Essence kicks off 2021 with a stunning photoshoot of Rihanna for the magazine's January + February issue. The photos were taken by Lorna Simpson and will be featured in a 12-page portfolio the issue, which hits newsstands and digital platforms on January 19.
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Rihanna collaborated with artist Lorna Simpson for a shoot Essence sys "reinterprets the narrative of modern-day beauty in the gorgeous photographic cover collage"
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"I needed to create images of Rihanna to place within the environments of source materials from my archive," Simpson said of the photos. "For the project to have the same kind of dramatic visual intensity as my collage work to date, I had to consider the atmosphere and lighting of specific source materials before arriving to set. Knowing Rihanna's charisma and commanding presence, my effort was then to be as present and prepared as possible to capture her exquisite performance for the camera."
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Simpson's daughter, Simpson Casebere, wrote a piece for the issue describing her interactions with the singer. "When Rihanna arrived at the set -- my first time seeing her in real life -- I was mesmerized," she wrote. "She was the very definition of grace, charisma and influence. Wearing a magnificent Maximilian black headdress, she requested the song ‘'Thick' by DJ Chose, then met the camera with power and possibility -- power in how she moved her body through space, and possibility in how she dismantled and moved beyond institutional boundaries."
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The January + February issue features a 12-page portfolio of Rihanna titled, "Of Earth & Sky."
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"Lorna is a legend," Rihanna said of the photographer. "Honestly, I just didn't think I could get her. But I like reaching for the stars and I like challenging myself."
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"[Collaborating] with Rihanna and ESSENCE magazine is quite incredible," said Simpson. "As an artist, I'm able to deliver these unusual images of someone who is so well-known and so recognizable… It's an amazing opportunity." Added the singer: "It's a natural trifecta. It's like magic."