She’s one of the most successful singers in the world, with dozens of top-ten singles on her name and hundreds of millions of records sold worldwide. Apart from that, she has also ventured into acting, fashion, and cosmetics. Her cosmetics brand even made her the world’s richest female musician. But is Rihanna vegan?
No, Rihanna is not vegan. She eats meat and other animal products, and she wears fur and other animal materials. She also sells clothes made from animal materials through her fashion house. And although her cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty doesn’t test on animals, some of the cosmetics do contain animal ingredients.
Did Rihanna save a dog?
Before we address the ways in which Rihanna is not vegan, we should mention her positive interactions with animals.
Rihanna has had two dogs under her care. The first one was a dog named Oliver, who was by her side for quite some time, but appears to have been rehomed at some point. It’s unclear why or where to. Here’s a short video of Rihanna playing with him while he still lived with her:
The other one was a dog Rihanna reportedly found in the bathroom of a club in Hollywood and took home with her. Her friends posted videos on social media of her and the dog, whom she named Pepe, shortly after she got back home. Here’s one of those videos:
Pepe was still with her a week later, when she arrived in New York. But after that, he disappeared from the spotlight. We don’t have any more details, and it could have been a publicity stunt. But it’s possible that Pepe was actually abandoned in a club bathroom, and that Rihanna saved him and gave him to someone who would take better care of him.
How Rihanna accidentally saved a loris
Rihanna has posed with animals on various occasions, sometimes as part of professional shoots and sometimes for spontaneous snapshots. She seems to be unaware of the ways some of those animals ended up in captivity and the abuse inflicted on them, though. But one time, she accidentally saved a loris because of that.
Lorises are small primates who are endangered, in part because poachers hunt them down and sell them as pets. Often, the poachers kill the mother lorises and take their babies. In Thailand, keeping lorises in captivity is punishable by years of imprisonment.
But when Rihanna visited Thailand in 2013 and encountered two men with a captive loris, she simply took a selfie with the animal. She posted it on Instagram with the caption “Look who was talkin dirty to me! #Thailand #nightlife.”
Normally, selfies like this only raise demand for pet lorises. But, because Rihanna’s selfie reached so many people, the local police found out about it as well and they were able to find the loris and arrest the two men. Many news outlets reported on it, and in that way Rihanna’s selfie actually helped to raise awareness.
Unfortunately, that selfie was the exception. Rihanna’s photo of her feeding captive elephants that same night, posted with the caption “Got some new heauxz and they gotta eat! #PhuckIt #Phuket,” didn’t help to raise awareness of the lifelong abuse that’s often inflicted on captive elephants.
Why Rihanna still wears fur
Rihanna had a difficult childhood. Her father was a crack-cocaine addict who physically abused her mother. And because he spent so much money on his addiction, they barely had enough to eat at one point. When she was eight or nine, her parents separated, and after that her mom had to work so hard to provide for Rihanna and her siblings that she was rarely home. But, throughout her childhood, Rihanna had a “defense mechanism”:
“I grew up on a really small island, and I didn’t have a lot of access to fashion. But as far as I could remember, fashion has always been my defense mechanism. Even as a child, I remember thinking: ‘She could beat me, but she cannot beat my outfit.’ And to this day, I mean, that is how I think about it. I mean, I can compensate for all my weaknesses with my fashion.
“I think fashion has just been an outlet for me to express myself. To speak up. To say who I am. And to be very loud about it, at times. And I just like to have fun with it. Fashion is just a world of thrill. It’s exciting. There’s no rules. I mean, she [Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief] has tons of rules. Scratch that. Scratch that. There are rules, but rules are meant to be broken.”
This is why fashion is so important to Rihanna, why her fashion choices always stand out, and why she’s unwilling to put any restrictions on it. Unfortunately, it’s also why she continues to wear fur despite having been asked to stop many times.
Here’s a video from 2010 in which a fan politely asks her to consider going fur-free:
“Hi, I’m a big fan. But wearing fur represents abuse and violence, would you please consider going fur-free?” the fan asked as she was getting her book signed. Rihanna replied: “I will.”
And she may have considered it, but she didn’t go fur-free. She has actually worn fur on many occasions since then. In 2015, she even wore a fox fur dress that was so big that she couldn’t walk in it without help:
The dress weighed 55 pounds and had a fur-lined cape with a 16-foot train. Given that 15-40 foxes are killed to make just one regular size fox fur coat, the number of foxes killed for this dress might have been upwards of a hundred. And Rihanna only wore it for an hour.
In 2017, she posted a throwback video of her wearing that dress and a fan commented: “Not with fur! You don’t have to show us your richness wearing Animals Skin. Not proud.” Rihanna’s response was: “funny enough this didn’t cost me a cent… but continue,” a response which completely ignored the fan’s obvious concern for animals.
Many other fans have asked her to stop, she has also been the target of anti-fur protests, and animal rights organization PETA even sent her a faux-fur coat once. The coat was accompanied by a letter which highlighted the suffering of animals as well as the dangers to workers and the environment. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
“Every fur item causes a tremendous amount of pain and suffering to the foxes, minks, and coyotes who are beaten, electrocuted, gassed, and often skinned alive by the fur industry—and fur production takes a toll on humans as well. In the U.S. alone, fur farms are directly responsible for nearly 1,000 tons of [phosphorus] entering our rivers and streams each year, not to mention the toxic soup of chemicals used to keep animal skins from decomposing, which are hazardous to workers and the surrounding environment.”
Unfortunately, no one has succeeded at changing Rihanna’s mind yet. Hundreds of animals have been killed because she thinks she needs their fur to compensate for her weaknesses, but the irony is that she would be so much stronger if she didn’t wear it. Hopefully, she will realize that too at some point.
It’s not just fur
Although fur is the only animal material that Rihanna is regularly criticized for wearing, it’s not the only one for which animals are exploited and killed. This is the case for all animal materials, including leather, wool, and silk.
Fur gets the most attention because it’s often used decoratively and it still looks like it was taken from an animal, so it’s clear that animals died needlessly. But just because the needless suffering behind other animal materials is less visible doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Since we have fashionable alternatives that can compete in terms of functionality, we don’t need to use and kill animals for any material.
The number of animals killed for meat and other animal products far exceeds the number of animals killed for clothing. And, unfortunately, animal products have always been a part of Rihanna’s diet. Her personal chef, who has been working for Rihanna since 2013, even said that her curry chicken dish was the dish that landed her the job.
According to Rihanna, the most important ingredient in her chef’s cooking is not an animal product, though. It’s scotch bonnet pepper sauce. This is relevant because most people who think they would miss the taste of animal products if they were to give them up don’t realize how much of that taste comes from sauces and seasoning.
Rihanna often eats Caribbean dishes, but it’s not the chicken that makes a dish Caribbean. That same chicken could be used to make a European dish. It’s the sauces, the seasoning, and the other plant-based ingredients that turn it into a Caribbean dish. And you can make that same dish with a plant-based alternative to chicken.
Rihanna could prevent a lot of unnecessary suffering by switching to a plant-based diet. And it wouldn’t just be better for the animals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has stated that switching to a balanced plant-based diet can benefit our health as well. So far, Rihanna has never spoken about it, though. So, it’s unlikely that she has ever given it any thought.
Fashion house Fenty and Fenty Beauty
Rihanna founded a fashion house called Fenty and a cosmetics brand called Fenty Beauty. Her full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, and she’s using her last name to separate her business endeavors from her music.
Fenty is not a vegan fashion house. Like most fashion houses, Fenty has their share of clothes and accessories that are free from animal materials and can be considered vegan, but they also sell items that are made from animal materials.
Fenty Beauty has publicly stated that they never test on animals and don’t allow suppliers or affiliates to conduct animal testing on their behalf. However, it’s not a vegan brand because some products contain animal ingredients. As stated on their website: “A handful of our products may contain ingredients of animal origin, such as beeswax and carmine.” Carmine is red coloring that’s obtained by crushing bugs, in the cosmetics industry it’s often used in lipstick.
Rihanna on climate change
In 2012, Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her grandparents. One of the foundation’s goals was to help communities around the world recover from natural disasters. But, over time, they realized that disaster relief was too reactive. So, they decided to focus more on proactively preparing communities for natural disasters.
Justine Lucas, the foundation’s executive director, is especially focused on climate change. These are the questions she asks herself: “How can we play a role that moves the space into climate resiliency? Accepting that climate change is here, and it’s going to cause an increase in frequency and severity or natural disasters, how can we respond now—respond year-round, and invest in preparedness and resiliency efforts?”
Rihanna has also been asked personally about climate change. This was her response:
So, in her words, “climate change is a real issue” and “you’d be a fool to ignore that.” However, due to “challenges when it comes to our governments,” it’s difficult to address on a national level. But if you “just be proactive in your little, your little bit that you can do to help the world, your little bit of becoming green, just do that, and it will go a long way.”
Scientists have calculated that a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and more than half of those emissions come from animal products. So, if we want to do our little bit to become green, switching to plant-based products is one of the most effective steps we can take in our personal lives. Hopefully, Rihanna will take that step as well.
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