Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Mr. Abiy spearheaded a peace accord in his region and catalyzed reforms at home.

By Matina Stevis-Gridneff

Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, for his work in restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea, ending a long stalemate between the two countries.

Mr. Abiy, 43, broke through two decades of frozen conflict between his vast country, Africa’s second most populous, and Eritrea, its small and isolated neighbor. When he became prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018, he threw himself at a breakneck pace into reforms at home, and peace negotiations with the rebel-turned-dictator Isaias Afwerki, president of Eritrea.

The two nations share deep ethnic and cultural ties, but until July last year they had been locked into a state of neither peace nor war, a conflict that had separated families, complicated geopolitics and cost the lives of more than 80,000 people during two years of border violence.

In its official announcement, the Nobel Committee detailed a litany of accomplishments for Mr. Abiy in his first 100 days as prime minister: lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders suspected of corruption, and increasing the influence of women in political and community life.


“Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

But some of Mr. Abiy’s reforms at home, however positive on paper, have also unleashed forces that seem to be beyond his control.

Ethnic rivalries have flared in recent years and more than two million people have been internally displaced because of conflict.

“No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, acknowledged. “The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.”

The peace accord signed more than a year ago between Mr. Abiy and Mr. Isaias has only slowly translated into concrete steps to reconnect the two nations. Genuine change for Eritreans has been limited: They remain isolated and under Mr. Isaias’s iron fist despite the peace.

But the agreement has been held up as an example of how historic change can come about in even the oldest and most intractable conflicts. Diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have resumed, and the two leaders and senior officials from both nations have met frequently to discuss how to reconnect the two countries.

“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone,” Ms. Reiss-Andersen said as she announced the award on Friday. “When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries.”

Telecommunications between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been restored, allowing families that were split in the war to regain contact. In the days that followed this breakthrough, some Ethiopians called Eritrean numbers randomly, and vice versa, just to speak to someone on the other side, simply because they could. Others tracked down parents, siblings and friends.

When the first commercial Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, landed on July 18 last year, passengers stepping off the plane fell to their knees and kissed the ground. Two sisters separated from their father in the war, stuck on opposite sides of the border, embraced him for the first time after 20 years without him.

In an official statement, Mr. Abiy’s office called the award a “timeless testimony” to the ideals of “unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence that the prime minister has been consistently championing.”


“Today, as the world takes note and celebrates his achievements through bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize, we invite all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to continue standing on the side of peace,” the statement read.

Eritrea and Ethiopia were once one. After a dogged, three-decade war, Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia and gained independence in 1991. But fresh fighting soon followed, and by 1998 the two nations were locked in a conflict over a portion of their shared border. A United Nations-backed committee found in Eritrea’s favor, but its ruling was never implemented, and the state of war continued.

Mr. Isaias, the Eritrean president, used the dispute as a justification to suspend the Constitution in Eritrea and impose an unending state of emergency, allowing him to conscript a majority of the population into permanent, indefinite military service.

The policy, which is still in place despite the peace deal last year, has sparked one of the world’s largest and most prominent refugee movements, as Eritreans left their country in droves seeking asylum in Europe and North America.

Experts say that peace prize being awarded to Mr. Abiy will renew pressure on Mr. Isaias to finally lift the state of emergency and with it the policy of mandatory conscription.

“To see a fully fledged peace deal which has a meaningful impact on the lives of Eritreans, and also Ethiopians to a lesser degree, we need to see internal changes in Eritrea that bring a return to constitutional government and reflect the ending of hostilities with Ethiopia,” said Will Davidson, an expert with the research organization International Crisis Group.

Others, like Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean-Swedish activist, see the prize as merely legitimizing Mr. Isaias and his brutal rule without forcing him to change his policies at home.

“How do you award a peace prize without peace?” she said. “Do Eritreans have peace? No.”

“People are still fleeing, people are still hiring smugglers — we are watching things get worse, not better,” she added. “This is just legitimizing the dictatorship.”

Mr. Davidson said changes within Ethiopia also had a long way to go.

“There have been significant initial improvements in Ethiopia-Eritrea relations, but it is a work in progress, and there’s a lot of tough work to be done. We can say exactly the same for the internal Ethiopia situation,” Mr. Davidson said.

“Important anti-authoritarian steps have been taken and there are meaningful and genuine democratic aspirations,” he added. “But it’s still very much a work in progress, with arguably the hardest challenges lying ahead.”

Mr. Abiy rose to become prime minister of Ethiopia, which is on the ascent as a geopolitical and economic power in East Africa and more broadly on the continent, in April last year.

Ethiopia’s ruling party had long kept the country in a tight grip, allowing for very small democratic freedoms while using a powerful army to enforce its dogged vision of progress irrespective of dissent.

But in recent years, that grip began to slip, as marginalized ethnic groups rose up to claim economic power and freedoms. In a bid to survive, the ruling party in March 2018 put forward Mr. Abiy, who is a political insider but also young and of a mixed ethnic background, to lead the country.

Mr. Abiy has promised free elections next year, most likely in May.

“It is great that he won the prize when I think of what it means for the country,” said Tsege Afrassa, a masters student at Addis Ababa University.

“But he has a lot more to do to restore full peace in the country,” she added. “The prize brings more responsibility with it.”

Simon Marks and Megan Special contributed reporting.

By The New York Times


Rihanna Talks Fenty, That Long-Awaited Album, and President Trump

RIHANNA is ready. First she moved our interview from Thursday to Wednesday. Then from evening to afternoon. When I get word of this latest change, on a slick and humid August day in Los Angeles, I have just enough time to shower and get to the Hotel Bel-Air.

Waiting for Rihanna is practically a journalistic genre all its own. That the Barbadian superstar is now running ahead of schedule seems evidence of her new life as global fashion mogul. Only three and a half years have passed since she presented her first Fenty x Puma collection at New York Fashion Week, a vision of gothleisure delivered to a clamoring world (“if the Addams Family went to the gym” was how she put it). At the time, design was something she was trying on; over the following year, Puma’s profits rose by 92 percent.

Since then the 31-year-old has done nothing less than upend the beauty and lingerie industries. In 2017 Fenty Beauty introduced 40 shades of foundation in a business where a dozen was the norm—making a reported $100 million in the first 40 days and nearly $600 million in the first year. Dior, CoverGirl, and Revlon quickly followed, establishing a 40-shade standard now known as “the Fenty effect.” (Rihanna upped the ante again this summer with a hydrating foundation in 50 shades, writing on Instagram, “When the foundation takeova ain’t ova!”) In 2018 she unveiled Savage X Fenty, an intimates line available in many sizes and shades of “nude.” (The brand just secured a reported $50 million in new funding.)

Now Rihanna is reimagining fashion at the highest levels. Fenty maison, the Paris-based line she founded with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and announced this spring, makes Rihanna the first woman to create a brand for LVMH and the first black woman to lead a major luxury fashion house. According to Forbes, it has also made her the wealthiest female musician in the world.

At the Bel-Air, a hostess shows me to a small courtyard table tucked behind the trunk of a century-old sycamore. I’m sitting under its dappled canopy when Rihanna arrives. She sweeps in quietly, enveloping the area and probably the swans outside in an invisible cloud of her famous scent—an intoxicating olfactory assault that, in the words of Lil Nas X, “literally smells like heaven.” (The internet has decided it’s a Kilian fragrance called Love, Don’t Be Shy, which contains notes of neroli, orange blossom, and marshmallow.) We order Champagne.


It’s safe to assume Rihanna is wearing makeup—her own Killawatt highlighter and Stunna lip paint, perhaps—but I can’t say for sure, because her face is a radiant palette of natural tones. Her hair, dark and long, is pulled back in a half ponytail. I know from experience that a regular person can effectively black out in Rihanna’s presence, so insanely disarming is her charisma. (Even Seth Meyers runs this risk. “The two days I wish I could remember everything about are my wedding day,” he tells me. “And the day I spent day-drinking with Rihanna.”) So I make a point to write down what she’s wearing: denim blazer (Fenty), green slacks, strappy sandals (Bottega Veneta). In her right hand, the one with the henna-style tattoo, she is clutching futuristic masklike sunglasses whose lenses are glacier-blue (also Fenty).

Normally I bring a list of questions, but I didn’t have time to prepare one, which I make a split-second decision to confess. “I’m winging it, so you have to help me,” I say nervously. Rihanna flashes a grin that is somehow both reassuring and mischievous. “Aren’t we all?” she says.

RIHANNA’S VISION OF LUXURY fashion is something like Rihanna—aesthetically capricious, casually category-busting, impossibly cool. This is because she made a rule from the outset that she had to love and want to wear all of Fenty maison herself. The fashion, as she puts it, had to be honest. “I’m not the face of my brand, but I am the muse, and my DNA has to run all the way through it,” she says. “I don’t want anyone to pull up my website and think, Rihanna would never wear that.”

Most of the time, her website is the only place you can buy Fenty maison. (She has occasional pop-ups.) Rihanna decided to abandon the old luxury distribution model in favor of a Supreme-like “drop” strategy and direct-to-consumer online sales. This is because when Rihanna sees something she likes—which at the moment includes a lot of Balenciaga, which is getting on her nerves and giving her designer envy—she wants it now. Not in six months. Rihanna does not want to buy winter coats in August.

Fenty was different out of the gate. Its first collection, released in May, offered sculptural suits and minidresses with power shoulders and snatched waists—the work of a sure hand, rendered with Caribbean flair. But the clothes told a larger story, one that linked Afrocentric fashion, black nationalism, and the Caribbean diaspora—paying homage, in particular, to Kwame Brathwaite, the documentary photographer and pillar of midcentury Harlem’s Black Is Beautiful movement. Fenty posted original Brathwaite images on its website and social feeds—one showed three Grandassa models in front of a banner that said, buy black—and noted that the documentarian, born in Brooklyn to Bajan parents, shares a similar surname with Rihanna’s maternal family. (Brathwaite, now 81, gave Rihanna his blessing.)

The second drop, released in June (the drops are monthly, for the most part), continued these themes with lightweight, body-con skirts and dresses in tangerine and teal—all photographed by Rihanna herself. “Tie-and-dye” scarves and wraps came in bright island hues. Oversize T-shirts bore graphics from vintage postcards and tourist brochures once stocked in Barbados hotels. (THE HOTTEST WELCOME IN THE CARIBBEAN, one said.) A more traditional fashion house would’ve called this resortwear. Fenty described it as “intended for escape.”

The monthly releases are tonally idiosyncratic because—well, Rihanna’s style isn’t one thing. “It can be tomboy one day,” she explains. “It can be a gown the next. A skirt. A swimsuit.” If it all feels like an improvisation, that’s because Rihanna never planned any of this. Yes, she already had a relationship with LVMH. (Its beauty incubator, Kendo, backs Fenty Beauty.) But she never expected the chairman and chief executive, Bernard Arnault, to invite her to create a fashion house from scratch. “I just thought, Really? Is he sure? Like, now?” she remembers. “And then you’re left with this opportunity that’s a really big risk for everyone involved. But I’ve never been afraid to take risks. That’s the thing that got me out of my own way. I was like: You’ve never been afraid to do anything or try anything, regardless of the outcome. So I accepted, and we went full steam ahead.”


It took a year just to build the team (current head count: 44) and lay down the broad strokes. There were conceptual hurdles, such as: How do you translate Rihanna’s singularly diverse style into a coherent brand? A breakthrough came after a design meeting in Paris, says Jahleel Weaver, Fenty maison’s style director. Weaver recalls that he and Rihanna were having a postmortem when “really casually, not even making eye contact, she said, ‘It’s kind of all over the place. But I get it ’cause I’m all over the place.’ ” Something clicked. The design team had been trying to limit itself to one aspect of Rihanna—but there were so many Rihannas. “That’s exactly what we should be embracing,” Weaver recalls thinking. Every woman isn’t Rihanna, but many women relate to her all-over-the-place-ness. “She is fearless, but she is also a businesswoman. She’s a girlfriend. She’s a friend. She’s all of these things.”

If the cross-section of celebrities taking to Fenty means anything, the whimsy is working. Bella Hadid wore Fenty’s white denim corset dress and lime-green heels the day of the CFDA Awards. The Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor was spotted in Fenty’s oversize salmon-pink suit and matching fanny pack in Mumbai. Tracee Ellis Ross wore the same salmon power suit to a press appearance for ABC’s Mixed-ish, the new spinoff of Black-ish. (“It made me feel like a boss with a secret,” Ross says. “Powerful, luxurious, bold.”)

Fenty maison has been celebrated in Paris, where more women have ascended to top fashion posts of late. Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman to lead Christian Dior, says that Fenty is “proposing a new and extremely modern approach to contemporary fashion.” Rihanna’s decision to be her own muse, Chiuri adds, “speaks to the increasing need for women to be in charge of their appearance, their bodies, and their lives.”

All of this empire-building across industries and continents raises an obvious question: Does she still have time to record music? Rihanna hasn’t released a new album since Anti, her irreverent, digressive, and ultimately irresistible slow-burner—and that was nearly 44 months ago. “I have been trying to get back into the studio,” she says, sounding as close to sheepish as Rihanna is capable of sounding. “It’s not like I can lock myself in for an extended amount of time, like I had the luxury of doing before. I know I have some very unhappy fans who don’t understand the inside bits of how it works.”

She’s not kidding. Rihanna’s Navy—among the fiercest fan bases in the stan universe—has been known to respond to Rihanna’s beauty and fashion launches with a fleet of impatient, ornery comments. Occasionally, much to the delight of the internet, she claps back. One fan commented on a post about Fenty Beauty’s Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer: “Ok now can you please go back to singing.” Rihanna replied: “I love how y’all tell me what to do.” “Annoyed,” another fan wrote. “We want the album sis.” Rihanna: “Well this is bronzer.” (Rihanna then trolled the Navy with a T-shirt released in Fenty’s second drop—it had a dragon on the front and, on the back, the words NO MORE MUSIC.)

By “the album,” fans mean the reggae record Rihanna confirmed she was making more than a year ago: R9, as the Navy has labeled it. (It will be Rihanna’s ninth.) So, is R9 still a reggae album? “I like to look at it as a reggae-inspired or reggae-infused album,” Rihanna says. “It’s not gonna be typical of what you know as reggae. But you’re going to feel the elements in all of the tracks.” I ask why reggae feels right for this moment, and she says, “Reggae always feels right to me. It’s in my blood. It doesn’t matter how far or long removed I am from that culture, or my environment that I grew up in; it never leaves. It’s always the same high. Even though I’ve explored other genres of music, it was time to go back to something that I haven’t really homed in on completely for a body of work.”

When I ask about a release date, Rihanna’s face morphs into a grimace, equal parts amusement and terror. “No, oh my God, they’re gonna kill you for that!” she exclaims. “And they’re going to kill me more!” It is so strange to see @badgalriri exhibit any sort of emotion categorizable as fear that for a moment I have no clue who she’s talking about. Wait—Vogue? Your record company? The international reggae police? “I’m talking the Navy—my scary fans,” Rihanna clarifies. “But they’ve earned it,” she is quick to add. “They got me here.”

Does any part of Rihanna foresee a day when she might decide that, in fact, there will be no more music? “Oh, nooo,” she says. “Music is, like, speaking in code to the world, where they get it. It’s the weird language that connects me to them. Me the designer, me the woman who creates makeup and lingerie—it all started with music. It was my first pen pal–ship to the world. To cut that off is to cut my communication off. All of these other things flourish on top of that foundation.”

A FEW WEEKS LATER, Rihanna detonated at New York Fashion Week with a Savage X Fenty spectacular at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, an arena she last played during the Anti tour. The lights rose over a sparse set that resembled the Roman Colosseum as Rihanna stood statue-like on a pedestal in the middle of a reflecting pool, wearing a sheer black body stocking, a velvet miniskirt, and witchy heels. To an industrial remix of “Woo,” the menacing sixth track off Anti, she gyrated alongside 10 other dancers, then disappeared.

For the next 40 minutes, models and dancers strutted and twerked their way through a candy-colored lingerie extravaganza—part runway presentation, part music festival. Gigi Hadid sauntered out in a black bustier and veil as Big Sean performed “Clique,” followed by Bella Hadid, Cara Delevingne, A$AP Ferg, Migos, and DJ Khaled. Joan Smalls walked arm in arm with 21 Savage. Normani led a dance crew in a lip-emblazoned bra-and-panty set. When Laverne Cox performed high kicks in a neon-pink bodysuit, she drew an ecstatic standing ovation.

The show set a new bar for fashion spectacle. (Amazon later streamed it to more than 200 countries.) It also offered the most electric articulation of the Fenty ethos yet—an idea that has more to do with freedom than aspiration. Jennifer Rosales, who oversees Fenty’s beauty and lingerie operations, puts it this way: “She’s not telling everyone to be like her. She’s telling everyone, ‘You can feel this good too. You just gotta do you.’ ”


With Savage X Fenty, Rihanna hasn’t just proclaimed 42H bras and 3X undies sexy. She’s changed the idea of whom women should be wearing lingerie for (themselves). Likewise, Fenty Beauty didn’t just prove the existence of a massive, and massively ignored, market. It told women of all complexions that they, too, belonged in the category of beauty. That’s why Fenty’s social feeds were flooded with comments and queries from around the world. From Nigeria, from Malaysia, from Ecuador. “Finally a collection that has the chocolate of chocolate!” one woman wrote. A woman with albinism posted a photo of her face next to a bottle of fair foundation. “Rethinking all the times I ended up orange,” she wrote. “It’s a new world.”

Rihanna’s philanthropy is part of this new world, too. Both Savage X Fenty and Fenty Beauty support the Clara Lionel Foundation, the nonprofit she founded in 2012 (named after her late grandmother Clara Braithwaite, and her 90-year-old grandfather Lionel) to fund education and emergency--response programs, mostly in the Caribbean. Recently the foundation has added climate resilience to its priorities, with a focus on women’s health. When Rihanna’s foundation toured Puerto Rico a year after Hurricane Maria, they noticed health clinics were still closed. Unwanted pregnancies, pregnancy complications, and HIV rates spike after natural disasters. “So we’re taking a look at the harsh reality of what happens after these events,” explains Justine Lucas, the foundation’s executive director, “and thinking about how we can support women in a real, tangible way.”

In trying to describe the way Rihanna’s personality radiates, its global reach, the world tends to use the word real. Mary J. Blige, realest of the real, does too when I ask why she chose Rihanna to present her with BET’s lifetime-achievement award this year. “Rihanna is the truth,” Blige says. “Real and true to the game.” But for this chapter of Rihanna’s life, we may also need a new word for power.

There is real-world power, the kind sought and wielded by the sort of people Robert Caro studies. There is personal power, that admirable mix of self-knowledge, self-governance, and self-respect we call autonomy. And there is the more mysterious kind—the power to move masses, be it through spiritual teachings or a pop song on the order of “Like a Prayer.” But there is no term for when all three are rolled into one.

Blige comes closest, I think, when she tells me that Rihanna has a rare and special combination of courage, humility, and heart: “A lot of people have it, but a lot of people don’t have it. Rihanna has it.”

IF YOU'VE EVER WONDERED what @badgalriri’s childhood report cards looked like, you can soon seek answers in RIHANNA, a gigantic photo book due out from Phaidon this fall. Here’s an excerpt, which you should picture on mint-green paper, in the exemplary penmanship of Robyn Fenty’s grade school teacher back in St. Michael Parish:

Is sure of herself and displays a positive attitude. Is friendly and takes a leading role in group activities. Is very alert and observant of her environment. Expresses her ideas clearly and intelligently. Is very relaxed in acting out her ideas. Movement is well coordinated. Enjoys rhythms & singing. Is beginning to show shape and form in her drawing.

A few days later I drive to Venice and pick up the only two copies currently on the West Coast (one trade edition, one limited special edition), in an elaborate and stealthy hand-off of French Connection proportions. They are delivered in a black Range Rover by Jen O Hill, a friendly member of the Fenty team. O Hill started gathering photos for the project five years ago. She ended up with 400,000. Those were then edited down through a “very collaborative process,” says Keith Fox, head of Phaidon. “Rihanna touches every decision,” he says. “Layout, narrative, design, logo. She touches everything.” Together the volumes are so substantial that, stacked on the front seat of my car, they trigger the seat belt–warning system. I buckle them in.

The book is a rollicking and sumptuous autobiography, told largely with intimate images. Ephemera are woven in throughout, from early passports and a Barbie workout cassette to a handwritten note from the designer Jeremy Scott that says, “Congrats on making Paris your bitch!” The book unfolds in chronological order, but the structure is freewheeling and chapter-less, lending it an impressionistic quality: how a person might recall her own lived memories.

Back at the hotel, and still winging it, I’m recalling my memories of Rihanna’s social feeds from the past three years. Many of the greatest hits concern politics. When a journalist tweeted that Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” was blaring at a Trump rally last year, Rihanna replied, “Not for much longer. . . .” I especially relished her response when, under a post encouraging her followers to vote in the midterms, someone asked, “Are you even a US citizen? Honest curiosity.” Rihanna: “Nah I’m an immigrant tryna get yo country together. Did u vote?”

I ask Rihanna if we can discuss politics. “How deep you wanna get?” she says. “However deep you’re willing to go,” I say. She signals that I may proceed, and I ask if it’s true that she turned down the Super Bowl halftime show in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. “Absolutely,” she says. “I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”

The waitress reappears from behind the sycamore trunk and asks if we would like another round of Champagne. “We’re talking about politics now,” Rihanna says. “You might want to bring another one.”

I bring up something she posted after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Trump called the El Paso shooting “an act of cowardice” and said both were the result of a “mental illness problem.” Rihanna responded, “Um . . . Donald, you spelled terrorism wrong!” I ask Rihanna how she felt on the day after the back-to-back shootings.

“It is devastating,” she says. “People are being murdered by war weapons that they legally purchase. This is just not normal. That should never, ever be normal. And the fact that it’s classified as something different because of the color of their skin? It’s a slap in the face. It’s completely racist.” She goes on: “Put an Arab man with that same weapon in that same Walmart and there is no way that Trump would sit there and address it publicly as a mental health problem. The most mentally ill human being in America right now seems to be the president.”

Thinking of a certain T-shirt from Fenty’s second drop—it says IMMIGRANT across the back, and Rihanna wore it on the Fourth of July—I ask if she has anything to say to young immigrants living through this time.

“What do you say? What can you say? It’s gonna get better? I almost feel sick to my stomach. I don’t even believe this is happening in real life. In front of my eyes. In front of the world. It’s not even hidden. This is blatant. The worst part of it all—you know what, I have to show you this. . . .”

Rihanna cracks open her clutch, pulls out her phone, and plays a news clip. It’s the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, saying on CNN that Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty poem refers to “people coming from Europe.” She stops the video. “Think about this. What does America stand for? A bunch of immigrants.

The waitress returns and begins to refill our glasses. Evidently something is floating in Rihanna’s, because she quietly dips a superlong fingernail into it, fishes out the thing, and flicks it to the ground. I don’t know if it was a bug or a piece of sycamore bark, because Rihanna doesn’t complain.

“Is something in your glass?” the waitress asks.

“It’s cool. I’m not picky,” Rihanna says.

“Are you sure?”

“I so promise.”

We watch the clip to the end. “The fact that his defense was talking about Europeans coming into America?” Rihanna says. “I mean, not only were you immigrants, you were the worst kind. You came in and murdered the real Americans.”

I ask if it’s at all helpful to be living in London, outside the fray. (Relatively speaking.) “I don’t feel outside the fray,” Rihanna says. “When I see something happen to any woman, a woman of any minority, kids, black men being murdered in the streets—I can’t remove myself from that.”

What, if anything, makes Rihanna feel hopeful? “I feel like the darkness has actually forced people to find this light within them where they want to do better,” she says. “It’s easy when you think everything is going really well and perfect. When everything is flowers and butterflies and you’re in your own bubble and your own world. But to see it, to know it’s happening—it pushes you to want to be the light in the world.”

THE NIGHT BEFORE OUR INTERVIEW, Rihanna is spotted at a restaurant in Santa Monica with her mom and rumored boyfriend, the Saudi businessman Hassan Jameel. At one point I tell her I’ll need to ask about her personal life, a subject she generally avoids discussing. She responds with a smile: “What’s more personal than politics?” (Touché.) Okay, but is she dating? “Yeah, I’m dating,” she says. “I’m actually in an exclusive relationship for quite some time, and it’s going really well, so I’m happy.” (Yes, she wants kids. “Without a doubt.”)

Meanwhile her empire is on the rise. The Navy has sleuthed out news that she filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register Fenty Skin, sparking hope that a skin-care line is in the works. She also has a forthcoming collaboration with Lil Nas X. She can’t disclose details but says it “may not even be with music.” And there are signs R9 is nearly finished. (The week after we meet, one Robyn R. Fenty registers a new song called “Private Loving” to the music-rights organization BMI.) She’s already in the “discovery stage” for her 10th album, in fact. “We always went into the music this time around saying that we were going to do two different pieces of art,” she tells me. “One was gonna be inspired by the music that I grew up listening to. And one was gonna be the evolution of where I’m going next with music.”

Rihanna will spend most of the rest of the year in London, Paris, and L.A., where she keeps homes, or flying somewhere in between. “I’m definitely feeling a shift,” she says. “I’m growing up. There’s things that I’m paying attention to that I’ve never paid attention to.” Like what? “Like supplements. And working out. And hearing about my bones.” Even the words sound boring to Rihanna.

But first, she’ll host the Diamond Ball, her annual black-tie fundraiser for her foundation. It’s a drizzly September night, and a line has formed outside Cipriani Wall Street. Inside, wait staff circulate with Champagne cocktails and mini lamb chops. Among the guests gathered on a mezzanine floor is Mia Amor Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados. “She’s a global citizen with Bajan roots,” Mottley says when I ask her what Rihanna means to people in her home country. “She continues to make an impact not only through her music and entrepreneurship, but also in terms of helping ordinary people live better lives.”

Eventually guests find their seats in a vast sea of banquet tables, and as baked tagliardi Bolognese is served, the auction begins. Guests signal their bids with paddles bearing a childhood picture of Rihanna, braids spilling down one side of her face. Cardi B, perched at the head of one table in an explosive pale-pink confection, outbids the room (and at one point herself) by dropping $111,000 on a special edition of the Phaidon book that comes with a 2,000-pound marble stand made by the Haas Brothers. “First of all, the money is going to charity,” she tells me later. “Second, I know my business. I know the worth of the book!”

There is beef fillet and potato dauphinoise, then chocolate cake with Chantilly cream. Rihanna appears onstage in a black velvet turtleneck dress with a white mermaid tail—Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy—and introduces Mottley, one of the night’s honorees and “the first woman to ever be prime minister of Barbados.” Rihanna adds, “I’m also gonna guess that she’s the first prime minister to attend a 2 Chainz birthday party later tonight.” Mottley walks up, grinning. “I want to thank this young lady,” she says. “I was minister of education when she was at school. To know that she set her sights not just on a successful career, but on building an empire, gives me the greatest pride.”

More than $5 million is raised, all told. But the night isn’t over. Rihanna joins Pharrell Williams onstage and raps a few verses of “Lemon,” her 2017 hit with N.E.R.D., before a dance-floor scrum that includes A$AP Rocky and Megan Thee Stallion. She then sashays through the crowd to a table where her grandfather Lionel and mother, Monica Fenty, are swaying in their seats. She steals a covert snuggle from Jameel, who is looking tall, fresh-faced, and dashing in a sharp black tuxedo. It’s well past midnight when Rihanna and her entourage finally move toward the door, past a Fenty Beauty station and Savage lingerie display, and head into the muggy night.



When I grow up…  I want to be just like Justin Combs.
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Smart.  Creative.  Successful.  Kind. And the first in his family to graduate from college — just like how I’m going to be.

When Justin Combs came to my high school today in South Central Los Angeles, I was excited to hear what kind of advice he had for students of color similarly trying to make the most of themselves through education and a college degree.  To be honest, he blew me and my friends away.

Justin said that he went to UCLA to study Sociology and to keep his doors open for future business opportunities, up to and including becoming the next CEO of Combs Enterprises.  He told me and my friends that UCLA is an extremely diverse environment, and that sometimes it takes time to adjust to going to school with people who may not be from where your from, or talk how you talk, etc.  

This got me thinking about how big the world really is, and how growing up in South Central Los Angeles can sometimes be isolating in regards to gaining a full spectrum of experiences useful for college access, business success, networking, and beyond. 

That’s why I want to be like Justin.  By putting myself in an environment like a big University Campus, I can surround myself with other young scholars who are looking to level-up their social or economic standing like me.  And that’s also why I appreciate Justin coming to CATCH Prep today to speak with us.  

He didn’t have to come down here.  But he did it to lead by example. And I, for one, am ready to follow in his footsteps...



10 Questions for Justin Combs

1. What advice would you have for students of color, like me, getting ready to go to a university next fall?

2. I read somewhere that you’re the first in your family to graduate from college, what does that feel like that you’ve accomplished that goal.

3. Your degree from UCLA is in Sociology, is that the same as Psychology? What’s the difference?

4. Did you live on campus as a freshman? Did you have a car? What do you recommend first-year college students to do in terms of living situations?

5. CATCH is 100% Black and Latino, UCLA is 13% Black and 9% Latino. What kind of adjustments did you have to make to be successful in that kind of environment?

6. Do you have any advice for students who want to become entertainment entrepreneurs or own their business?

7. Lebron James says that he is “more than just an athlete.”  While your football career is well-documented,  when did you decide that you were “more than just an athlete?”  How did you make others see you as such?

8. What’s your favorite Bad Boy song, and why?

9. Being that your father is who he is, did you feel any pressure to follow in his footsteps and pick up a career in music?

10.   Who’s a better dancer – you or your father?


All the Best Looks from the Paris Spring 2020 Runways


Virginie Viard is looking to keep the house of Chanel young, fun, and steadfastly Parisian. With a set built to look like the iconic rooftops of Paris, the look was based on Nouvelle Vague or New Wave. Little hats, ultra feminine mini skirts, tweedy two piece suits with cropped pants, and some well-positioned denim brought the 50s look into the now. And plenty of logo dresses will please costumers who like to wear their Chanel loud and proud.


Clare Waight Keller was all about the mix for Spring, citing, “fractal symmetries drawn from the botanical world entwine with a tough urban energy. From the blossoms of old-world Paris to the raw denim spirit of New York City.” That translated to leather trenches, floral gowns, volume, and street vibes. Those street vibes were most apparent in 90s denim, washed and distressed shorts, wide two-tone jeans and column skirts, the result of upcycling.


Pierpaolo Piccioli has won over even the most cynical fashion hearts. Who doesn’t fall in love all over again over dramatic, clean, pretty white poplin dresses while Frank Ocean croons Moon River over the loudspeakers? There were also bold neon hues on familiar dramatic silhouettes, some purple sparkles, white feathers, a black shorts suit on Kaia Gerber, and an intricate white gown that illicted gasps.


Demna’s Spring collection was all about power dressing, regardless of whether you’re bringing that power to the office, your art studio, or the playground. Bold shoulders are still the focus—on mini skirt suits, statement furs, and vinyl trenches. A velvet voluminous gown section with removable crinolines were a crowd favorite. But the most impactful moment in the blue room waswhat the show notes call “wearable ballroom dresses... to be worn in any setting.” Don’t mind if we do.

Thom Browne



It was the hand-knit sweaters from his grandmother and mom that inspired Altuzarra for spring. The idea of family heirlooms and handmade treasures sent the designer exploring classic wardrobe pieces and knit crochet that could stand the test of time (and generation after generation). The crochet tops and dresses mimicked the bedspreads handmade by the designer’s grandmother. The shirt dresses were inspired by the striped shirts worn by Altuzarra’s father. His mother’s afghan doilies and granny-square blankets were reimagined as colorful sleeveless tops. Given fashion’s ongoing sustainability conversation, it was an important reminder that the truly special wardrobe pieces can (and should) be able to be passed down and treasured for generations to come.

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann has long mastered the art of androgynous style—and the designer’s Spring 2020 collection was no exception. The combined men and women’s show explored suiting (one of which was already worn by Timothy Chalamet), shorts, and red carpet-worthy gowns. The extreme cut-out tops and jackets sans anything underneath mirrored some of the more daring red carpet style as of late. But there were still more wearable pieces found in the blazers, leather pants, and polka dot dress that’s sure to be picked up as a fashion girl favorite come spring.


Nina Ricci



JW Anderson explored the ethereal side of his Loewe woman for Spring 2020, alluding to patrician elegance. Loewe's craft and construction is always at the focal-point of Anderson's collection, yet he creates pieces that real women want to wear. This season his nomadic woman gets in touch with a softer, romantic side, by way of guipure, chantily and marguerite lace in the form of sheer dresses with rectangular pannier skirts, a tunic and coordinating pants, as well as a babydoll gown.

Isabel Marant

Isabel Marant is bringing booty shorts back. For Spring 2020, the French designer looked to a colorful mix of ultra teeny, ultra short shorts, styled with a myriad of strong-shouldered jackets. The colors were bright—with a mix of stripes, florals, and muted tie-dye prints thrown in, too. But the key takeaway was an overarching ode to the no pants look. Whether done in booty shorts or ultra mini skirts, it seems like the early 2000s are itching their way back once again.


Virgil Abloh had to sit out his latest Off-White runway show due to health reasons, but his creative vision made him feel like he was there in spirit this season. Titled ‘Meteor Shower,’ the collection was quite literally inspired by just that—as evidenced by the large holes left in leather pants, tops, blazers, and even the brand’s newest bag. According to show notes, the cosmic theme was meant "to illustrate a woman’s power, to show that her spirit is indestructible by natural forces.”

Abloh’s signature streetwear pieces were still there (albeit with a few extra holes), but it was the hoop-embellished necklines, buttery leather separates, and colorful gowns (including a hot pink finale number worn by Bella Hadid) that stood out most.


Is there anyone fashion people love to reference more than the illusive boho Parisian girl? She's been on hiatus with the onset of streetwear and '80s power shoulders, but designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi brought her back today. The designer called the collection, "An essential manifesto for the Chloé woman: a fundamental vision of femininity anchored in reality." She wears suits with interesting, sexy tops underneath, floral bustiers, floral dresses with cool leather belts. Face it, she's cool, but she's not afraid to be feminine too.

Maison Margiela

Galliano is going back, way back—think two world wars ago—to garner inspiration for Spring 2020. There are references to Red Cross nurses, army jackets, his own take on camo, sailors and soldiers of the fashion kind. Is it a reminder of the worst times for men? A warning of where we could be headed? We can't be sure, but we do know the tailoring is done wonderfully.


Alessandro Dell’Acqua is back in the color game after a previous season of all-black looks. That meant explorations of red with burgundy, preppy pink with green, seafoam with black—and a reminder that sometimes an LBD is all a girl needs. Color seemed to be the main through line, though, on a generally haphazard look at a woman's wardrobe for the season.


Lanvin is officially back, spinning their own dreamworld to enchant us, and enchanting it was. As editors huddled under umbrella's for the outdoor show in the rain, models lightened the mood as they made their way down the runway in cheerful prints, yellow checkerboard, and rainbow block prints on clothes that evoked a certain jet set style of the 1950s. Creative Director Bruno Sialelli drew inspiration the Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip that began in 1905, and his childhood in the South of France, where nothing felt impossible. He noted Lee Radziwill and Babe Paley as inspirations. But it wasn't all about beach time, he also worked in more serious silhouettes like architecturally sculpted suits and accordion pleated tops and matching skirts.

Christian Dior

For Spring, Maria Grazia Chiuri kept it in the family—taking inspiration from the house's founder's sister, Catherine Dior. It's not a great leap, looking at the show, to realize she was an avid gardner and fiercely independent before it was fashionable to be so. Charming floral prints, feathered jackets, and houndstooth mini dresses, paired with little gardening hats, served as a reminder from Chiuri to create our own "inclusive garden" and re-establish a balance between humans and the planet.

Saint Laurent

Anthony Vaccarello is staying within the codes of Rive Gauche and its particular melding of masculine-feminine, making it just a little modern, but also embracing that '70s realness. It may sound like a mouthful, but it's really quite simple—short shorts, high boots, gilded party dresses, Le Smoking tuxes and jumpsuits. It's the things girls want to wear, with some great uses of that well-known logo. Thank god it hasn't been redone in upper case Didot.

Dries van Noten

In a true fashion nerd dream, each seat at today's Dries van Noten show came with a rose with a small label DVN*XCLX. Two design power houses—van Noten and Christian Lacroix—have reportedly been working together on the Spring 2020 collection for the past five months. The results were like a Dries meets Lacroix fever dream—polka dots, cropped jackets, feathers, more feathers, bold shoulders, prints, color, black and white. There's a lot to unpack here, but the collection is exuberant, it's maximalist yet polished, it's joyful—and we can all use a little bit of that right now.

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All of the Best Runway Looks from Milan Fashion Week Spring 2020


When one thinks about Italian fashion and what it represents, craftsmanship above all else comes to mind, followed by heritage, leather, and sex appeal. Tod's offers the top three in droves, and is expected to deliver quality basics made in top-notch fabrics one knows will last a lifetime and end up in the closet of future generations.

That pressure to deliver heirloom-quality products sometimes leaves drama and ostentatiousness to other labels, and this season didn't go out of its way to break the mold. Standouts included the opening bomber and palazzo shorts ensemble paired with the brand's signature loafers (pictured here), a waist bag shown on an almost-'80s chocolate short suit, and a zebra trench coat, which seemed to be the show's biggest departure from the classics—but would easily complement a wardrobe of them. —Carrie Goldberg


This was a collection designed for Penny Lane, and all girls of her ilk. Etro's owned the festival girl for ages, but this was an even more direct take on pieces Veronica Etro knows they'll love. Our favorite pieces in this sea of modern bohemia, however, were the unexpected insertions of suiting and stiffer fabrics, like the mini velvet coat dress Bella Hadid showcased for the finale, before a sea of women in men's shirting and denim walked the runway as a group for the show's epic sendoff. It seemed, like the suiting, this was another through-line of Etro's Spring 2020 season: the merging of menswear with the brand's staple bohemian womenswear.

Amidst blouson sleeves, peasant frocks, and artfully knitted coats came some sharpness—with a soft side; these suits and riffs on button-front shirts didn't feel out of place. It appears that Penny Lane can have multiple sides of her personality, as most women do. She's the light of the tour bus, the boardroom, and all the streets she saunters down in between. —Carrie Goldberg


Fendi brought on the prints and the It models to wear them for Spring 2020. Silvia Venturini Fendi managed to seamlessly fuse a moody ‘70s color palette featuring plaids and browns, bright psychedelic patterns, and ultra feminine quilted skirt suits together into one collection that felt both cohesive and cool. Sure there were runway appearances by Gigi, Bella, and Kaia, but the buzzy models didn’t overshadow the clothes here. Instead, playful skirt suits, short and sweater pairings, and sheer dresses with checked co-ords underneath stood out. It managed to capture the ‘60s and ‘70s spirit without veering into territory that felt too literal or campy. More excitingly, there was also a return of ultra oversized sunglasses, much to the chagrin of many of us who’ve struggled with the teeny tiny Matrix sunglass trend of seasons past. —Lauren Alexis Fisher

Bottega Veneta

At an all-time high of “New Bottega” fever on Instagram, the street style scene, and editorials, Daniel Lee had a lot to live up to for his second collection at Bottega Veneta. For spring, there were new iterations of the current puffy leather sandals that have flooded all our Instagram feeds, along with new quilted leather bags to match. But the creative director focused on honing in on the brand’s knits and buttery leather pieces—which ended up ultimately defining this collection. The cutout sweater dresses, leather Bermuda shorts, and outerwear were minimal, yet strong—proving Lee’s “less is more” vision has staying power for the modern woman. Throughout the predominantly neutral looks, pops of bright orange and pale baby blue stood out for a subtle ‘70s color palette. But again, it was less about the colors or the It accessories and more about the minimal silhouettes and cuts, all of which hit at just the right places. —Lauren Alexis Fisher

Max Mara

Three’s a trend and Max Mara created its own this season with side-by-side model walks down the runway. The inspiration was Killing Eve’s Villanelle, which if you don’t watch the show, is basically assassin thriller, but make it fashion. Capturing Jodie Comer’s chilling character, the beauty this season featured childlike double braids paired with a striking black lipstick. As for the clothes, there was a mix of utilitarian suiting, spy-esque jackets, and pastel evening wear paired with newsboy caps ideal for sleuthing. For the Max Mara woman, it was a fresh delve into workwear (hello Bermuda short suits) and slinky dresses for a night out. —Lauren Alexis Fisher


Prada's show notes point to a return to simplicity for Spring, "Reduction to an essence," it reads, "An antidote to complexity," it continues. If there are elements of a '20s flapper, or a '70s sophisticate, or '90s minimalist, it's incidental. This is a woman for right now, a modernist through and through. She wears a great jacket, a tiered, gauzy white dress, a leather skirt suit, a languid silk dress with embroidery—she knows who she is, and she likes to look smart. —Kerry Pieri

Alberta Ferretti

While Alberta Ferretti isn't always thought of first as a sustainable designer, she has been lauded with Ethical and Sustainable Awards. It's that kind of covert dedication to responsible practices the industry needs. Spring for the designer is about pieces that stand the rest of time, playful, boho-tinged mini skirts, trouser suits, and jumpsuits that refuse to look dated, and are always ready for a good vacation. —Kerry Pieri

Jil Sander

Clean, utterly un-fussy, simple, streamlined. Find your favorite synonym, but Jil Sander's Luke and Lucie Meier are not here for nonsense. Which isn't to say their Spring collection lacks interest. Subtle details like a lace like edging on a decidedly sexy wrap skirt, fringe on a floor-length white dress, exaggerated shoulders on an oxblood two-piece, add up to the sort of cool clothes women don't know they're yearning for until they see it. —Kerry Pieri


What's old is new again—but Donatella Versace proved with her Spring 2020 collection that she has no plans of veering away from fashion's forefront, while still staking claim on the brand's accomplishments of the past. The show began by hearkening back to basics: killer coats, sexy suiting, and sultry (as expected) takes on officewear and outerwear, all strutting through a scene where prints where projected on the walls, hinting at what was to come.

Then came the jungle prints, printed via a Google-provided technology on beaded cocktail looks, coats, pants, and more, with fluorescent options of the same ilk breaking them up in between. The jungle print was hard not to recognize. We so rarely think about the world before Instagram, and Versace's show asked us to take ourselves back, to the late '90s, when red carpets were paramount to street style and social media. One gown, above all, changed that game (and red carpet coverage) as we know it—Jennifer Lopez's jungle-printed Versace gown for the 2000 Grammy Awards. The gown was part of the inspiration behind Google Images, given the world's voracious desire to see it up-close, and Donatella's play with projections and smart printing acknowledged the brand's inspiration on modern technology with an ode to the past.

And then came the showstopper: The new, even more revealing (if you can imagine), version of the iconic jungle-print gown made its appearance—on J.Lo—as the show's finale, finally giving the gown the Instagram moment it deserved. —Carrie Goldberg


CATCH Prep Charter High School