Gen Z Is Furious About Rihanna’s Disrespectful Nun Photo Shoot

Hollywood is known for pushing the limits in various photo shoots and red carpet events. But Rihanna’s latest fashion choices for Interview Magazine’s cover have left many people furious that this kind of blasphemous Christian imagery is being touted around with such arrogance.

By Gina Florio4 min read
Getty Images/Arturo Holmes

Grammy-winner and trendsetter Rihanna has been a figure synonymous with both musical innovation and controversy throughout her career. One of her earliest controversies arose with the release of the music video for “S&M” in 2011, which was banned in 11 countries and flagged on YouTube for its explicit content. The video, featuring themes of sadomasochism and bondage, showcased Rihanna's embrace of provocative themes and her willingness to push societal boundaries.

Another notable moment occurred at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards when she wore a sheer, Swarovski crystal-encrusted gown that left little to the imagination. The outfit sparked debates on decency and fashion’s limits, but Rihanna remained unfazed, stating it was about celebrating women's empowerment and body positivity. Additionally, Rihanna's collaborations have sometimes fueled controversy, such as her 2012 reunion with Chris Brown for two remix tracks after their highly publicized domestic violence incident. This decision drew criticism and concern from fans and advocates alike, questioning the message it sent about reconciliation and forgiveness in the context of abuse.

Through these and other instances, Rihanna has shown she is not one to shy away from controversy. Instead, she takes every chance she gets to challenge norms in the name of her artistic expression and attack what she sees as social issues, reinforcing her status as a cultural icon unafraid to make bold statements.

Rihanna Poses as a Nun for Interview Magazine 

Rihanna stirred significant controversy with her recent appearance on the cover of Interview Magazine dressed provocatively as a nun. Captured by Nadia Lee Cohen, the striking cover story titled "Rihanna is Ready to Confess" showcased the multi-faceted star in a minimalist ensemble. The look is centered around an oversized white shirt draped off one shoulder that is halfway unbuttoned, paired with a full nun's habit. Drawing inspiration from 1990s fashion and the iconic Betty Boop, Rihanna's makeup features glossy red lips and bold blue eyeshadow, complemented by pencil-thin eyebrows and kohl-rimmed eyes. In various other pictures in the shoot, she is pulling down her white shirt and grabbing her breast, nearly exposing her nipple. She’s making sexual facial expressions as she stares into the camera. 

This fashion choice, which is being hailed as a bold move, triggered a cascade of reactions, as fans and critics alike accused her of disrespecting religious symbols and the Christian faith. The backlash was immediate and intense, with social media erupting over what many perceived as a blatant mockery of religious attire. Critics lamented the sexualization of sacred symbols, describing the imagery as “unholy” and “blasphemous.” The sentiment was even echoed by a multitude of her followers who found the portrayal offensive, arguing that it degraded Christian values and disrespected those who wear such garments with reverence.

Rihanna's history with religion and controversy is not new. She previously faced accusations of cultural appropriation for wearing a pendant depicting the Hindu god Ganesha in a topless photo and was criticized for featuring a song with Islamic texts during her Savage x Fenty lingerie show. Despite the controversies, Rihanna has openly discussed her Christian faith in the past, viewing her relationship with God as a cornerstone of her life. She credits her spirituality with keeping her grounded amidst the trials of fame and the public scrutiny she regularly faces. In interviews, she has reflected on her spiritual practices and challenges, including moments of feeling distanced from God during difficult periods of her life. Most recently, her reply to the question of how many children she wants to have was “as many as God wants me to have.”

Gen Z Is Leading the Backlash Against Rihanna’s Nun Ensemble 

Backlash to Rihanna’s photos would be expected from certain demographics, such as Christian boomers or even millennials, but it’s pleasantly surprising to see that Gen Z is taking a stand against this blasphemous imagery. On Interview Magazine’s Instagram page, nearly all the comments on Rihanna’s images are negative and critical, and it’s clear that many of the people commenting are of the younger generation. 

“I was huge fan this ain’t it sorry,” one person wrote. 

“GOD. WILL. NOT. BE. MOCKED.” another person said. 

“And yes, that was the last time I bought/supported anything from your business BYE👋🏻” someone said.

There are hundreds more comments just like this, many of them coming from verified accounts and influencers who are simply fed up with the religious mockery that almost always seems to target Christians. In the world of pop culture, the intersection of religious imagery and celebrity provocations has sparked numerous controversies, particularly because stars have become so comfortable adopting Christian symbols in blasphemous ways. These moments often go viral, inciting heated debates about the boundaries of artistic expression and respect for religious sentiments.

One of the most iconic instances occurred in 1989 when Madonna released the music video for "Like a Prayer." The video featured religious symbols such as stigmata and burning crosses, with Madonna witnessing a black saint in a church and receiving the stigmata. This led to widespread criticism from religious groups and the general public, who accused her of blaspheming Christian imagery. The controversy was so intense that it led Pepsi to withdraw an advertisement featuring Madonna after a global boycott threat by religious groups.

In 2018, the Met Gala's theme, "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," drew significant attention and criticism. Celebrities like Rihanna, who dressed as the Pope, and Katy Perry, who wore an angelic ensemble with large wings, were both highlighted for their daring fashion choices and severely critiqued for appropriating and misrepresenting sacred symbols. The event was designed to examine the influence of religious art in fashion, yet it appeared that Christianity was the only religion being mocked in such offensive ways. In 2020, Brazilian pop star Anitta performed at the MTV MIAW Awards dressed as a nun with a very revealing habit, later transitioning to a costume resembling the Virgin Mary. This act drew sharp backlash for its mockery of key Christian figures and symbols.

Furthermore, in a controversial Halloween move, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) stirred up significant attention and backlash with their 2022 costumes that provocatively mimicked Christian communion. The couple, known for their boundary-pushing fashion and unsavory public displays, dressed in outfits that played on Christian themes: MGK donned a priest-like ensemble, complete with a clerical collar, while Megan Fox portrayed a dark, gothic figure in a risqué, black lace dress and veil, reminiscent of a corrupted communion scene.

The duo shared images and videos on social media where they were seen engaging in a mock communion ritual, with MGK offering what appeared to be a communion wafer to Fox. This act, intended as Halloween entertainment, was perceived by many as a blasphemous parody of a sacred Christian sacrament. The imagery and their actions drew immediate criticism from various online communities and religious groups who felt that their portrayal mocked the solemnity of Christian practices.

These examples highlight how celebrities and artists often leverage Christian imagery to make bold statements or evoke deep emotions, but this can sometimes backfire, leading to accusations of disrespect and insensitivity toward religious beliefs. For many years, most people would stay silent about these images in an attempt to be polite and politically correct. But times have changed, and Gen Z is more vocal than ever about how offensive these attempts at “fashion” are. 

On Rihanna’s personal Instagram page, she posted a series of photos of herself wearing an ill-fitting blonde wig, an oversized blue sweater, messy makeup that made it look like her eyes were battered and red, and bruised, dirtied legs. She tagged Interview Magazine and wrote in the caption, “literally how i feel in postpartum with 2 under 2.” The comments were once again critical, telling her that she looked demonic and unwell. There were also many people commenting “Christ is King” in order to make it clear that they would not tolerate her mocking their Christian beliefs. 

Could it be that Gen Z will be the ones to shut down this Christian mockery? After all, if the younger generation is not being won over by such Hollywood shenanigans, who would be? Gen Z tends to be the most liberal and “tolerant” demographic, so when they begin to show their contempt for something, you can guess that it will be taken seriously. Perhaps they’ll be the ones to usher in a new movement – one that is displeased with and disinterested in seeing Christianity mocked so openly and arrogantly. 

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