The locked-down show, which will air on Amazon Prime later this month, could have also been Rihanna’s audition for the freshly open national security adviser gig. All guests were required to show a photo ID upon entrance, photography was strictly forbidden, with attendees even having to keep their phones in sealed cases for the entire event.
There would be no leaks in Fenty-land, which began with an experiment resembling Lord of the Flies, where desperate influencers were left with nothing to do with their hands.
Things were more casual last year, when Rihanna enlisted a diverse cast to strut their stuff at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (The model Slick Woods, who walked at nine months pregnant, went into labor shortly after leaving the runway.)
This time around, Amazon ran a tight ship for Rihanna’s fans, the so-called Navy. From the show’s announcement, which came by surprise tweet last month, the Fenty extravaganza was seen in strong contrast against Victoria’s Secret annual show.
The latter, perennially controversial affair faced renewed contention this past year after former CMO Ed Razek made anti-trans comments to Vogue in November. (CEO Leslie Wexner’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein did not help the brand’s image.) As a result, the future of 2019’s televised VS show is in flux; enter Fenty.
Before the show started, A-list guests began to trickle in. Country singer Kacey Musgraves fretted over her too-loose waistband in front of a full-length mirror in the women’s room. Anna Wintour arrived, minus her ubiquitous sunglasses, as the lights in the stadium were too low for eyewear.
Ashley Graham, James Charles, and Paris Hilton were spotted, as well as Normani, Joan Smalls, Vanessa Hudgens, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Lisa Rinna and her daughters Delilah Belle and Amelia Gray.
The show was held on a piazza-like stage with winding staircases and arched windows seemingly made for dancers to high-kick through. It started with a chorus of women of all sizes performing choreography by Parris Goebel.
Rihanna was among them, thrusting her hips and flexing her wrists like a sexy flamingo. Unlike the Victoria’s Secret show, where models channel innocent “Angels,” the Fenty women looked like praying mantises who devour their mates during sex. Every gyration or back arch seemed to say, “Take your male gaze and shove it.” Sensuality did not equal softness.
In between the rousing routines were walks from the likes of Gigi and Bella Hadid, Slick Woods, Cara Delevingne, and Laverne Cox. More exciting were the non-famous faces of varying sizes, ethnicities, and abilities. It seemed the only requirement for casting in the show was the ability to twerk with abandon and attitude.
There were performances from Halsey, Big Sean, Migos, and Tierra Whack. DJ Khaled, a man who proudly admits he “never” goes down on women, screamed his name into a microphone over and over again, as he is known to do.
These numbers were performed to a camera crew that gamely hopped around the stage after them, which made for a somewhat clunky watch from the risers. Hopefully those viewing from home will feel as if they are up close, seeing the show from inside.
Rihanna made a final sweep at the end in an off-the-shoulder black leather gown, waving to everyone as her dancers took their bows. Then, as ferociously as it started, the stage went black and everyone rushed out to grab their phones. It was over—at least until Sept. 20, when the whole shebang drops on Amazon Prime.