Rihanna stirs another appropriation backlash by wearing a pendant of a Hindu god

Rihanna posing in a white suit and cross necklace.
Rihanna attends a 2019 launch event for her Fenty fashion collection in Paris.
(Francois Mori / Associated Press)

Pop musician Rihanna has come under fire for wearing a pendant depicting the Hindu god Ganesh while modeling her Savage X Fenty lingerie collection.

On Monday, the “Love on the Brain” hitmaker posted a photo of herself wearing nothing but a silky pair of lavender shorts and matching jewelry. But it was her necklace that caught the most attention from critics, who have accused the Grammy winner of appropriating Hinduism.

Dangling at the bottom of the beaded accessory is the idol of Lord Ganesh, also known as Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity with a sweet tooth who represents wisdom and success.


“This is disrespectful to [H]induism,” one person commented on Rihanna’s latest Instagram post. “You wouldn’t wear an Islamic necklace and take a photo like this, so why would you wear a sacred Hindu deity and a take a photo like this? Please take the time to learn what Ganesha means and don’t disrespect religion like this.”

“Disappointed riri,” another commenter wrote, “Ganesha is not a decoration piece to use for an aesthetic! Give some respect to someone else’s religion as you would your own.”

The criticism has also extended to Twitter, where people have condemned the controversial photo as “offensive,” “insulting” and “unacceptable.” The controversy comes less than a week after model Jhardan Reign sparked a backlash by posing in a Valentine’s Day-themed Savage X Fenty number in front of a mandir, or Hindu temple.

And some pointed out that, in a separate incident last year, Rihanna apologized to the Muslim community for using a song that sampled a recitation from Islam’s sacred hadith for her Savage X Fenty fashion show. And in 2019, the singer found herself at the center of another cultural appropriation scandal after posing in Chinese clothing and accessories on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar China.

Pop musician Rihanna was criticized for using a song that sampled a recitation from Islam’s sacred hadith for her recent Savage X Fenty fashion show.

Oct. 6, 2020

“We are so tired & if we raise voice against this cultural appropriation so we are labelled as [H]indu extremist,” one person wrote Monday on Twitter. “For you all [H]induphobics it is just necklace but for us he’s god. Please stop telling us wht is offensive & whts not.”


“Rihanna allowing her lingerie line to be shot at a mandir and now her posting topless with a Ganesh pendant on is really disappointing and upsetting,” tweeted another Twitter user. “Cultural and religious appropriation isn’t cool or aesthetic. It’s offensive asf and I expect more from her.”

A representative for Rihanna did not respond Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.

See more reactions below to the pop star’s divisive photo, which has amassed more than 10 million likes on Instagram and Twitter.

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.