Rihanna is known for many things: Singing, dressing provocatively, designing terrible-looking clothes, rocking the hell out of a bikini. What she is not known for is her acting. Still, word on the street is that she's been cast to play Joséphine Baker in a new biopic.
Baker was a very complex and layered woman: Singer, actress, dancer, civil rights activist and spy for the French Resistance. While she may be remembered for her Banana Dance, she was deeply committed to human rights — refusing to perform for segregated audiences — and in 1963 she spoke at the March on Washington as the only official speaker who was a woman. She was married four times — the first time when she was 13 — and went on to adopt 12 orphans from various countries.
As Robyn Pennacchia writes for Death and Taxes,
Instead of flitting around and being a fabulous celebrity, Josephine Baker used her celebrity to help her new adopted country, and her ability to travel around, and hobnob with high ranking officials from Japan and Germany without looking suspect made her an ideal spy for the French Resistance. She would return with secrets printed on invisible ink on her sheet music.
She helped people who were in danger from the Nazis get the paperwork and VISAs they needed to get out. That is freaking amazing. For her service, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal.
Rihanna is definitely a skilled entertainer, but can she pull off portraying such a multifaceted icon? All we know of her acting ability are the one-liners she was given in Battleship (she literally just uttered one line in whatever scene she was in) and her sing-songy-comedic work in the "Shy Ronnie" skits on SNL. The upside, if there is any, is that she could draw in fans who know nothing about Joséphine Baker. But when you're talking about a woman of Baker's caliber, is using an untested actress worth the risk?