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Rihanna's Fenty Beauty Launch Offered a Much-Needed Dose of Optimism, Inclusivity and Rihanna-ness

She made me feel hopeful about the future of the beauty industry — and the future in general! — at a time when that's no small feat.
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

If there's one group of people who's particularly jaded and can best be described as "over it," it's beauty editors during New York Fashion Week in 2017. With all of the complaining about (and complaining about complaining about) fashion week that goes on among the fashion set, it's easy to forget that it's the beauty editors who are shuffled like inexplicably balayage-d cattle from one holding area to the next, waiting for Pat McGrath or Guido to throw them that one pull quote backstage. 

Between being shoved out of the background of an influencer's Instagram photo, listening to Unnamed Beauty Pro wax poetic about the inspirations behind his culturally appropriative hairstyle, getting denied interviews from grouchy models or feeling constantly in the way of frazzled hair teams waving very hot tools around, there's a lot that can leave you feeling annoyed, exhausted and unwanted as a beauty editor during fashion week. (Meanwhile, Florida is facing the potential for its worst natural disaster in a quarter century, Trump's overturning DACA, white supremacists are having a new heyday and there's North Korea and Russia and "30 Rock" leaving Netflix to worry about.)

But then, there's Rihanna

The human ray of sunshine — dressed like a literal ray of sunshine in an all-gold custom Oscar de la Renta ensemble — saved beauty editors from New York Fashion Week on Thursday night. And what's more, she made me feel hopeful about the future of the beauty industry, and the future in general, at a time when that's no small feat.

Rihanna held the launch party for her Fenty Beauty makeup line in Brooklyn, inside a giant warehouse in the Navy Yards. That was how I came to breathe the same air as the icon herself. 

When she's standing right there in front of you, it's hard to really take that feeling in. It's not just that she's beautiful. And yes, she is very, very beautiful. Even next to some of the most beautiful women in the world — Halima Aden, Duckie Thot and Tracee Ellis Ross, all of whom were in attendance — Rihanna looks otherworldly. But it's her magnetism that's so remarkable. Even when you're right there next to her, it feels surreal, like perhaps she's just some sort of especially advanced hologram. As she circled the event and made a stop at the bar for a glass of champagne, she was followed closely by a flock of security guards, photographers, models, friends, family members, editors and fans that waxed and waned, but never diminished below a solid 25 or so.

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Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images 

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images 

Leave it to Rihanna to get the most randomly incredible mix of humans in one room. In addition to a sensorily overloaded crew of beauty editors, there were bloggers, vloggers and influencers aplenty. Jeffree Problematic Star was there, rendering many people confused, as were Manny MUA, Marianna Hewitt, Troy Surratt, Hung Vanngo, Jackie Aina and enough unidentifiable perfect makeup-havers to fill a Sephora store  10 times over.

As Rihanna floated about the room, she was one with her party guests. She snapped selfies with anyone who asked (I was too pathetically awed to make the move) and remained unfazed when people trampled the ample yellow train billowing behind her. "What does she smell like?" I asked a fellow editor, who — through sheer persistence and possibly a little bit of elbowing — managed to snap a selfie with her. "Sweet... gourmand," she said breathlessly, Rihanna's essence still lingering.

Photo: Kevin Mazur 

Photo: Kevin Mazur 

The woman of honor discussed the importance of creating an inclusive makeup collection, putting into words what so many beauty companies still need to hear: "It was really important for me in every product, I was like, there needs to be something for a dark skinned girl; there needs to be something for a really pale girl; there needs to be [something for someone] for someone in between. And there are so many different shades, there's red undertones, there's green undertones, there's blue undertones, there's pink undertones, there's yellow... You want people to appreciate the product and not feel like, 'Aw, that's cute, but it only looks good on her,'" she told Refinery29's Cat Quinn.

At one point, while I was waiting to have my foundation shade matched by one of the makeup artists on hand, I heard someone come through and announce to the makeup artist that "I have some of Rihanna's family members here — can you please make sure they get shade matched?" I turned to see who said family members were and found myself tearing up somewhat confusingly when I found it to be Rihanna's three-year-old cousin/niece Majesty, who is a noted beauty trendsetter. Rihanna invited a three-year-old to her launch party! And that three-year-old now lives in a world wherein inclusive, 40-shade foundation ranges exist and beauty campaigns featuring Rihanna and an actually diverse cast of models capture everyone's attention. In this moment, I can't imagine anything more beautiful than that. 

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