Rihanna’s Harper’s Bazaar Cover Photo and Cultural Appropriation, Chinese Netizens React

On July 10, Harper’s Bazaar China released its August 2019 cover featuring American pop singer Rihanna. On Bazaar’s Instagram account, it said “After four years, Rihanna is back to be out cover star and again shows when western style icon meets eastern aesthetic”.

With a delicate Chinese fan in her left hand and a bright red sash around her waist, Rihanna was once again in the spotlight. This time, however, her outfit sparked a debate on cultural appropriation–the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture–on social media in both China and abroad.

As always, online reactions were split. On Sina Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging platform, the majority of comments on Harper’s Bazaar cover were positive. “No wonder she is the Queen of Shandong (province),” one user wrote, using a nickname Chinese fans have given Rihanna. “She is a foreigner that is most suitable to the Chinese style.” “That’s very creative.” another user wrote.

Users on Twitter and Instagram, however, were not as positive. “Isn’t …. that … cultural appropriation ?!?!”A Twitter user asked. “If you wanted to create an Asian look why didn’t you invite Asian artists?” one Instagram user commented on Harper’s Bazaar’s post. “This is a total smack in the face to the Asian culture,” reads another comment.

Reactions by Chinese Netizens from Sina Weibo (translated):


I think that the traditional Chinese style is the most beautiful, and suits everyone, regardless of races and nationalities.


If it were in the Tang Dynasty(618-907 AD), she would be a beauty with exotic glamour.


RiRi is a real beauty.


Well done, Bazaar. This magazine is gonna sold out soon. I love Rihanna so much.


It’s awesome. Even a Chinese model may not necessarily hold this style. RiRi is indeed a great fashion model.


Although I didn’t appreciate the style of Tang Dynasty, RiRi is really beautiful. No rejections accepted.


How come that a foreigner understands traditional Chinese style so well!


I’m pleased and proud that more and more foreign models love traditional Chinese style.

Bangyou Xiang

Written by Bangyou Xiang

I'm Bangyou Xiang, a freelancer from Beijing, China. I earned a bachelor's degree in Chinese language and literature, and a master's degree in linguistics and applied linguistics. I like sharing my ideas on a variety of topics, such as language study, sports, education, fashion etc. Also, I'm an amateur marathon runner.

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