This past weekend I did what any card-carrying, Fenty Beauty-wearing, scam-loving (word to Danny Ocean, RIP) feminist would do — I went to go see Ocean’s 8 in theaters. I didn’t buy popcorn, but I did sneak in some cheap prosecco from own fridge. My justification? It’s what Rihanna would want. See this thread of RiRi carrying wine with her wherever the fuck she wants for reference.
The truth is, it’s also what Sandra Bullock, the formal star of Ocean’s 8, would want. Ever since I first watched her trick her crush into loving her by lying to him after he was in a coma, I knew I’d found a role model for life. Bullock is another woman who does whatever she pleases and has carved out a place for herself in the world of cinema that’s so vast… literally no one has any idea what kind of role she might take on next.
Sandra has absolutely smashed pretty much every single kind of part that exists in the history of movies, and is lowkey one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood. Don’t just take my word for it either, The Ringer’s Shea Serrano expertly pointed this out last week, and people listen more when men praise women so maybe now it will stick.
But Sandra and all her glory is a digression. My original point is that as great as Bullock (and Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, etc., etc. — may be), hands down the star of this most recent Oceans movie is Rihanna. She just is.
As one of the most ubiquitous, successful, and beloved pop stars of my generation, it’s hard for me to remember a time when Rihanna wasn’t famous. So famous that she is seamlessly woven into the fabric of everything that is going on in pop culture, whether it’s via soundtracks, her love life, her affiliation with Roc Nation and Jay-Z, her forward-thinking pop collabs — for instance, “We Found Love In A Hopeless Place” is probably the first time my small town ass ever heard an EDM drop — and most recently, with her aforementioned makeup line Fenty Beauty, and brand new lingerie line Fenty Savage.
It’s been within the context of these two latest ventures that we’ve seen more of Rihanna’s cinematic side. As she has assumed her rightful place as an empire-building boss bitch with these two new brands, she’s given the public a more access to her unfiltered personality as a person, not just a singer.
There was that Vogue makeup tutorial video that went so viral it was impossible to scroll Twitter that day without seeing someone else gushing about it. And before that, the time she took issue with an interviewer asking what she was looking for a man (spoiler: she’s not looking for one, period). And, of course, any number of other moments over the last couple of years when the world collectively fell in love with Rihanna, again, just for being herself.
As she began venturing into the world of film and TV, with recent on-screen roles for Bates Motel and Valerian in particular, it seemed like the singer was tentatively dipping her toe in the water. And while she’s done voice-overs and cameos elsewhere, Ocean’s 8 feels like her meatiest role to date; not only does she appear alongside a slew of other A-list actresses, but she plays a character remarkably different from the glamorous, sleek pop star she’s been on the public stage. Yes, the no-fucks-given attitude was still present, but Nine Ball, the role she plays in Ocean’s 8 is still a world apart from her alien stripper or the tragic victim Marion Crane.
And even if Nine Ball isn’t the star of Ocean’s 8, her brusque humor, secretive nature, and genius streak end up making her the focal point in any scene she appears in. Because, though she’s a superb actress and pulls off her character flawlessly, the fact still remains that while she’s on screen we all know… that’s Rihanna. Arguably, the cult of personality around pop stars like her has only grown in the age of the internet, and the perfect way to take advantage of that is by superseding music, superseding the internet, superseding empire-building and cameos in films, and becoming a full-on movie star. I mean really, why not?