Self vs. Image

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing a certain Rihanna x Damien Hirst x Mariano Vivanco image created for the 25th Anniversary of GQ magazine.

The image isn’t that graphic or overtly sexual or erotic, but… ok. I’ll just post the photo here cause we can all use a sexy babe holding a snake in our day.

Rihanna x Damien Hirst x Mariano Vivanco

There it is, that’s it. That’s the piece that’s led to my thoughts.

What we see is a singer holding a snake like it’s a carnal play-thing. The singer [Rihanna] is wearing heels and a very tiny thong, nothing else.

To be noted, it is for GQ magazine. Not a music mag, not a porno mag, but a pop culture male-directed magazine.

What does this represent, and should we [& Rihanna] be concerned about this.

To shift my thoughts to general, rather than specifically directed towards this photograph, I want to think about how society in general holds pop-icons as more than just icons.

I think it started when television started broadcasting behind the scenes, reality TV. I know for myself I was turned off when sports shows started interviewing the hockey players in the locker room. As a hockey player, that area was always an exclusive club, behind the scenes, secure area.

What we now have is an introspective view into these stars lives, a 24 hr hotline for all things [insert celebrity of the hour here]. But what is the meaning of this? Do I necessarily want to know about Rihannas private life, or do I just want to know when her next single is coming out? Do I want to know about Miley Cyrus doing semi-nude photographs with Terry Richardson, or do I want to hear how her vocal chord transitions from the lows to the highs?

But how is an icon an icon without having an image? They go hand in hand. Of course there are thousands – perhaps even millions – of people out there in the world that can sing like Miley or Rihanna, but they don’t have the image built up to put them onto that pedestal. They also don’t have the millions of backing, but that’s another can of worms.

So, we know image is important for pop stars. Frankly, image is important no matter what we are doing in life, this is why we wear ties to our interviews, and keep the fork on the left hand side of the plate. So what are the pop stars thinking about when they do nude-ish photographs like this? Is this for their own presentation of their image? For their fueling the scandal? For getting headlines? For keeping men tight in their pants?

This is the primary source of my confusion. How is it justified that this will help their career, and further, does it need to help their career?

Image is different than self. Authentic people try and align these two as closely as possible, but frequently there is a gap. People like Britney Spears, Rihanna, or MJ have become doubly famous for a bridge being built between this gap to reveal a not-so-pretty personal life.

So what is it? What does it mean?

Image is different than self. An image of a woman doesn’t tell you who she is. It shows you what her make-up-artist, photographer, re-toucher, wardrobe, and stylist have decided to show you, but it hardly goes much deeper. Sure some lifestyle photography can get close to true representation. Most photographs try to portray some type of image though, which any good art should try and do. Buying into this image is what sells. It sells Rihannas albums, it sells GQ & Bizarre Magazine, it sells tickets to Miley’s concerts [and probably her Hannah Montana products].

I keep thinking about some of the greatest stars who have been so stuck in their image that they can’t get out. Jimi Hendrix was working on breaking out of his image, as he began to feel people just came to see him play his guitar with his teeth. Snoop Doggy Dog has shifted to Snoop Dog, and then into Snoop Lion, and perhaps now just Snoop? It’s important for these stars to identify the fact that image is different than self, and that image is a tool they’re using to increase the love-ability of their product. Further, it is utterly important to realize that if it’s not working to change it. Scrap it, cut it up, delete it. Re-work. As Snoop has done fairly successfully.


Image is different than self. Bridges for this gap are necessary for authenticity but potentially very hazardous to sanity if image isn’t carefully crafted in the beginning. Image can become a horrible perpetual trap that can leave a star so stifled the whole point of an image becomes moot and useless.

Pick images wisely. Superstars don’t need to be naked. Coco Rocha doesn’t shoot nude, or any sort of implied [she makes photographers sign a contract with her that says so], yet she’s one of the most successful models out there today. Today, in a world where nudity seems to be as casual as an afternoon coffee.

There is an avenue for everybody, for all desires and fancies. If you want to craft your image in a thong, than flout that thong like it’s made of pure gold. If you want to pick an avenue that has skinny ties and tailored pants, then strut.

Most importantly, be aware that you do have an image and I advise you to take the necessary steps to align it with you and grow with it, otherwise you may be kissing fire to impress the faggots.

Living the life you want to live requires an alignment of heart, body, mind, and soul. A useful medium to incubate this alignment can be image, but mind the ego.

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