The Barbadian singer Rihanna made her first live performance in years on February 12th during the Super Bowl, the annual final of the US’s National Football League. It was a highly anticipated spectacle that saw the internet abuzz with predictions of the set’s line-up.
Chinese viewers did not miss out on the excitement, recognising the importance of the event as “America’s Spring Festival gala”. Of the entire performance, just a few seconds in which Rihanna quickly touched up her make-up between songs stirred discussion. The hashtag “Rihanna makeup touch-up” appeared on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, eventually hitting an impressive 250 million views.
Viewers were quick to point out it was her own makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, that the singer was using. Commenters left tongue-in-cheek remarks about Rihanna’s impressive ability to casually advertise her “side hustle” whilst performing: “Female entrepreneur suddenly remembers her side job, and doesn’t forget to produce children either!”. Others were more interested in the fact that the performance doubled as an announcement of Rihanna’s second pregnancy, with one Chinese netizen calling her a “spicy mom”.
Fenty Beauty – named after Rihanna’s surname – launched in 2017 to huge success, spawning a lingerie series less than a year later. The brand has been praised for covering the spectrum of skin tones in its product ranges and has set a new industry standard for inclusivity. Fenty Beauty launched in China in 2019 with a marketing campaign featuring domestic celebrities and influencers known for their unconventional beauty.
The Fenty team were not far behind the Chinese social media buzz. The powder foundation used by Rihanna during the half-time show was soon featured on the Fenty’s Tmall homepage with the banner “The same powder used by Rihanna to touch-up”. According to Tmall’s data, the powder took the number 1 sales spot on February 13th and the Fenty page saw a 130% jump in traffic compared to the same day the previous year.
The surge in interest in Fenty Beauty implies that despite the growing success of homegrown brands like Florasis, Chinese consumers are still open to products from Western brands – as long as the branding is compelling enough. Television, whether it be live performance or drama series, still provides brands with ample opportunity to remind viewers of their products.