The breakout star of the show, which unusually had no other musical guests, was Justina Miles, an American Sign Language interpreter whose energised performance galvanized viewers. A TikTok video showing her interpreting set opener ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ has already amassed 11 million views. Miles is the first deaf woman to provide signing interpretation during the Super Bowl halftime show, making it a watershed moment in deaf cultural representation.
It makes sense that Miles shone; Rihanna is now more producer than popstar – alongside being chief executive of Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin, she’s also the creative director of her lingerie label Savage x Fenty’s fashion show extravaganzas on Amazon Prime, which routinely ignite major social media discourse. By shifting some of the focus off herself as the main product (while still lending her star power), she's shown how celebrity status can be used to generate bigger conversations. Fans of her brands expect diversity and inclusion to be foregrounded, with disability representation increasingly important. For further insights, watch out for our All Abilities Macro Trend, publishing in April.
The energy of the performance could be summarised as ‘DGAFcore’ – the particular brand of coolness and nonchalance that makes Rihanna so popular with young audiences, who are deeply attuned to spotting inauthentic overenthusiasm, perceived as corporate sycophancy. ‘DGAF’ (short for the slang term ‘don’t give a fuck’) works as a persona in the era of parasocial (one-sided) relationships – such as following influencers on social media – as people seek to connect with celebrities who exude brusque relatability. But for a performance on the world’s biggest stage, this brand of ‘over it’ could represent a misunderstood opportunity. The slight air of cynicism complicated the enjoyment of fans who wanted to feel empowered and uplifted. Younger audiences tread a tightrope walk of irony and sincerity, but they also reward effort and crave entertainment that transcends the everyday – escapism is still very much in.