On his latest album DAMN., Kendrick Lamar claims to have royalty inside his DNA. But K.Dot is the one bending the knee in the recently released music video for “Loyalty,” where Rihanna steals all the focus. It’s not the least bit surprising, since Rihanna has done nothing but steal focus these past few months—from her scene-stealing turn in the messy blockbuster Valerian to her enchanting presence in DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” to the pool romp with a hunky billionaire seen ‘round the world. This is the summer of Rihanna and we’re all fortunate enough to experience it.
When did Rihanna claim the summer? It’s hard to tell, since she’s never truly stopped slaying. But if I were to pinpoint the moment it became hers and hers alone it would be this year’s Met Gala. Strutting her stuff in Comme des Garçons, Rihanna was not only one of the evening’s standouts—she shut the entire damn carpet down. The layered fabric and bright colors presented Rihanna as an ethereal beauty. She’d avoided the Met Gala the previous year so anticipation was sky-high, and as always, she didn’t disappoint.
Coming off the successful Anti World Tour, Rihanna wasn’t ever going to release a new album this year. But she did opt to flex her acting abilities in Valerian and the final season of television series Bates Motel. In a role that could’ve proved catastrophic with anyone else in it (a singing sex slave? Um, ok), Rihanna brought a certain joie de vivre, delivering an unabashedly fun turn that this summer has been otherwise lacking—one that made you wish any of the stiff leads had been replaced by RiRi instead of relegating her to twenty minutes of a two-and-a-half-hour film.
Then there’s Bates Motel, which saw Rihanna reimagine one of the most iconic roles in the history of cinema: Marion Crane, the soggy stabbing victim portrayed by Janet Leigh in Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho. Remixing things for a modern audience, Marion wasn’t some damsel in distress who gets killed off in the first act. Rather, she hightails it the fuck out of Bates Motel with the money she stole and starts a new life.
If anything, breathing new life into the familiar has been the theme of Rihanna’s summer. Not only did she make the Met Gala refreshing by actually showing up on theme, turn in an amazing performance in an otherwise uneventful sci-fi epic, and reinvent Psycho’s famous shower scene—she also took a 1999 Santana single and made it the song of the summer. Talk about “Despacito’s” shattered records all you want, but there’s absolutely nothing more enchanting than Rihanna intoning “wild, wild, wild” over a sample of “Maria Maria.”
Its music video, meanwhile, is a lush, sexy celebration of the pop queen herself. Though produced by DJ Khaled with a guest appearance from Bryson Tiller, you don’t even notice them when the song comes on in the club; and she’s the music video’s main attraction too, hauntingly writhing in a decaying hotel room like some La Llorona who refuses to shed any more tears. Rihanna’s appearance in “Loyalty” is similarly uncompromising. She’s a Bonnie Parker, a Nancy Spungen, a Foxy Brown to Lamar’s gangster persona, and while there’s some business with him being attacked by his enemies and plenty of nods to Hong Kong crime films, it’s Rihanna who commands your attention.
Rihanna has not only captivated through music and film, she’s also done so politically, drawing comparisons to Princess Diana. After all, she does appear in the HBO documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy running a World AIDS Day event alongside Prince Harry, and has even been spotted rocking shirts featuring the late Lady Di. When it comes to inspiring millions with their beauty and fashion while also making the world a better place, she couldn’t have picked a better icon to emulate. She recently paid a visit to French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris where, dressed in head-to-toe Dior, she discussed improving education worldwide for impoverished children.
Rihanna told ABC News of the meeting: “I just had the most incredible meeting with the President and the First Lady. They were incredibly welcoming to us, we focused on the topic of education from global aspects and we’re going to make a very big announcement this coming September. We are going on to do even more work this October in Africa. I was so inspired and impressed with his leadership. I can’t wait for you guys to hear where this is going to go, but I think this is the year for education.”
It should come as little surprise, then, that Rihanna was named Humanitarian of the Year by Harvard University. She’s more than a pop star—she’s poised, captivating, and uses her celebrity to make the world a better place. Diana would be proud.