Yeah… I know, I know. I was bummed myself, but clearly as you all can see a Rihanna Polaroid was not meant to be.
So no long intricate introductions on Rihanna and her musical repertoire but straight to the story it is. You ready?
First of all… this story would not have happened without British high street fashion brand RIVER ISLAND. It was only a few months ago when I found out that none other that ‘Bad Gal’ RIHANNA teamed up with RIVER ISLAND to design her very first clothing collection. I immediately knew that if there was a launch or interview possibility of àny kind that I simply hàd to work my way in. Wherever or whatever, me myself and I had to be there. So it was only less than a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon my friend Amélie who takes care of all River Island PR matters in Belgium and I asked her if there was ànything she could do for lil’ old Ouni. Amélie and myself go way back, so she promised me that she would look into it and get back to me. Only a week later I received a mail that she managed to squeeze me in on the international press list and that I was officially invited to London to witness the launch of the RIHANNA x RIVER ISLAND collection during London Fashion Week. I was ecstatic! Don’t get me wrong, after my experience at the MTV EMA’s , my expectations for a Rihanna Polaroid were very low, but I was looking forward to the event entirely. River Island, Rihanna, London, the whole thing had my name (and this blog) written all over it.
And so it happened, less than two weeks ago I hopped on the train from Ostend direction to London. Of course, things wouldn’t be normal if everything went smoothly. I don’t do smooth very well. For some karmic reason I am a walking Murphy’s Law disaster. So it didn’t really come as a surprise when I found out that my train suffered from an 18 minute delay. No biggie, delays are as common as the air we breath here in Belgium, then again, this meant that I would miss my connection in Brussels to Lille Europe, aka, I would not be able to jump on the Eurostar to London. Terrified by the thought of not being able to even arrive in London, knowing I was super close to a possible Rihanna Polaroid let alone a great night out I called Amélie who was on her way to Lille Europe herself and explained her the situation. After an excruciating long hour I found out that Amélie managed to swap my tickets in Lille Europe and that I could take the next train to London. Praise the lord!
A 18 minute train delay turned into 5 hours of waiting in cold railway stations, because that was the time that I had to wait before I could take the next train to London. This meant that my plans of a relaxed London arrival, a little nap in the hotel room, a nice bath and an extended ‘shine bright like a diamond’ make-up session went down the drain. Slightly bummed and inwardly cursing why the hell those things always seem to happen to me, I spent the next couple of hours writing out my next story that will be featured in The Word Magazine in the Lille Europe waiting room. While working on another story, I realised the situation could be worse, because if things went another direction I’d probably end up going home instead of to London, so I was grateful that I would arrive in London eventually. At 3.30PM sharp I was finally on the Eurostar headed to London. At 4PM London time I arrived in London. River Island was so nice to send out a chauffeur…
…who dropped me off at the lovely Mandeville hotel in the heart of London.
When I finally walked into my hotel room around 4.45PM I found Amélie sitting relaxed on the bed. After unwinding for about 15 minutes I hopped in the shower, plastered my face, picked out a dress to wear and ran downstairs the lobby where a small delegation of Belgian journalists and bloggers also known as ‘Team Belgium’ were waiting to go to an arranged press dinner at HAKKASAN at 6.30PM. I was dying to sit down, have a glass of wine and a nice, relaxed dinner, but it was straight to business for Ouni. I managed to receive a backstage pass for the River Island show which allowed me to visit the backstage area before the show and I was expected at 7.15PM sharp at the back of the venue where the Rihanna & River Island show would take place. So I left ‘Team Belgium’ behind, hopped into a cab who dropped me off the RiRi x River Island venue and around 7PM sharp I warned my contact at River Island that I was waiting outside the venue. Only minutes later, a lovely bloke called Keith picked me up and escorted me straight into the backstage area. The atmosphere in the backstage was busy yet relaxed. Keith explained me that I could take as much pictures as I want to unless somebody told me not too.
A few impressions of the backstage frenzy:
Hair stylist Johnnie Sapong explaining his looks to the attending press
The sweet Ataui Deng giving me some Colgate love for the camera.
Popping lips provided by MAC COSMETICS
Seconds later I turned my head and what I was secretly hoping for, happened right in front of my eyes. Rihanna walked in the room, closely surrounded by entourage and a few bodyguards.
From what it looked like she was on a somewhat orchestrated tour through the backstage area for the River Island making-of video. I knew this could be my only shot of the night and I realised I had the step it up, so I grabbed my Polaroid camera and the minute Rihanna walked by me with her entourage I looked her right in the face, smiled and asked her super politely, sweet even, if I could take a Polaroid picture. She looked me straight in the eyes without any emotion and continued her way across the backstage area.
So uhm..yeah… I guess that was a…no?
I didn’t really understand. What just happened?! This isn’t how things go normally. If I’m that close to an artist, eye contact included, I never experienced them to say no or to be totally unresponsive before… I wasn’t really sure if I asked loudly enough or not, but then I turned around and saw the River Island representative looking slightly shocked at me, probably because I walked straight up to her. I realised he probably didn’t know why I was there in the first place, so I assured him I knew what I was doing, since I have been doing it for quite some time now. The River Island rep now better understood my actions and asked me to be very discrete in my following attempts. I told him discretion is my middle name.
So right after I – discretely – took this picture of Rihanna overseeing the total looks that would be sent out the runway. I heard a loud voice directed at me saying: “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!!”. I looked up and stared right into the face of Rihanna’s biggest bodyguard. He was so big he could block a Rihanna picture just by standing in front of her. Like a 4-year-old reprimanded for stealing candy I answered: “Taking a picture….?” The bodyguard replied: “AND WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU COULD DO SO?!!” Completely frozen up I answered him with big eyes: “Uhm…River Island…sir.” He squeezed his eyes at me while screening me from top to bottom, grunted and said: “Hmpf. Ok then.” and turned back around.
I was in total shock. I was super discrete but still I manage to be the one to get picked out and treated like I’m a scary paparazzi stalker or something. Because I was a bit impressed by the situation I took a step back and wondered what I did wrong. I mean, my camera was probably the lousiest in the entire room. I have a modest Canon G12 because it’s light and it doesn’t really take a lot of attention in comparison to a Canon 5D or any other SLR camera. The downside of the camera is that it’s not ideal in bad lit situations and the zoom is not exactly the best neither. Was it my face?! Maybe I have a certified stalker face or something?! While I was wondering what I did wrong and how I was going to fix it I see this girl walking in the backstage room with a big ass camera positioning herself right néxt to the bodyguard, aiming her camera and filming Rihanna while she was doing a little dance in front of her camera. I was stunned! How the fuck did the bodyguard didn’t notice thàt?! It felt completely random to me and I swear to god, it was like the bodyguard had a little radar that went of every time I even trìed to lift my camera to take a shot. Considering I was standing approximately 4 meters behind her, there was not much that I could do anymore, these are the only extra shots I was able to take:
Notice the tall bodyguard on the far right?
Notice his height in comparison to the rest of the people in the picture? Yup, thàt’s what I was dealing with. :-/
A few minutes later I was told the backstage moment was over and the River Island representative escorted me; the girl who shot the Rihanna dance footage and another girl who jùst walked in, back outside. I realised we were the only 3 bloggers that were even allowed backstage and although I didn’t get what I wanted, at least I stepped out of the building with something.
Around 7.45PM I walked into HAKKASAN and joined ‘Team Belgium’ who were enjoying a more than excellent meal. While I was rapidly taking in some food and a glass of red wine I wondered if I would have a second chance that night. I was worried because the bodyguard knew my face now and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing… 45 minutes later ‘Team Belgium’ left the restaurant, hopped into a cab and arrived at the fabric looking, industrial venue where the RIHANNA & RIVER ISLAND show would take place.
The show kicked off almost an hour late, but finally Kanye West’s ‘Click’ was blasting out of the speakers and the show was about the begin. What followed was a heavy nineties inspired collection with crop tops, long skirts with extravagant high splits, black on black outfits, leather snap backs, black & white combos, a flash of popping red and bright yellow here and there, a shirt + trousers combo that reminded me of the typical ‘Esse/Vatos’ gangster style with the shirt that has one button closed, hell, there even was a classic red Baywatch bathing suit. Apparently the reviews for Rihanna’s collection are not very good, but honestly, I have been looking at the pieces a few times now and I must say that this is what I expect from Rihanna and the style she is currently into. If she would pretend to be anything else that would be a lot worse if you ask me. These are looks Rihanna would wear, simple as that. True, I can’t pull off most looks, then again, I think the main target group for this collection are fly, young girls up to the age (preferably) between 18 and 25 years old. (Since the Rihanna x River Island collection is showing off a lòt of skin and nobody wants their 16-year-old walking around all ‘nekked’, right?)
My personal favorites where the black parka, the knee skirts with double nodded vests attached to it, the leather snapbacks, the grey and white varsity jacket and the jumpsuits in tie & dye and dark blue with hoodie. Some extra shots from the collection I managed to snap with my lil’ old Canon G12 for you to enjoy:
I was too busy testing out that new VINE app when Rihanna came out to greet the audience together with Adam Selman who helped her design that collection so I missed that snapshot. The minute the show was over the after party began and the gin and ginger cocktails were flowing. Tiany Kiriloff, a Belgian fashionista, heard that two Dutch bloggers sneaked in the backstage and were able to greet Rihanna, so we decided to at least give it a shot and sneaked in the backstage together. Although we arrived backstage only minutes after the show, we realized we had to bum rush the backstage the minute the show was over because at that time everybody is too excited to worry about security and now we were already a bit too late to catch any action. Rihanna was nowhere to be seen and after screening the backstage we noticed there was one corner we didn’t really check out. Together with Tiany and Belgian fashion journalist Ilse Bal I walked straight into a hidden corner of the backstage that went all the way to a little trailer park area. This was the only place Rihanna could be hanging out, especially since the area was heavily secured with bodyguards.
So together with my two Belgian fashion friends I held post close to the tour bus hoping that Rihanna would come out at some point. I do admit I missed my dearest Aicha who usually assist me on this blog but Tiany & Ilse were excellent company.
I was sending out desperate tweets to you, my troopers, and asked you guys to tweet Rihanna that she needed to come out of the bus and pose for my camera. Thank you so much to everyone who tweeted, it was fun reading all your supportive tweets.
Also hanging around the tour bus was Iggy Azealea also known from her track Pussy & Murda Bizness, so what I was hoping for eventually happened after waiting an hour close to the tour bus. Rihanna came out her trailer, again closely surrounded by entourage and bodyguards and did a quick chat with Iggy.
Exhibit (picture by Tiany Kiriloff)
I took a deep breath, stepped up to Rihanna and asked her again for a Polaroid, in the most polite, discrete way but the bodyguard who immediately recognized me wasn’t having it, and said: “Stop this and put your camera away, really, this is the last time I say this to you.” Completely demotivated I took a step back. Rihanna turned around and at first it looked she was going back to her trailer but she took a sneaky back alley bàck towards the backstage area. Immediately Tiany, Ilse and me followed her right to the point where her bodyguard stopped us and now also told Tiany and Ilse to stop taking pictures. Rihanna took a varsity jacket from her own collection, threw it on and stood in front of a brand wall where it looked like a final press moment was taking place.
Exhibit (Picture by Ilse Bal)
I didn’t even dear to step up to her, but for a brief moment she looked to her right and looked rìght into my eyes and I showed her my camera and asked with my eyes for a Polaroid. She didn’t even blink. By that time I was pretty sure that she’d know somehow that I wanted a Polaroid, but apparently she wasn’t really feeling it. Boo fucking hoo. When an artist is not down I try to accept it and take a step back. I realised that my final shot for a Polaroid would be when she returned to the trailer/tour bus area. To go there she had to pass by me via a very small hallway. When she made her move towards going back, her bodyguard totally anticipated my presence and just stood right in front of me, I couldn’t even see her passing by, that’s how big this fella was. And that was it.
Tiany asked me: “What do you think, back to the trailer area again?” but I know when I need to back off. Besides, I love a good story and I love a pretty picture, but I asked 4 times and at some point you have to take NO as an answer. It was time for a much deserved drink and a spin on the dance floor. Unfortunately the after party closed down only 30 minutes after I was done ‘working’. Slightly disappointing I do admit. I wasn’t even drunk, which I was seriously planning to be. Also, I do expect that a Rihanna afterparty is at least one that lasts untill 3 AM in the morning, you can’t really ‘pour it up, pour it up’ when things shut down at midnight, can you? That’s way too cinderella for a gal like RiRi, no ?
The next couple of days I noticed a comment Rihanna put on her Instagram account next to one of her pictures:“Look at cho girl, walked up in that bitch like I owned a ho” and I realized maybe I should try the over-confident, ‘I run this town’ – type of attitude. Maybe I shòuld have a little bit more attitude to get what I want. I do admit it’s not my style, but I’m always down to try out new things? Maybe I should be a little bit more bad ass and stop being so damn polite and nice, because I’m pretty sure that my discretion and politeness and my ‘Oops, i’m so sorry I’m here’ attitude drew even more attention at some point. And honestly, it didn’t get me nowhere and lately I have been experiencing that a lot unfortunately.
Maybe I can try that bossy/bitchy attitude in attempt to get my Polaroid when Rihanna premiers her fall/winter collection for River Island? Maybe I should just buy a pile of weed and hustle my way in like a legit dealer? I’ll let you know how that works out… But to finish in a true RiRi manner, the end of this story goes like this: #PHUCKYOPOLAROID
Special thanks to Amélie and River Island for the lovely opportunity. I had a blast, even without a Polaroid! 😉