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Rihanna calls out brands that exploit trans people

‘I don’t think it’s fair that a trans woman, or man, be used as a convenient marketing tool’

Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty venture has been a major success; praised for its wide range of shades and diverse campaigns, as well as its consistent stock levels. It’s meant that Rih has triumphed ahead of many huge, mainstay and celeb-endorsed cosmetic brands this year.

A fan got in touch with the musician to suggest using transgender models in her next beauty campaign, and she responded: “I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted trans women over the years but I don't go around doing trans castings! Just like I don't do straight non trans women castings. I respect all women. Whether they're trans or not is none of my business.”

The ANTI singer, designer, philanthropist and entrepreneur added that other companies hire minorities in “token” gestures sometimes.

“I don’t think it's fair that a trans woman, or man, be used as a convenient marketing tool,” she wrote. "Too often I see companies doing this to trans and black women alike. There’s always just that one spot in the campaign for the token ‘we look mad diverse’ girl/guy! It's sad!"

Fans took to Twitter to respond to Rihanna’s thoughts:

“Good on Rihanna to not want to exploit trans women just for the sake of marketing,” @silbiee said.

@anonymous1414 said: "As a trans woman I have so much admiration and respect for Rihanna. She worded all of that so perfectly and respectful and kind. She's a true angel.” 


Dazed’s LGBT editor Shon Faye also wrote on Twitter: “It reads as a positive recognition that trans tokenism – in fashion and beauty – can be rife. This can make people look good, but its not the same as meaningful commercial relationships where trans women are integrated properly (and paid).”

Others who responded did emphasise that positive representation is important to creating a more inclusive industry. 

Earlier this year, Munroe Bergdorf, a model, activist and DJ who is trans, was fired from L’Oreal Paris’ beauty campaign after she spoke out about racism, white privilege and the Charlottesville protest where one woman died. Bergdorf faced a torrent of transphobic and racist abuse. Since then, she has starred in a campaign for beauty brand Illamasqua and Missguided.

The beauty industry has seen some positive attitudes towards diversity emerge particularly this year: Covergirl announced its 69-year-old ambassador Maye Musk, and Glossier unveiled a ‘Body Hero’ campaign that championed a range of body types. Sephora also cast a campaign from its own store consultants.