Desi Star of Rihanna’s New Video: ‘You Don’t See a Whole Lot of Desi Girls Doing Stuff Like This.’

By Sameer Rao Jul 07, 2015

One of the many questions raised by the release of Rihanna’s lurid "Bitch Better Have My Money" dealt with her accomplices–namely, who were these stylish women whose idiosyncratic presentation threatened to steal the singer’s spotlight? 

A recent interview with Vice’s Noisey confirmed the identity of one. Known as Sanam, the Desi woman played one of the co-conspirators in Rihanna’s ransom/revenge plot. The 25-year-old Seattle resident told Vice that Rihanna messaged her on Instagram after seeing her donned in exquisite and striking Desi-derived garb:

She was like, "Hey, I have this idea I want to run by you. I think you’re so fucking rare. Let me know if you’re interested." I had no idea what she was talking about. I was just freaking out, because Rihanna is messaging me on Instagram, telling me that she thinks I’m cool.

Among other choice quotes from the interview (which is worth a complete read), Sanam discussed her new-found visibility with regards to how people see Desi women: 

You’re like a modern-day brown girl Cinderella. You’d made legions of brown girls jealous.
Yeah, it’s really true. You don’t see a whole lot of Desi girls doing stuff like this.

 Sanam is also an artist, and she spoke about the confrontational aspects of her work: 

Besides working at a plant store, you’re also an artist. What kind of art do you make?
I’ve been painting and drawing since I was younger. Getting older, and especially [since] becoming more aware of social justice issues, I like to make art that speaks on that, but in a really funny, cheeky way. I haven’t worked on anything in a long time. I had an art show in Baltimore in February.

It’s hard to make art when you’re a woman, but especially a woman of color, just because it’s not respected in the same way as a white male artist’s work. It’s really hard to feel empowered sometimes. Being in the video, I feel like that’s given me a little bit more of a platform to talk about that kind of stuff.

For reference, here is the linked-to work of Sanam’s: 


Click here to read the full interview with Sanam from Vice’s Noisey.