanna, in total performs her identity through her social media Instagram presence and depicts herself as a daring, full o of life and energy celebrity who highly engages with her fan club.