Why Tyler Perry And Rihanna Are Making History

The entertainment industry and the fashion industry have long been places where representation for black people was very limited. Often, those in either industry were not on an even playing field with everyone else they were competing against and working with. Black models had to deal with foundations and makeup that were unfit for their complexion, with hair stylists that did not know how to work with natural hair, and with industry leaders that refused to acknowledge the worth of black models. 

Black designers who wanted to use their art to reflect the real life struggles of African Americans were often blacklisted, even Pyer Moss, one of the industry’s top black-owned fashion brands, was once avoided by many top journalists because the conversations the brand would create around their show was seen as not relevant in fashion. Of course, fashion brands have always profited majorly from black culture, but have continuously made mistakes like H&M's monkey sweatshirt and Gucci’s blackface sweater. It’s a wonder how for a long time, black artists in the fashion industry have largely been disrespected by the industry they helped influence. 

For a long time, the entertainment industry, specifically the television and movie market, profited largely off of excluding African Americans from high profile films and television shows. If they were included, they were often given minor roles with little significance or roles that often played on negative stereotypes, sometimes even both. Black directors had to battle the barriers that white industry leaders created, often having to avoid the topic of race or misogyny if they wanted to keep their careers. Like the fashion industry, black artists in this field were subjected to different regulations and restrictions than others, and for a long time, there were no black filmmakers or actors as one of the faces of success for the film/television industry, despite the many that existed.

Fast forward to 2019, and I think we can acknowledge that there has been an immense improvement in both the entertainment industry and the fashion industry. Two people who have been in the forefront of innovation and trendsetting when it comes to fashion and entertainment are Tyler Perry and Rihanna. It truly is amazing what these two have done in terms of creating representation for people of color and for being their own bosses in their respective careers.

Tyler Perry is an actor, writer, producer, and director most known for his role as Madea, creating numerous movies and stage plays surrounding her life. He is also credited for creating multiple scripted series in partnership with Oprah Winfrey and her television network OWN. He is credited with creating OWN’s most successful scripted show, The Haves and the Have Nots, which gave OWN its highest ratings in 2014. Recently, Tyler Perry has made history for opening Tyler Perry Studios, the largest film production studio in the U.S in Atlanta, Georgia, and becoming the first African American to own a major film production studio. He named all the soundstages of Tyler Perry Studios after African American innovators who have inspired Tyler Perry, such as Spike Lee, Will Smith, Oprah, Denzel Washington, and Cicely Tyson. Tyler Perry is proof that with persistence and humility you can achieve anything, even when no one before you who even looks remotely like you, has achieved something once thought as unattainable.

Rihanna, the musical queen that she is, has continued to prove that everything she touches turns to gold. Even though she was originally known for her place in mainstream music, she has become a leader in makeup and fashion. Fenty Beauty became popular when it advertised being a brand that would focus on inclusivity “across all skin tones and gender” with their foundation releasing 40 shades upon release. For a long time, foundation lines did a pretty bad job at creating darker shades with varying undertones. Black and brown women were subjected to the last three shades of a line, or having to mix foundation colors in hopes they would create their match. When Fenty released the Pro Filt’R foundation, it was like a dream, and it proved highly profitable for Fenty. After Fenty’s initial release and then followed success, makeup industry insiders and consumers alike credited Rihanna and Fenty for the wave of inclusivity that followed after the Pro Filt’R foundation was released. Rihanna was able to fix the noticeable difference in shade ranges available between black women and other women. It created the conversation of why makeup brands were so reluctant to include black women when marketing to an audience, and why brands only started to become more “woke” after they witnessed the overnight success of Fenty. Rihanna also released Savage X Fenty, a lingerie brand most known for their diversity in 2018, using plus size models on both the brand’s site and fashion show. In May of 2019, Fenty was released in partnership with the luxury fashion group LVMH, resulting in Rihanna being the first woman to achieve this. In 2019, it was announced that Rihanna is the richest woman in music, with a net worth of $600 million, with a large amount of her net worth coming from her work with Fenty Beauty. 



Both Tyler Perry and Rihanna are amazing artists who have done an immense amount of work so that black people can have visibility in such big industries. Despite being celebrities who have done something no one before them has done, its important to recognize that more than the gift of money or influence, Tyler Perry and Rihanna saw their projects as a way to create spaces for African Americans to exist in powerful leadership positions in mainstream media and business.     


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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10