What the Hell Happened: The Fenty Bowl From Up Close


Last September, when Rihanna announced her imminent performance in the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show with her signature tattooed hand grabbing a football, I knew I had to be there. Long established as an international pop star, Rihanna has spent the past seven years since the release of her last album “ANTI” pursuing various other endeavors, proving that her music is only the tip of the iceberg.

Since the release of “ANTI” in 2017, Rihanna launched her makeup company Fenty Beauty, aimed at increasing inclusion and representation within the beauty industry, and the lingerie brand Savage x Fenty in 2018. The two brands’ success has made Rihanna a billionaire, with a net worth over $1.7 billion. Following her success, super fans worried that she would never hit the studio or the stage again. The last time the world witnessed Rihanna perform live was at the 2018 Grammy awards, where she performed “Wild Thoughts” with Bryson Tiller and DJ Khaled.

Still, it seemed she decided to grace the world with her stage presence once more.“It’s important for me to do this this year. It’s important for representation. It’s important for my son to see that,” Rihanna said in an NFL interview a few days before the show.

She looked as eye-catching as always, wearing a Loewe jumpsuit with a sculpted bustier, an Alaia coat with matching gloves, and MM6 Maison Margiela x Solomon sneakers.


But sitting in the audience, one question ran through my head the whole time — didn’t Rihanna say she was boycotting the NFL? In 2019, Rihanna turned down this very same performance in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and her recent retraction feels damaging in certain respects. While halftime headliners are not paid for their performance, Rihanna’s decision to hit the stage felt like a desire for social capital at the expense of furthering a cause.

While the performance didn’t have any other celebrity appearances, it was not lacking a guest star, as she announced her second pregnancy with a baby bump reveal during the show. While Twitter was buzzing during the performance trying to guess if the reveal was intentional or not, it was clear in the stadium that she was announcing her pregnancy.

Over 118 million fans tuned in online to the Apple Music Halftime Show at the Glendale, Ariz. State Farm Stadium, the host of Super Bowl LVII. As the set was being assembled on the field, fans cheered in awe of the floating platforms where the Royal Family Dance crew performed nearly 60 feet off the ground.

With 12 of her greatest hits, ranging from “B*tch Better Have my Money” to “Rude Boy,” Rihanna’s beautiful vocals combined with showstopping choreography from Emmy award winner Parris Goebel made for an unforgettable performance. The contrast between her dancers’ all white costumes and her monochromatic red look drew the audience’s attention to the star. The choreography seemed inspired by Rihanna’s native country Barbados, featuring moves that were both sexually liberated and confident — key elements of her own persona — but Rihanna remained the focus.

Still, fans in the stadium were noticeably disappointed when “Run This Town” began to play and Jay-Z, who was seen at the game earlier, did not join the performance. Nonetheless, fans filled the stadium with flashlights for Rihanna’s “Diamonds” ballad atop the floating stage.

The only other challenge in regards to the performance was related to the jumbotrons, which cut out intermittently throughout the performance. When Rihanna took a break in the performance to use her very own Fenty Beauty Invisimatte blotting powder, it was not visible to the audience due to the technical challenge.

While much has changed since she first told Vogue she “just couldn’t be a sellout” in 2019, Rihanna has nonetheless proved that she is an unprecedented cultural force.

—Staff writer Marley Dias can be reached at