Ruling over Ancient Egypt next to Pharaoh Akhenaten almost 3 500 years ago, Nefertiti is still one of the most beloved icons of the Middle East. Known for her unmatched beauty, the queen had a very active role in the country’s political sphere, giving mankind an early lesson in women empowerment. Although her death is still shrouded in mystery, Nefertiti’s myth took on a new dimension at the beginning of the 20th century, when German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt and his team discovered a painted limestone bust of the royal in Amarna. It was found in the ruins of the workshop of court sculptor Thutmose, and was described by Borchardt as “the most alive Egyptian artwork.”
Rihanna is one of many creatives – from fashion designers to performers – who continue to find inspiration in this figure, whose name means “a beautiful woman has come.” The entertainer and business mogul took her adoration a step further, when she had Nefertiti’s bust tattooed on her body. It follows then, that the ancient queen would also inspire Vogue Arabia’s November cover shoot with the star.
Extremely involved creatively in all her ventures – from multi award-winning albums to collaborations with Chopard and Puma – Rihanna felt at ease with the pharaonic concept, also proving – again – that she is one of fashion’s most adventurous risk-takers.
Arriving at our hotel suite in London to prepare for the shoot, the star looks cool and relaxed in her oversized Vetements blazer paired with shorts and sneakers. Her hair is long and straight, partially covered by a cap. Her nails are painted yellow, evoking the statement Guo Pei dress she wore to the 2015 Met Gala. She approaches the styling rail, where an embroidered Alexander McQueen gown is paired with a Prada hoodie and Balenciaga overcoat. “I love it,” she exclaims. And what about a Gucci colored python trench for the cover? “Perfect, I’m up for it. I’m a fashion girl.”
Much more than just a clotheshorse, Rihanna recently took the world by storm with her sharp business sense when she launched her makeup line, Fenty Beauty. Named after her surname (Robyn Rihanna Fenty), the collection is a celebration of diversity and the values the singer has always been vocal about. Ever since the release of her first single, “Pon de Replay” in 2005, the Barbadian star has shattered stereotypes, proving that not all entertainers need to be bubblegum blond. Now, it is Fenty Beauty doing the talk, being inclusive and celebrating all types of beauty. “I wanted things that girls of all skin tones could fall in love with,” she has said. “In every product, I was like, ‘There needs to be something for a dark-skinned girl, there needs to be something for the really pale girl.” The range of 91 products, including foundations, correctors, and glosses, is suitable for all skin tones, from dark to pale. It sold out instantly.
Back on set, the singer seems unstoppable, posing next to a metal Nefertiti bust created by British artist Damien Hirst for his latest Venice Biennale exhibition, using Rihanna’s features as inspiration. Taking it to the next level, she requests a piece of white fabric, wanting to partially wrap herself like a mummy. Instead of waiting for assistance, she uses her cellphone camera as a mirror, playing and making jokes with the team. When she claps eyes on the lens she looks ferocious, ready to continue her reign over contemporary pop culture. As she sings in “Consideration,” from her hit 2016 album Anti: “I got to do things my own way, darling.”
Hair: Yusef Williams
Makeup: Isamaya Ffrench
Nails: Jenny Longworth
Fashion Assistant: Caitlin Jones
Hair Assistant: Naphia White
Makeup Assistant: Porsche Poon
Production: Mad Productions with special thanks to ME London Hotel