Rihanna covers the latest issue of the New York Times Style Magazine, and she dropped several gems. In addition to talking about love (she doesn’t have time to stroke men’s egos), her experience of being sent to America as a teen to pursue music (she wouldn’t do it to her daughter), and her need to Google random things like childbirth (she doesn’t want a stretched vajayjay), we also learn a lot about the woman who interviewed her, indie filmmaker Miranda July.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but lately writers seem to be inserting themselves into celebrity profiles quite a bit. Just last week, the New York Times‘ story on Nicki Minaj ended with the rapper cutting the interview short after she accused Vanessa Grigoriadis, the journalist, of being disrespectful, and Grigoriadis admitting, “Even though I had no intention of putting her down as a small-minded or silly woman, she was right to call me out.”
This time around July had a whole fangirl moment that–for me–felt a bit over the top and distracting.
But maybe that was the point. Perhaps the Times thought it would be cool to have an artist interview another artist and publish whatever was banging around in her head, but I seriously doubt most people cared July “dressed for Rihanna” or that Uber Black was the “highest level of Uber [she’s] ridden” in.
And yes, as a writer I know details matter, and setting the scene for the reader helps them visualize what they’re devouring while giving them more to enjoy. But I left this particular article wanting more Fenty and less of July.
For instance, when Rihanna recalls being sent to America as a teen, admitting, ‘That’s something I don’t think I could ever do. Send my only girl to another random country to live with people she’d just met,” July doesn’t ask what it felt like, or if she ever asked her mother about how she was able to let her baby go. Instead, we get a tidbit about a then-27-year-old July trying to figure out what to do with her life.
“It seemed like some part of Rihanna still couldn’t believe she’d gotten away with it,” July wrote. “I thought about being 27; at that age my mom was still hoping I might go back to college and get a real job.”
And when the subject turns to race, July asks Rihanna how it felt when she first immigrated to a country that’s consumed with race, then starts to apologize because “it seemed somehow wrong to speak of this; maybe she was postracial now.”
Still, Rihanna answers.
“You know, when I started to experience the difference — or even have my race be highlighted — it was mostly when I would do business deals,” she explained. “And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations.”
When Rihanna says “people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way,” July doesn’t follow-up to ask how Rihanna feels she’s packaged, what people think it means, or how she feels about it. July moves on to talk about souls and Rihanna being beyond conventional descriptions because she’s always changing.
July ends the profile by trying to explain to her husband and three-year-old why she loves Rihanna so. Of course, words escape her.
Before stepping inside my house, I lifted my blouse to my face; her perfume was still there. The problem with this kind of romance is that it all falls apart in the retelling. My husband and 3-year-old son tried but couldn’t really understand how overwhelming and profound my connection with Rihanna was. And I’ll admit that as the days go by, even I am beginning to doubt whether our time together meant quite as much to her as it did to me. It doesn’t matter. My heart still jumps every time I see her face.
While it’s clear July had some sort of magical experience during her two-hour chat with Rihanna, it would have been nice to hear less navel-glazing from the writer and more from the subject.
What did you think of Miranda July’s Rihanna profile?