Rihanna’s n-word incident raises questions about celebs on Instagram

Rihanna instagrammed this photo with a caption that referred to the child pictured as my 'ni**a'

Rihanna instagrammed this photo with a caption that referred to the child pictured as my 'ni**a'

Rihanna has posted yet another controversial social media photo. This time around, it is a picture on Instagram of her with an adorable toddler sitting on her lap.

But far from displaying her maternal instincts the image has sparked criticism from her loyal fanbase because she writes “My lil n***a” in the caption.

In response, her followers are begging her to stop using the n-word on her Twitter account.

One person wrote, “The word is derogatory. If some cultures aren’t allowed to say it, no-one should.”

Another said, “So I love the hell out of her but that word I hate.”

Celebs need to read carefully

Still, the “We Found Love” singer has made it a hobby to keep herself in the spotlight with provocative and titillating photos. No doubt the Barbadian songstress believes playing up to the cameras keeps her relevant.

Though, Treavion Davenport, a Los Angeles-based PR expert and celebrity publicist, who helped launch the careers of Gucci Mane and Chrisette Michele, says celebrities need to tread carefully when using an unfiltered social media tool like Instagram.

“Unfortunately many celebs get caught up in the moment and the common folk norm of posting thoughts, observations, and candid photos; that they underestimate the potential negative and far reaching impact,” says Davenport.

April Love, a celebrity publicist and brand strategist in Atlanta, agrees.

“I advise clients that social media can be our best friend one day and our worst enemy the next,” says Love, who has worked with the likes of Monica, Cee-Lo Green and the media personalities from the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

A visual backstage pass

Instagram, a quick and easy way to share photos, was launched just two and a half years ago but has quickly gained popularity, with more than 100 million active users a month. In fact, it has become a favorite among celebs to showcase their extravagant lifestyles and give fans a “visual” backstage pass.

“The pure nature of social media such as Instagram gives fans, and foes, that instant gratification to connect with and feed off of the celeb in question,” says Davenport.

“It is another way to feel in tune and as if they have an up close and introspective view into the psyche and private lives of the object of their cyber-stalking.”

Vivia E. Armstrong, a marketing and social media strategist from Atlanta, says when used properly, Instagram can be an effective tool for marketing and creating brand awareness. “It allows people with few words to make their life more of a collage.”

Nevertheless, if things go wrong the possibility of it going viral is high, she says. “It can be damaging for an image or brand, which can last for a few days, weeks or months, or even be difficult to ever come back.”

When Instagramming goes wrong

Indeed, R&B songstress Fantasia Barrino learned this life-lesson the hard way.

Last year she posted anti-gay marriage sentiments on Instagram and there was uproar.

Barrino quickly backtracked and her management was forced to issue a damage control statement. Later she attempted to say her words were “taken out of context.”

“I think that celebrities have a fine line to walk when it comes to social media,” says Kelley L. Carter, an Emmy Award winning entertainment journalist. “There’s danger there — and we’ve seen it play out many times.”

Even Beyoncé has been caught out. During the last presidential election, the singer was criticized for tweeting a photo of her ballot on Instagram. In fact, according to Citizen Media Law Projects anyone who reveals the contents of their ballots “is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Remember when the news of Joe Paterno’s firing broke? And Ashton Kutcher — who was championed with the way he used social media — tweeted out what many considered to be insensitive because he didn’t have all of the information?” says Carter. “He learned a hard lesson. And countless others have, too.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti