There’s ridiculous, and then there’s patently absurd — and this one falls into the latter category. Pop star Rihanna is being busted for her thin new eyebrow style in a Marie Claire opinion piece, published last week, that accuses the star of cultural appropriation.
“I got my eyebrows threaded for the first time when I was 12 years old,” says writer Krystyna Chávez in her Marie Claire article. “As I walked out of the salon, admiring my new skinny brows, my mother stared at me: ‘They gave you chola brows!’ she gasped, horrified, before immediately making me swear to never thread them that thin again.”
Chávez added that back when she was a kid in predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American Los Angeles, pencil-thin brows were seen as a mark of a gang affiliation, or a “chola” (a female gang member).
“Suddenly,” she wrote, “I was the 6th grader with a hugely polarizing gang sign on her face, a sign I had been raised to fiercely avoid — and have avoided ever since.”
She continues, “So when I saw Rihanna on the cover of British Vogue this week with a set of ultra-skinny brows, my immediate reaction was, ‘Wait, WTF? Why is Rihanna wearing chola brows?'”
Thin eyebrows were first introduced in the 1920s in the silent-film era, when stars like Clara Bow had very thin brows — it was thought this style gave the eyes more expression (see a video on the evolution of eyebrows at the bottom of this piece). Thin brows were also popular in the 1990s — check out how Madonna or any female star of that decade looked; their eyebrows were indeed very thin.
So did “cholas” steal, or “appropriate,” from these stylish predecessors?
“Considering it was highly unlikely that Rihanna had suddenly joined a gang,” Chávez’s article continued, “and seeing as the Caribbean singer wasn’t exactly raised on the streets of East L.A., my Mexican-American heart was deeply confused, and deeply annoyed.”
The author then admits her complaint is basically unfounded: “I understand that skinny brows were not created or exclusively owned by the Latinx community: They also have roots in South African culture, in Roaring Twenties fashion, in the Harlem Renaissance community, and I’m sure they can be found in many other subsections of the world, too,” she notes.
there's really discourse going on from non-black latinx's calling out rihanna's thin eyebrows as "problematic"? excuse me, i need to laugh
— gen, la papi chula (@genandjuice) August 3, 2018
One would think that settles the eyebrow issue, but, no, there’s more. The author then called the pop star out. “And I wanna say my girl RiRi didn’t know better, but this is her second time using chola style for fun — the first being her infamous chola Halloween costume in 2013, for which she painted a teardrop on her cheek, wrote ‘Thug Life’ on her knuckles, and wore an outfit of hoop earrings, low-slung khakis, a plaid shirt, and, of course drawn-on eyebrows,” Chávez wrote.
Artistry is only allowed, it seems, if it is politically correct — something that is coming back to bite stars such as Rihanna who like to push the envelope.
I hope the same nb latinxs complaining about Rihanna “appropriating” thin eyebrows also call out their fellow nb Latinxs when they say the n word. pic.twitter.com/pUualMGKst
— La Jodona Suprema (@lareinanegraa) August 3, 2018
“And though I know the cultural appropriation of chola style has been going on for years (see: Nicki Minaj and Gwen Stefani),” noted the author in Marie Claire, “the recent iteration of it has been dressed up in designer clothes, prompting the internet at large to ignore its complicated history and instead ask, ‘Are skinny brows back?'”
Then comes the chip on the author’s shoulder: “As a minority, I know I’m always one step away from being judged negatively based on how I look … I know that if I stepped out with these brows tomorrow, I would face such intense [judgment] that would just feed into the negative stereotype many minorities work very hard to avoid.”
This author had a huge platform with a Marie Claire article — and she spent her time on eyebrows.
It’s enough to raise eyebrows of any shape, size or thickness — the things some people worry about, and are offended by, today.
Check out this video on, well, eyebrows: