The last few days have been massive for our god and hero, Rihanna. After launching Fenty Beauty last week, she returned to NYFW to debut another Fenty x Puma collection, which delivered scuba and motocross-inspired vibes and cemented the singer/designer’s reputation as a risk-taking, interesting, creative, and unstoppable force. And no one is surprised.
In 2017, work ethic is social currency. We want to seem busy, to talk about everything we’re up to, and to paint ourselves as the hardest-working people on the planet. Which, like, fair: as everything else is crumbling down around us, work seems like the one thing we can still control. And if we can control our work, it means we can control our lives, which means we get to have a final say about who we are and the way people see us. Or so we tell ourselves. Because in reality, controlling our work means just that: we control our work. Everything else is too fluid.
I take solace in working a lot. Work’s seen me through happiness and joy and heartbreak and grief and anxiety. It’s a life raft I hold onto when it feels like everything else is too much or too big. It morphed from a source of stress to the thing I know I can use to process what I might not be able to face head on, and it’s my fastest route to feeling like I might have my shit together when I know I absolutely do not. But it also only evolved into that recently — particularly, when I stopped using everyone else’s accomplishments as a means of measuring my own.
Last week, Souzan Michael and I had a conversation about Fenty Beauty and why we loved Rihanna so much. And a big part of why we admired her approach to beauty, to music, and to fashion was her capacity to keep her eyes on her own paper; to take on her own projects because she wanted to do them and to take as long as she wanted to make sure they were done well.
Rihanna’s work is a reflection of the feeling and intent she pours into it, while serving as proof that she subscribes to her own ethos and not that of anybody else’s. You can see that in her makeup line (which is as inclusive as it is beautiful), you can hear it in her music, you can see it in her recent Puma collaboration, you can read it in her interviews. She’s evolved past the idea that work is to make one seem interesting, and treats it like an extension of self.
Which could be me projecting because, like you, I’m desperate to be Rihanna’s friend. But the thing is, when you look at a person who’s built their career into something they obviously seem so proud of and that reflects them so well, it’s hard not to assume that so much of it comes from their choice to do things their own way. And that means that work can still be currency if that’s your thing, but the best work comes from someone whose approach to it comes from their intent to fulfil their own visions and dreams, and not as an answer to the question “So what are you up to these days?”
Because using work as a means of seeming better than or more interesting will never, ever fill the void. It will not be solid enough for you to balance on when it feels like everything else has gone to shit, nor will it ever seem like enough compared to whoever it is you’re comparing it to. But keeping your eyes on your own paper? Deciding to work because you want to and it makes you happy and it gives you a semblance of control on your own terms? That’s how to build an empire. And regardless of how big or small you want it to be, it is unequivocally yours and exists because you decided it would. Which, if Rihanna is any testament, means you probably aren’t going to waste a lot of time talking or bragging about it since one day (suddenly) after years (and all of a sudden), it just is. And then, if you want, you’re onto the next.