Rihanna’s ‘Queen of Shandong’ moment: Fenty Beauty’s savvy China play

    The billionaire beauty mogul embraces Chinese culture and digital trends to promote her brand’s expansion in the market.
    Image: Fenty Beauty / Instagram
      Published   in Fashion

    What happened

    Pop icon and business mogul Rihanna made a viral splash in China this week with a series of events to promote her cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty’s expansion in the market.

    The singer yesterday hosted a unique livestream on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, appearing not only on Fenty Beauty’s official channel but also on the channels of two popular beauty influencers, QierLeo (琦儿Leo) and Shenyexulaoshi (深夜徐老师).

    During the livestream, which reportedly drew 70,000 viewers to Fenty Beauty’s session and the influencers’ channels combined, Rihanna helped the KOLs apply makeup using Fenty products such as the Gloss Bomb Lipstick, Diamond Bomb Veil, and Eaze Drop Blurring Skin Tint. The sales figures from the event have not been disclosed.

    View post on Instagram

    Alongside the digital activation, Rihanna made a surprise appearance at the Fenty Beauty Alley pop-up space in Shanghai on Monday. The immersive experience, open from May 22 to 26 at the Fotografiska Center for Photography, features six interactive makeup zones that blend the brand’s pioneering spirit with local culture.

    Rihanna playfully embraced her “Queen of Shandong” nickname among Chinese fans by making jianbing, a popular breakfast crepe believed to have originated in the eastern province over 2,000 years ago. Images and videos of the star skillfully preparing the humble street food on a glittery cart quickly went viral on social media, with the hashtag “Rihanna’s first livestream in China” garnering over 81 million views on Weibo.

    The “Queen of Shandong” moniker comes from a translation of the title of her song We Found Love.

    To date, the “Fenty Beauty” tag on Xiaohongshu has amassed 5.94 million views, and the “Rihanna is in China” tag on Douyin has nearly 4.08 million views.

    Screen grabs show Rihanna livestreaming in China yesterday. Image: Douyin
    Screen grabs show Rihanna livestreaming in China yesterday. Image: Douyin

    The Jing Take

    Fenty Beauty’s latest initiatives in China demonstrate a savvy understanding of the market’s unique digital ecosystem and cultural context. By partnering with top Douyin influencers and personally engaging with local memes and traditions, Rihanna has endeared herself to Chinese consumers and generated buzz for her brand’s official entry into mainland China through Sephora last month.

    The localized approach sets Fenty Beauty apart from other Western celebrity beauty brands that have struggled to gain traction in China despite their founders’ global fame.

    While stars like Kim Kardashian, Miranda Kerr, and Victoria Beckham initially launched on cross-border e-commerce platforms like Tmall Global, many have since quietly withdrawn or failed to build a significant following due to a lack of resonance with Chinese beauty preferences and insufficient long-term marketing efforts.

    As the world’s second-largest beauty market becomes increasingly competitive, with the rise of homegrown C-beauty brands and discerning Gen Z consumers, it’s crucial for international players to fully immerse themselves in China’s complex social media landscape and retail channels beyond Tier-1 cities.

    Fenty Beauty’s livestreaming strategy taps into the enormous potential of this format, which boasted over 460 million e-commerce users in mainland China last year.

    However, winning over Chinese consumers requires more than just riding on a celebrity founder’s coattails. As established beauty conglomerates and up-and-coming indie brands alike vie for a slice of the $81.7 billion market, Fenty Beauty will need to continuously innovate and launch products tailored to local needs and trends to sustain its momentum.

    With her finger firmly on the pulse of youth culture and a proven track record of disrupting the global beauty industry with inclusive offerings, Rihanna seems well-positioned to make her mark in China’s dynamic and lucrative market.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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