I want to write about the barriers around Rihanna. About those who stand on them: the gatekeepers. Those who sometimes make up their own rules or take advantage of a position so close to $he.
I’ll only write about what I’ve encountered myself but think I can say that most of these apply not just to Rihanna but to celebrities in general. For example I’ve fangirled James Franco too and saw the same general structure around him.
Here’s my list of gatekeepers:
Mel and I (I LOVE HER SO MUCH SHE IS THE SWEETEST).
Getting to know someone from the above categories could mean a passage into your fave’s attention. People on both side of the fence, so to speak, know this. It’s not spoken about but we know when we engage with paps that being in the car with means being first on the spot and possibly getting a selfie or even a quick chat.
We know that being on good terms with body guards means they are more likely to find you after the concert, if your fave decides they want to meet you. Or hand them your gifts. Or pass a message. We also know that being on bad terms with body guards will get you blocked, pushed away and ignored.
We know that drivers can charge your phone during long days of stanning, let you past the first barrier, separating fans from superfans (in the case of Franco), or message you know when they get off work (meaning those they work for have gone to bed meaning there’s no use staying out waiting for them to go to the club or studio etc).
We know management can forward gifts.
We know family members might follow you back on social media, like your pics and thus help them pop up on your fave’s feed. They might even text to let you know where their daughter is.
Rihanna’s dad and I in NYC, 2014.
We know friends might invite you backstage, to the VIP section or forward a message. They might become your friend too. They might be hirable for make-up, photography, modeling. All of which bring you one step closer to your idol too.
That being said, there’s a lot of opportunities for genuin bonds to be built, new friendships to be made and fun to be had between fans and said gatekeepers. I’ve seen it, lived it and dreamt it. We know Rihanna’s group of friends are amazing, for example. The generosity and warmth Mel have showed fans throughout the years is overwhelming. Rih’s NYC driver is amazing beyond words, always kind and helpful and even drove me home one late Manhattan night so I wouldn’t have to walk alone in a foreign city. That’s one of the best experiences of my fangirl life actually, getting a drive home in Rihanna’s car.
Another fan favorite: filmmaker Evan Rogers.
Rihanna’s manager, Jay Brown. Met him as a fan in Oslo and as a wardrobe assistant in Malmö and both times he was kind as a lamb.
But I’ve also had too many scares and uncomfortable experiences. Paparazzis hitting on fans in the middle of the night in some lonely alley, making moves on much younger girls knowing damn well they’re not interested in anything but seeing their fave walk out the club. But since they help fans get to the club in the first place, some will take their chance, knowing they have a bit of power.
The first picture I ever took of Rihanna. Outside (now closed) Da Silvano in NYC.
I’m not saying it’s everyone but the general structure of the set up between mostly men amongst the paparazzi and mostly young girls amongst the fans is problematic and unbalanced. Possibly dangerous too. And even when it’s not directed towards you it’s a really uncomfortable situation to be in when someone turns out to be a douchebag harassing random women walking out of the club while you’re standing right next to them not knowing how to solve the situation. There are time when I’ve wanted to punch some people in the face but then realized I’m in their environment, standing amongst their co-workers (all are silent of course). It’s not the environment to pick a fight in, especially knowing I’ll spend hours and hours around these people for the rest of my trip. However. If I’m being honest with myself, I probably would have said something if it wasn’t for them being able to block me from seeing Rihanna. And that feels dirty. Like I’ve sold my soul.
And seeing a father take advantage of their child’s success to hit on 30 years old younger girls? It’s sad for everyone, let’s just leave it at that.
Then there’s the bodyguards. WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO ANGRY?! I get that fans are annoying, I get we’re in their way and it’s their job to protect the client. What I don’t understand is how they don’t see how much more fans would help them if they just showed some basic respect. When someone does something wrong, say run up to the door of Rihanna’s building for example, it’s us fans setting them straight. It’s us telling people and paparazzi to respect her, it’s us informing newcomers about the ”rules” and how things work at that specific location. I wish bodyguards would understand this part of stanning and work with the fans instead of against them. At the very least show us some respect. It would make their jobs easier too. But I have seldom felt smaller or worth less than around bodyguards. And that’s not just as a fangirl but in general. I’ll give you and example. When I was working as a costume assistant for Rihanna during her AWT concert in Malmö, one of our assignments was to do her bodyguards laundry. 20 minutes after I’d stood there folding his underwear, a bodyguard comes up to me backstage. Not stopping at a normal distance he gets super close and just stare down at me. I get super nervous and a bit scared. Show him my wristband indicating I’m working, but he just shakes his head all while the concert is happening a few feet away. Finally he says one word. ”Phone.”
I’ve taken a snapchat picture of the side of the stage. He’s seen it and is furious. I put my phone down and 30 minutes later I’m told I’m not allowed near the stage again. Understandable, yes. I probably shouldn’t have taken that pic. But in all fairness I’d asked my boss if it was OK earlier, and she nodded. I’d seen multiple other people around me do the same thing. I’d worked for 11 hours with nothing but two 30 minute brakes. It wouldn’t have hurt him to just tell me ”no pictures” in a normal voice like a normal interaction between two human beings rather than hovering above me like that. Or perhaps make sure to have a united stand on what is and isn’t allowed during the show, after which you should take a course in basic communication techniques as I can’t possibly imagine that’s the kind of environment Rihanna wants the workplace she’s creating to be.
Sandra and I working wardrobe in Malmö.
This might be perceived as too negative of a post but patriarchy and capitalism are shitty systems to live under and the hierarchies created within them are visible for a fangirl. So a fangirl wish to discuss them. Because while the reef is filled with the most beautiful people and places and as you look around you you’re thinking this is magical, out of this world, pure and special. Some of those corals sting. And it hurts. And the magical place isn’t so magical anymore. Until you learn how to navigate around them. But then it turns out that having money will open up a few more ways than being without. And the place you live in makes all the difference. As well as what company you’re in. But I’ll write more about these things later, trying to reflect on the structures within the fanbase and not just around it. Hopefully it’s interesting to someone other than me.