Rihanna — sexy rude girl of sometimes bad decisions who sings the same song every time but I kind of like that one song, so why not? — was recently dismissed from her gig as a spokesceleb from oft-watery lotion brand Nivea.

Apparently she was “too sexy” even though for anyone who’s paid attention to Rihanna post-Pon de Replay, “too sexy” is kind of her whole thing. And in a world where sex is used to sell everything — from Just For Men hair coloring to gym memberships to auto parts — what’s the deal here?

Well, let me break it down.

Often, being a black woman often means either:

  1. Spending an inordinate amount of your life exhibiting an insane degree of self-control and emotional-detachment so that you can chase an ever-moving narrow target that there is no guarantee you will ever hit. Or …
  2. Screw this. I’m grown. I do what I want.

I often fall in the “B” column, typically because that narrow, ever-moving target is also known as the “Impossible Standard,” that thing that tells women — and is a double-whammy if you’re a minority — that you can’t just be smart or pretty, you need to be a drop dead gorgeous rocket scientist billionaire with a Wilhelmina modeling contract married to Barack Obama, baking the perfect peach cobbler, then eating that cobbler, but never gaining weight because you don’t exist, but if you did, OMG, everyone would love you.

Until they just found some pointless flaw and flogged you for it anyway. Which brings me to my real point — pop singer Rihanna (and to a lesser extent, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, but more on her later).

The target is the problem.

To even be considered as a spokescritter for Nivea in the first place Rihanna had to be famous (check), attractive (check), have half-way decent looking skin (check), get the publicity (double-check) and have an audience with money to blow on lotion (since Rihanna has a “Navy” I’m going to mark this “check”). But all that aye-yi-yi comes attached to secret Chris Brown snogging and coochie patting dances. Even though they hired her when all those things were already part of the Rihanna brand, they still signed her to represent them.

Then they hired a new CEO, and it was like he turned on the TV for the first time in five years, found the video for “S&M,”  found the nearest old lady, clutched her pearls, then fainted.

From The Associated Press:

But Stefan Heidenreich, the new CEO of Nivea’s parent company Beiersdorf told German newspaper Welt: “Rihanna is a no go.

“I do not understand how to bring the core brand of Nivea in conjunction with Rihanna.”

He added: “Nivea is a company which stands for trust, family and reliability.”

Rihanna, 24, is known for her raunchy songs and performances, her hard partying lifestyle and her love of posting pictures of herself in next to nothing on her Twitter page.

But back before the CEO change, Nivea used Rihanna’s “California King Bed” track in their commercials — a song about missing touching your significant other playing in the background of people touching babies’ feet and such.

Rihanna (obviously) is solidly in the “B”  column of “Screw this. I do what I want,” as evidenced by her likeable joie de vivre and famous penchant for bad ideas, so it’s highly unlikely she even realizes she was fired by Nivea, which is possibly for the best.

But just for confirmation, this was her most recent Tweet around the time I wrote this post:


Which brings us to Gabby Douglas, who recently caught a lot of flack for breaking records while not looking “perfect” in the eyes of people who never have their eye anywhere near the prize. These are the sort of folks who upon you announcing that you just graduated Magna Cum Laude from Cornell after saving a bus load of small children and puppies from a bus crash ask you “but what was your hair laid like?”

All the gymnasts — all of them — on Team USA and on the other teams have pretty boring, awful hair. But boring, awful hair is the price you pay to be able to compete at this high level of gymnastics. It’s like “My hair or excelling at something I love and being part of history,” and like anyone she was like “Wait? I have hair? I was too busy winning to notice.” But when it comes to women trying to find the sweet spot of perfection in the “hot, not hot, too hot” moving target — you always lose. Even people who should know better, who can see the truth of our world will still backslide and find themselves trying to reinforce this standard on women that says, “FOOT ON YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS, BE HOT FOR ME! But … um, don’t be too hot, or you can’t sell our over-priced anti-cellulite cream.”

Join me over at Column B, Gabby. Rihanna’s already there with the Don Julio. I brought the popcorn.

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