Feminist writer and art historian Camille Paglia has dubbed pop superstar Rihanna as the “new Princess Diana,” due to her “ravishingly seductive flirtation” with the press, which Paglia says she has in common with the late royal.
In an editorial published in the Sunday Times magazine of London, Paglia suggests that the women’s lives parallel one another, from their humble upbringings, to their lavish lifestyles, to their tumultuous relationships.
“Not since Diana rocketed from a shy, plump kindergarten aide to a lean, mean fashion machine has there been such a ravishingly seductive flirtation with the world press,” she wrote of Rihanna.
“Like Diana, Rihanna has worryingly drifted into using photo ops to send messages of allure.”
Paglia notes that Rihanna has gone so far as to now share her personal photos on various media as Twitter and Instagram, in addition to setting herself up for a continuous stream of photo opportunities with the paparazzi, similarly to how Diana seemed in love with the camera.
Describing Rihanna’s ‘impressive visual archive” as having “genuinely artistic atmospheric eroticism;” Paglia especially references one photo where Rihanna sits in front of a fireplace, completely naked from the waist down smoking and drinking, and with a fur blanket slung over her head, saying comparable images have “not been seen in decades.”
A similar artistry can be seen in the 1992 photo of Diana, as she sat in front of the Taj Mahal not long after her split with Prince Charles; Paglia compares the feeling of loneliness evoked from the photo to those taken of Rihanna in December as she vacationed in Barbados amid turmoil over her relationship with Chris Brown.
The author notes that both women were the victims of a “festering love triangle,” with Chris Brown, Rihanna’s recently reconciled partner having also dated model and designer Karrueche Tran, and Diana’s husband, Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla, who would become his wife after Diana’s death.
Both once obscure, and children from broken homes, Rihanna born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, hails from the island of Barbados, where she witnessed her father battle a crack cocaine addiction and abuse her mother. In 2003, she would meet music producer Evan Rogers, with whom she recorded a demo and then be signed to Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation and be thrust into international fame.
She would become infamous for the 2009 assault by Chris Brown. Now reconciled, Paglia suggests the singer in the “classic syndrome of the battered woman, still pities and hopes to change and save her abuser.”
Diana Frances Spencer was the youngest daughter of the then-Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, who would divorce when she was 6. She was a teacher for Young England Kindergarten in Pimlico before indulging in the glitz of being a princess.
During her time in the limelight, Diana would eagerly participate in photo opportunities, both staged and otherwise. It would be at the hands of paparazzi that she died in a car crash in 1997. She would have been 51 had she lived.
Paglia says in the lure of fame, both Rihanna and Diana had transformed themselves from “sensitive, wounded, but appealingly bubbly and good-natured provincial girls” into living sculptures for the lens.
Rihanna has notably commented on the editorial, sharing photos of the Sunday Times magazine cover as well as the Sunday Times newspaper on her Instagram.
“When your face is pic-stitched to Princess Diana's on the cover of The Sunday Times .... I mean ... #extraordinaRIHbehavior,” the singe captioned the magazine photo.
While she captioned the newspaper photo, “Just so happens I came home drunk to this in a pile of papers outside my hotel room! My lil Bajan behind, never thought these many people would even know my name, now it's next to Princess Diana's on the front of a newspaper! Life can be such a beautiful thing when you let it be #yourejealous :) .”
Fionna Agomuoh is a Technology Reporter for the International Business Times, a vegan foodie, and a lover of Electric Dance Music.