Clearly, it’s part of the job description, this celebrity compulsion to live life large, and largely in front of the camera. Even if that camera is attached to an iPhone. Blame it on the Madonna-ian philosophy (pre-Guy Ritchie, post-Truth or Dare) that members of the glitterati subscribe to: I am filmed, therefore, I am.
This week’s case study: Rihanna. Busy week for the Barbadian. There was Kanye, aiding and abetting with his release of a spanking new Rihanna/Lady Gaga collaboration*. “Silly Boy,” a free download posted on Kanye’s Web site, keeps the drama rolling in the Rihanna/Chris Brown, aka Chrihanna, saga:
So silly boy get out my face (my face)
Why do you like the way regrets taste?
So silly boy get out my hair my hair(get outta here)
No, I don’t want you no more (get outta here)
We can’t help but think that “Silly Boy” is a diversionary tactic, a newfangled Trojan horse in the war of image-making. After all, it was just days before that there was all this hullabaloo surrounding cell phone pics of what appeared to be a very naked Rihanna. (No, we won't be posting those here.) And, as is the custom with these things, the pics were leaked along with rumors that there's a sex tape out there, too.
This gets old.
A couple of months ago, Rihanna had to contend with those leaked pics of her very battered face, following her alleged abuse at the hands of Chris Brown. No fault of hers and a hearty thump on the head to whoever sent them flying out into the blogosphere. Without a doubt, that was an egregious invasion of Rihanna’s privacy. But the naked cell phone pics, if they are indeed of Rihanna, are something altogether different. (Her representatives have issued a cease-and-desist letter to the site posting the pictures, but otherwise have been silent on the matter.)
If these pictures are indeed her, then, well, I'm sorry to say: It's her own damn fault. For one, it looks as if the pictures were taken by the woman posing for the camera. As for the picture of Chris Brown with a pair of panties on his head, well…. (He's denying that he leaked the pics.)
There's nothing wrong with being playful with your sexuality. As Billie Holiday used to sing, "tain't nobody's business" if you do. But, if you're famous, and you're dating someone equally famous, then, in this TMZ era, you've got to know that taking cell phone pics of your bare nekkidness is the quickest way to get yourself plastered all over the gossip sites. Pose and preen all you want. Just make sure that you stop before you click. (And for God's sake, please, please, please just say no to video cameras in the bedroom. It won't end pretty. Just ask Jayne Kennedy and Pamela Anderson.)
Of course, Rihanna is just one in a long line of stripping celebrities. Recent entries in the Hall of Shame: Cassie, who released a statement alleging that the pictures were hacked from her computer, adding, “At the end of the day breasts are breasts, mine weren’t the first you’ve seen and they won’t be the last … people need to grow up.” Also among the exposed is Miss California, aka Carrie "Just Say No To Gay Marriage" Prejean (will she ever go away?) who barely managed to hold onto her crown as topless pics of her teenaged self floated around the blogosphere.
And then there's Hoopz, who apparently didn't find herself degraded enough when she appeared on Flavor of Love. This week, pictures and a sex tape of her were "leaked” onto the Internet. Which begs the question: Who's doing the leaking? And why?
Perhaps it’s narcissism or an extreme case of exhibitionism and excess brought on by ever-upgrading technology. But there’s also something else at work here: The notion that a young woman’s body is commerce, part of the public domain, and that getting naked is all part of a viral marketing scheme. (And consider all the young civilians who’re hopping on board the porn chic train, frantically “sexting” would-be lovers.) Time will tell whether this ultimately will prove to be a brilliant career move. Or a career killer. For Rihanna, at least, a little underexposure would be welcome.
Teresa Wiltz is The Root’s senior culture writer.
*UPDATE: Representatives for Rihanna and Lady Gaga have since denied that the singers collaborated on the song "Silly Boy."