As the Met Gala sets tongues wagging about US celebs and their outfits — and following Nick Kapur’s fantastic thread on Chinese names for NBA players — we’re using our weekly photo theme to dig into some of the more unusual Mandarin Monikers for Foreign Stars.
Rihanna is most commonly referred to in China as 蕾哈娜 (lei ha na), a straight up transliteration of her name. But that’s boring. Far more interesting is a lesser-used but still fairly popular nickname for the singer: 山东天后 (Shandong tianhou), or Queen of Shandong.
How did she come to be crowned the ruler of an eastern province in China? It goes back to her 2011 single “We Found Love”, which fans in China took to referring to as 潍坊的爱 wei fang de ai — Weifang sounding like “we found” and 爱 being the character for “love”. Weifang is also a city in Shandong province.
When RiRi released “Where Have You Been” not long afterwards, some Chinese netizens took to calling it 威海油饼 Weihai you bing — Weihai also being a city in Shandong and youbing being a type of breakfast pancake.
Such apparent love for cities in Shandong cemented her as the province’s “Queen” (though we’re still holding out for her to appear in a Tsingtao commercial). And then the whole thing seemed to reach its apex when Rihanna arrived at the Met Gala in 2015 wearing a dress from Beijing designer Guo Pei, which Chinese Weibo users were quick to liken to a 煎饼 jianbing, another type of breakfast pancake (pictured up top).
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