On Monday night, however, it was just fact, if you were to swap “a bar” for Pier Sixty, a massive waterfront venue on Manhattan’s West side (to be fair, the space was indeed outfitted with many, many bars).
The unlikely pair were both honorees at this year’s Parsons Benefit, being recognized, along with Karen Katz of the Neiman Marcus Group, for their work in performance, design, and fostering social good.
The most buzzed about guest of honor—with all due respect to Fisher—arrived just as the dinner was starting, filtering into the space with a large entourage trailing behind her, wearing an oversized tan suit by Matthew Adams Dolan, a 2014 graduate of the MFA Fashion Design and Society program at Parsons, whom the singer has worn on several previous occasions.
With that, any many several craned iPhone lenses, the lengthy program began. Though she was the last speech scheduled, Rihanna’s presence was felt, and audibly called out, throughout the evening. “You can’t really share the stage with Rihanna, which I just learned outside taking photos on the red carpet,” said Katz while accepting her award. Later, a tribute band played a funky melody of the singer’s greatest hits. During the live auction, just after a Steven Klein commissioned portrait went for $57,000, the bad girl herself finally spoke.
The lot at hand was for two tickets to the Fall 2018 Fenty Puma runway show in New York City, including a one-night stay in a five-star hotel and a Fenty Puma product package, with a portion of the proceeds going to support the Ciara Lionel Foundation. Bidding stalled at $12,000. That’s when Rihanna chimed in. “Who’s at $12,000?” she quipped, turning to face the crowd from her dinner seat. “Thank you so much, but if anyone wants to beat that, I’ll even style you for the show. And a free selfie with me and Jay Brown, my manager.” Wouldn’t you know, the lot doubled, closing at $24,000. (Sybil Yurman, wife of jeweler David Yurman, curiously was the ultimate winner).
But Rihanna was just getting warmed up. By the time she took to the stage to accept her award, she had a message for the students of Parsons. Consider February’s Harvard speech just a warmup. “Tonight is about you young men and women on a global scale, as we know, who are such beacons of inspiration in every way; I don’t think you get celebrated enough,” she began. “You should be celebrated for every aspect of your growth, and your growing pains. You should be celebrated for your creativity, for your fearlessness, for your persistence and determination, for all of the work that you put into building your future, for being different, for not being enough credit, for not having to use eye cream.”
Pause for laughter.
“It was especially important for me to come to Parsons, because you are all the next generation,” she continued. “We need to invest in you. You’re the ones who see the world through fresh eyes and a new perspective. You’re the ones who care about the future of our planet. You’re the ones who will change the current state of the world. And, unfortunately, you are the ones who are often ignored. Your voices aren’t heard often enough, and you are the ones whose voice need to be listened to. I’m here to say that I’m listening, I’m watching, and you are up next.”
It was great parting wisdom for those graduating students, but several had another graduation gift in mind: a selfie with Rihanna. The singer happily obliged. Consider that tuition well spent.
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