On the Internet, we are being told right and left that Rihanna is a role model for young women, the glib assumption being that she automatically agreed to don that mantle the moment she decided she wanted to be a successful recording artist. An ABC News website report called ''Rihanna: Role Model No More?'' quotes a 15-year-old girl as saying that Rihanna is ''not sending the right message to kids.'' Fox News also labels her a role model and says she deserves to lose her career if she doesn't do all she can to put Brown behind bars.
The thing is, Rihanna is a role model, whether anyone likes it or not. She's not a role model because ABC or Fox calls her one, she's a role model because young women look up to her. She has loads of fans. They see her in TV commercials, videos, and on magazine covers. We know that in a recent poll, when asked for their top career choices, 32% of teenage girls chose "model." Actress was a close second at 29%; and 20% wanted to be musicians. Many young girls want to be famous, and they follow the lives of famous women very closely — especially someone like Rihanna, who, at 21, is young herself.
If we really think that being famous now automatically qualifies you as someone whose example should be imitated and followed by young people, then that can only mean we now believe that fame in itself represents a form of moral superiority. Or perhaps we're all just looking for new ways to beat up Rihanna and get away with it.
But it isn't just that Rihanna is famous — it's the package: Youth, beauty, haircut, radio hits, magazine covers, famous boyfriend — that makes Rihanna attractive to young people, who see her and think, "I want that." Moral superiority never comes into play.
While there's no doubt that young people use their parents, teachers and relatives as role models as well, they definitely look up to celebrities. But they're quick to be disappointed when celebs let them down. Revlon knows this, which is why they're curious as to whether or not Rihanna has damaged Cover Girl's brand image. The two cosmetics companies are competitors (a point many commenters missed when we posted about it earlier), and Revlon is probably secretly hoping that people will see Rihanna's Cover Girl ads and not want to buy what she is selling. Rihanna was chosen to be a Cover Girl model because she had a gorgeous face, a bright future and young girls loved her. She became not only a role model but a literal model, and her face is in living rooms all over this country. Isn't it like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker: With great power comes great responsibility? Isn't Rihanna a role model? Or, do we treat her like we did Britney, Lindsay and Paris: Now that we don't like what she's done, we must tear her down, and declare her not that important to begin with?