The highly-anticipated Rihanna Super Bowl performance definitely had people talking. It also had an HBCU tie-in.
Andre Leon Talley was a fashion icon, and a big fan of Rihanna. He was also a graduate of North Carolina Central University. Rihanna payed tribute to Talley during her halftime Super Bowl performance, according to some in the fashion world, with her full-length red Alaïa puffer that resembled Talley’s signature Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat.
Talley died at age 73 in 2022 due to COVID-19 related illness. But before he did, he went out of his way to praise the Bahemian pop star who performed one of the most-watched stages of the year despite having not released an album in over a half-decade.
“I love a girl from humble beginnings who becomes a big star,” Talley said about Rihanna’s look in 2016 Met Gala documentary, The First Monday in May. “It’s like the American dream. That’s the way you do it.”
Talley grew up in Durham, NC where his grandmother was a cleaning aid at Duke University. Talley would go on to North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central) and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in French literature in 1970. A few years later he received a master’s degree from Brown University. He eventually found his way to Vogue Magazine where he was creative director and ultimately Editor-In-Chief of the magazine.
Talley wasn’t the only HBCU connection related to the performance.
Bowie State student Justina Miles was the sign language interpreter for the performance.