ESSENCE, the leading media, technology and commerce company serving Black women, kicks off 2021 with a stunning January + February cover art exclusive. Legendary artist Lorna Simpson collaborates with global fashion and beauty founder Robyn Rihanna Fenty, who recently launched Fenty Skin globally in stores in the U.S. and the U.K.
Their goal was to reinterpret the narrative of modern-day beauty in the gorgeous photographic cover collage, Of Earth & Sky, and in images comprising a 12-page portfolio feature inside the January + February issue. Over the past 15 years of her acclaimed three-decade career, Simpson has created collages that recontextualize images of Black women from vintage pages ofEbony and Jet magazines. Like all of Simpson’s celebrated works, these original pieces are more than what meets the eye.
Simpson channels Rihanna as her muse throughout the spectacular artistic rendering—reimagining the artist in a way that has neverbeenseen before. Rihanna looks ethereal in designer pieces including from her signature Savage X Fenty line as well as Prada, Givenchy, Hood by Air, Thelma West, Rick Owens and more.
“…I needed to create images of Rihanna to place within the environments of source materials from my archive,” said Simpson. “For the project to have the same kind of dramatic visual intensity as my collage work to date, I had to consider the atmosphere and lighting of specific source materials before arriving to set. Knowing Rihanna’s charisma and commanding presence, my effort was then to be as present and prepared as possible to capture her exquisite performance for the camera…”
The package also features the piece, Anthems of Possibility, written by Simpson’s daughter, writer and actor Zora Simpson Casebere. She weighs in on how Rihanna helped shape her womanhood at an early age and how serving as a stand-in model on set for her mother was a full-circle moment.
“…At 13, I was deeply grateful that at a formative time in my life, it was Rihanna’s voice and art that became my portals to so many questions about sexuality, sexual exploration and sexual autonomy,” expressed Casebere. “Now, on set, I assisted my mother as a model as she explored how she might later place Rihanna within the visual contexts she’d selected from vintage Ebony magazines, old Associated Press photographs and 19th-century lithographs of mineral specimens.”
“When Rihanna arrived at the set—my first time seeing her in real life—I was mesmerized. She was the very definition of grace, charisma and influence,” continued Casebere. “Wearing a magnificent Maximilian black headdress, she requested the song ‘Thick’ by DJ Chose, then met the camera with power and possibility—power in how she moved her body through space, and possibility in how she dismantled and moved beyond institutional boundaries…”
The gorgeous issue will also pay homage to Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris’ historic win with reflections by five influential Black women: Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry, Karen Finney, Star Jones and Minyon Moore. In addition, the issue features an interview with Barack Obama talking about his new book and journey as the nation’s first Black president. Plus, iconic actress Cicely Tysonshares an eye-opening excerpt from her new memoir.
For more on this issue, visit ESSENCE.com or pick up the January + February 2021 issue on newsstands next week. (Photographic Collages, Lorna Simpson)
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Essence Communications is the number one media, technology and commerce company dedicated to Black women and inspires a global audience of more than 31 million through diverse storytelling and immersive original content. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, experiential and online, ESSENCE encompasses its signature magazine; digital, video and social platforms; television specials; books; as well as live events, including Black Women in Music, Black Women in Hollywood, Street Style and the ESSENCE Festival. Essence Communications is owned by Essence Ventures, an independent Black-owned, consumer technology company merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of color.