It wasn’t the first time that a celebrity had orchestrated a public announcement of her pregnancy. Online chatterers likened the moment to Beyoncé’s bump unveiling (I’m sorry this language is all so revoltingly cutesy; we really need better pregnancy colloquialisms) at the Video Music Awards 12 years ago. In that moment, Beyoncé waited until the end of her televised performance to dramatically unbutton her sequined blazer. Then, she rubbed her belly for several second and smiled at the people around her.
Comparatively speaking That The announcement of her pregnancy was made. Beyoncé’s reveal was a definitive entrance to motherhood, an invitation for fans to celebrate her transformation. Rihanna’s reveal was less an announcement than an acknowledgment, almost a casual one. Viewers had to wait until the halftime show finished to receive definitive confirmation from Rihanna’s representatives that they’d even seen what they thought they’d seen.
It was seamlessly integrated into her performance, rather than being presented as a separate show. It conceded that, yes, something was happening inside this woman’s body — but meanwhile, when is the last time you listened to “B—- Better Have My Money”? The song is banging. Do you also remember that Rihanna is also an entrepreneur? She paused mid-set to make a compact using her own cosmetic line, and then powdered her nose. Her choreography was seductive and sensual, less maternal-madonna like Madonna-Madonna thanks to a few well-placed clutch grabs.
There’s a lot you could find inspiring about what Rihanna did on Sunday night. It was the singer’s first live performance in seven years. Rehearsals would have been punishing even for someone who wasn’t presumably trying to navigate them while clutching a first-trimester barf bag.
Rihanna was also performing as a pregnant woman and a mother. “When you become a mom, there’s something that just happens where you feel like you can take on the world, you can do anything,” she’d said in a media preview, speaking of her decision to accept the gig. This aspirational attitude is not common to all mothers. Many of them aren’t trying to conquer the world.
But what I found the most uplifting about Rihanna’s performance was this: The pregnancy was not the star of the show. Rihanna was the show’s star.
Review: Rihanna won big at the Super Bowl — and without losing her mystique
I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but we’ve been in a bit of hellscape for women this past year. The fall of Roe v. Wade pulled back the curtains on how many Americans view a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Double-dogged it to one another and proposed increasingly extreme antiabortion laws. The message was this: Pregnant mothers are first and foremost vessels for unborn foetuses; walking incubators, whose lives must be sublimated in order to live the lives they have created in their wombs.
Rihanna. Rihanna gyrating on a platform, Rihanna soaring over a stadium, Rihanna singing the hook from “S&M” while ensconced in some sort of vinyl-boobed chestplate and presiding over a phalanx of backup dancers. Can women really have it all? I don’t know — but if you’re Rihanna, you can have a deep back-catalogue of singable hits, and you can also casually touch your belly as if to say, Oh, and I’m working on this, too.
We need more of these. Not more Rihannas — there can be only one — but we need more examples of women living as full and complete human beings and who also happen to be pregnant. There are many examples of how pregnancy is part and parcel of a woman’s life, not vice versa.
After performing at the Super Bowl Rihanna announced that she was pregnant. But, she was also inspired by her own self-awareness, her own talent, and her own hard work during the performance.
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