Rihanna Redefines Fashion Icon With Bold And Transformative Looks

What is a fashion icon, and who are some of yours? Many people think of Audrey Hepburn or Coco Chanel right off the bat, but in the modern day and age, we are working on interpreting the term for ourselves. What constitutes a modern icon? What components of the magic formula can we glean from the past, and which ones must be rethought in 2014?

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) undoubtedly runs the fashion world. It is the cream of the crop, the ultimate authority when it comes to what’s in, many argue. Every year, it hosts an awards show to honor the most notable of the notable, the most fabulous of the fabulous, in a fashion show like no other. This year’s awards ceremony will take place on June 2, and it will honor Rihanna with the CFDA Fashion Icon award. Previous winners include the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and Iman. This year’s winner seems to bring her very own and very unique flavor to the mix.

Rihanna is surely a new kind of winner, and she is much different than her predecessors. Since the announcement broke that Rihanna would be this year’s winner, there has been a varied response. In my opinion, Rihanna deserves to win for her versatility alone. Her bold nature also doesn’t hurt-wallflowers don’t make great icons. The pop starlet has transformed her style and herself greatly from her “Pon de Replay” days and has embraced and established multiple trends in the fashion world. From ball gowns and long flowing locks to hot pants and fire engine-red bobs, Rihanna is a true fashion chameleon.

She is able to rock a red lip, a pixie cut, and a stunning white gown one day and an incredibly revealing black lace dress the next-all with elegance and poise. She can go from soft and feminine to hard and sexy from day to day, and that’s why we just can’t get enough. Rihanna has always been a risk taker, and it seems the CFDA is ready to reward those risks. She’s the bad girl we all love to love.

At the heart of Rihanna’s style is her tough demeanor. She radiates a fierceness that is paralleled by few. She has the vibe of a runway model in her everyday life, which is perhaps why the luxury brand Balmain asked her to be the face of its spring line. Her other fashion credentials include deals with MAC, a collection she designed for River’s Island, and the launch of her show Styled to Rock on Bravo last year. Additionally, she has been no stranger to the front row section of plenty of runway shows-Chanel and Commes des Garcons, to name a few. The woman can’t be stopped.

She goes big, she is a diva, and we are eating it up. Her elegance in a formal gown is timeless, but her shaved hairdos and over-the-top metal earrings keep us coming back for more. Generations from now, people will look at Rihanna as the modern day Madonna that she is: always changing and always keeping it interesting. Doesn’t hurt that she has had a stellar vocal career as well.

Some argue that Rihanna’s risks don’t always pay off. ‘Hyper-sexualized,’ ‘trashy,’ ‘trite,’ and ‘disrespectful’ have been uttered by her critics. She came under some scrutiny earlier this year for a controversial photo shoot that took place outside of a mosque in Abu Dhabi. Some will argue she is more trendy than timeless, ultimately, but what this award is really about is a person whose fashion sensibility stops and makes us think, someone who pushes the envelope and can change the way that a whole country looks at fashion-its purpose, and its limitations.

I think that Rihanna was ultimately a great choice. Some of her most iconic looks, in my book at least, are her 2013 Grammys look-a stunning Azzedine Alaia dress in a bold red with scandalously placed red chiffon cut-outs, and her Dolce & Gabbana puffed sleeve tuxedo suit. The girl can go from wearing head-to-toe Chanel, to rocking all leather outfits with gold gun pendants. If that isn’t iconic, I don’t know what is.

Rihanna has a vibrant and well-updated Instagram presence that she uses to help document her daily life and fabulous ensembles. Check out @badgirlriri to take a look at some of her most iconic looks to date. The tough girl has so much elegance about her these days that we can’t help but be rooting for her, and I can’t help but applaud the CFDA for its forward thinking and truly iconic choice this year. We can only wait and see what she pulls off next. Congrats, RiRi, and keep the fabulous fashion coming.