ESSENCE, the leading media, technology and commerce company serving Black women, kicks off 2021 with a stunning January + February cover art exclusive. Legendary artist Lorna Simpson collaborates with global fashion and beauty founder Robyn Rihanna Fenty (who recently launched Fenty Skin globally in stores in the U.S. and the U.K.) to reinterpret the narrative of modern-day beauty in the gorgeous photographic cover collage, Of Earth & Sky, and in images comprising a 12-page portfolio feature inside the January + February issue. Over the past 15 years of her acclaimed three-decade career, Simpson has created collages that recontextualize images of Black women from vintage pages of Ebony and Jet magazines. Like all of Simpson’s celebrated works, these original pieces are more than what meets the eye.
Simpson channels Rihanna as her muse throughout the spectacular artistic rendering—reimagining the artist in a way that has neverbeenseen before. Rihanna looks ethereal in designer piecesincluding from her signature Savage X Fenty line as well as Prada, Givenchy, Hood by Air, Thelma West, Rick Owens and more.Simpson states:“…I needed to create images of Rihanna to place within the environments of source materials from my archive. For the project to have the same kind of dramatic visual intensity as my collage work to date, I had to consider the atmosphere and lighting of specific source materials before arriving to set. Knowing Rihanna’s charisma and commanding presence, my effort was then to be as present and prepared as possible to capture her exquisite performance for the camera…”
The package also features the piece, Anthems of Possibility, written by Simpson’s daughter, writer and actor Zora Simpson Casebere. She weighs in on how Rihanna helped shape her womanhood at an early age and how serving as a stand-in model on set for her mother was a full-circle moment. She muses:“…At 13, I was deeply grateful that at a formative time in my life, it was Rihanna’s voice and art that became my portals to so many questions about sexuality, sexual exploration and sexual autonomy. Now, on set, I assisted my mother as a model as she explored how she might later place Rihanna within the visual contexts she’d selected from vintage Ebony magazines, old Associated Press photographs and 19th-century lithographs of mineral specimens. When Rihanna arrived at the set—my first time seeing her in real life—I was mesmerized. She was the very definition of grace, charisma and influence. Wearing a magnificent Maximilian black headdress, she requested the song ‘Thick’ by DJ Chose, then met the camera with power and possibility—power in how she moved her body through space, and possibility in how she dismantled and moved beyond institutional boundaries…”
The gorgeous issue will also pay homage to Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris’ historic win with reflections by five influential Black women: Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry, Karen Finney, Star Jones and Minyon Moore. In addition, the issue features an interview with Barack Obama talking about his new book and journey as the nation’s first Black president. Plus, iconic actress Cicely Tyson shares an eye-opening excerpt from her new memoir.
For more on this issue, visit ESSENCE.com or pick up the January + February 2021 issue on newsstands next week. (Photographic Collages, Lorna Simpson)