In an advertisement for her perfume, Rihanna is portrayed as exotic, feminine, and innocent, but also seductive and rebellious. Present in the background is the romantic stranger, as described in Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4. While the advertisement seems to be an innocent girl turning dark, chasing a man, there are several other messages that this advertisement conveys.
This advertisement plays into Kilbourne’s arguments that women of color are mostly portrayed in an exotic sense and are more attractive if they approximate white beauty. Rihanna’s light skin, her hair resembles European hair, and her body type categorizes her visually away from a typical woman of color and more towards a white woman. Even with these modifications, Rihanna is still made exotic with her pink moving nest of feathers.
Rihanna’s clothing suggests that women all have a darker alter ego that appears in the presence of a romantic stranger. Before stepping through the mirror, she wears a light pink dress, tight fitting and low cut. After she emerges through the mirror, she is dressed in the same dress, only in black. Her skin tone darkens a bit, along with the background. This change of color seems to imply that being protected and innocent is good, and that leaving the nest and chasing a man is bad. The text that appears when Rihanna passes through the mirror, “bad feels so good,” puts a moral tint on the viewer, asserting that sexual desire for women is ‘bad,’ and that chasing the romantic stranger may end up in violence or danger for the woman, as Rihanna is blinded from behind by several pairs of hands over her eyes. Afterwards, the scene is rewound, Rihanna again passes through the mirror, and the line “good feels so bad” appears to reiterate the rebelliousness of women.